Dubai considers India second best investor nation after UK.
Dubai property market has been centre of attraction for the investors from across the world. Indians, of course, have been a significant contributors and Dubai rates India as the second largest investor country after the UK. Sultan Ebrahim Alakraf, Senior Director of Land Department, Government of Dubai, shares with Ravi Sinha how Dubai has been consciously trying to create its own brand differentiator with ease of doing business and easy exit to the investors. Excerpts of an exclusive interview:
RS: How big a market do you see in India for investment into Dubai property?
SEA: India is very important for us both for strategic relations and investment. After UK it is second largest market for us. India will be our key focus market in the year 2016. We have been visiting to many countries and after UK we have found India to be the second largest market for us. Just see how many ships come to Dubai from India daily and you can make out the amount of trade relations that is happening between the two countries.
RS: After your global visits did you find this country lucrative because of the sheer size?
SEA: No! We look more as strategic relations with India. There is a long history of trade relations between India and the UAE. Therefore we selected India to be the second country for our visit. We want to strengthen our future business relations with India.
RS: Is your visit also about timing it right because there is slowdown in the Indian market and people are looking at overseas investment opportunities?
SEA: The city of Dubai is very competitive priced and it is suitable for all kinds of investment – be it a house or retail shop or office space. As far as timing is concerned, yes, it is very much right time because despite of slowdown the city of Dubai is a very safe city in terms of opportunities. We are always looking for opportunities in India, to invite them as our strategic partners.
RS: You have also organised exhibition in India? Has it been for just business transactions or there are other long-term expectations?
SEA: Our expectations are for long-term strategic relations with India. Of course, we also want our developer community to have business transactions. And then we want to promote & position Dubai as a great place to invest where you don’t have to pay annual property tax once you invest into Dubai apartment or office. So, in terms of business we are the best place to invest. Also, we are closer to Europe and we are in the middle of India, Europe and Africa.
RS: At a time when the Government of India is trying hard to bring FDI and encourage NRI investments into the country, do you think Indians have enough incentive to investment in Dubai market?
SEA: We are not trying to take this or take that share of investment but we believe in international competitiveness. It is market place where everyone is showing what best they have to offer. We are here to show our sincerity, transparency of our system and we are saying that Dubai is the best place in terms of ease of doing business at a strategic location. We are not trying to take somebody’s pie from them. We are just showing it to investors which is the best place to invest at what price. We are showcasing that Dubai is a great place to start the business or to grow a business.
RS: What kind of support are you giving to the investors in terms of ease of doing business?
SEA: We have created a system for the developers, for the brokers, and for the investors. We have separate investor centre which helps the investors in terms of selecting the right opportunities. We have regulatory agencies which helps to regulate the whole market. We are also educating the developers, brokers and investors about opportunities in Dubai. We have dispute resolution agencies and all this is under one umbrella. So, when you have everything under one umbrella it creates competiveness for everybody.
RS: Ease of doing business is one of the attractions but what about the entry & exit from Dubai?
SEA: Today, anybody who wants to set up business in Dubai asks what time will it take to transfer my property. We say it will just take 20 minutes. If one asks how long will it take to get my water connection, we assure it will take just one day. If one asks how long will it take to open a company, we say maximum it will take one week. So, practically within one week one can start office. We are not like those places where it takes six months to transfer your property. We believe in single process to facilitate the investors who come to invest in Dubai.
RS: Dubai market has also been witness to turmoil and many investors are still apprehensive. How would you assure them?
SEA: In terms of the economy, there is always ups and downs. In no business anywhere in the world it will only go up. It is not just about Dubai economy but international economy. Even the oil prices keep going up and down. This is the pattern of international economy. But if you are asking in today’s context it is going up.
RS: But when there is downturn investor driven markets are the worst to suffer. Don’t you think this has been reality of Dubai?
SEA: In the downturn you see our approach. We have supported everybody. People had said that Dubai will not come out of financial turmoil, but we have today come out of it. As a matter of fact, we have not only come out of it but come out stronger because the difficulty has it that if it does not kill you it makes you even more stronger. We came stronger, we have great legislation; we have greater rules & regulations to control the market; and we have a great platform for investors to come and set up business in Dubai. Dubai is today very strong and we are ready to move forward.
RS: Moving forward, how much ROI can be expected rom Dubai property market?
SEA: In real estate if you are a long-term investor you will get the returns in double digit year-on-year. But if you are a speculator who is coming back after one month to see the ROI then it won’t be much. For long term investment Dubai is the greatest market because after buying you can easily get it rented. We have an investment map where we can easily let the investors know about the support infrastructure in any given location.
The best part is that we are a truly global city. If you are looking for an Indian School system, a British School system or American School system or likewise we have everything available there in the city. There is presence of 204 nationalities and Dubai is for everybody, they all feel this is their home. For us, our people are not only Dubai-born people but everybody who live in Dubai.
RS: Along with ROI and ease of doing business one concern with any investor would be the exit option. How easy is the exit from Dubai market?
SEA: Anyone who comes to Dubai does not want to leave Dubai. But for us the exit is seamless facilitation where no one is ever stuck. It does not take more than 20 minutes to transfer the property. However, I do believe that no one would like to leave Dubai because of the kind of ease of doing business and the growth prospects that the city has to offer.
RS: Which segment of Dubai property is going to attract more investment?
SEA: Dubai is the one of the most sought-after shopping destination of the world. When the global travellers come we need to have hotels for that. So, we have some of the best hotels in Dubai. Then people are spotting the business opportunities and setting up offices here. And now we are creating theme parks.
For all these sectors to grow people would like to come and live in Dubai. When people would come and live in Dubai they need to have houses. So, every segment is fuelling the demand for the other segment. We are therefore providing everything together – residential, commercial, offices and hotels.
RS: Finally, I would like to ask how would you rate Indian property market vis-à-vis the Dubai property market?
SEA: Frankly speaking, I am not in a position to rate a market like this. To say I rate one market seven out of ten and the other one as eight out of ten won’t be right. For me, the rating of a market depends upon how much the market is able to attract the investment. For the investors to attract, the market has to offer security, ease of doing business and the growth potential.
India is one of the most growing markets of the world; it is a fact. But I don’t have the ability to rate the Indian market. Neither anybody in the world has the ability to rate & compare these two very different markets. India is a great market and for an investor also it is difficult to rate like this. What he will look to is the ability of the market to provide him the business opportunities, ease of doing business, security and overall quality of life.