The 'Real' Deal

Imran Shaikh, a man of many talents, reveals what drives his success
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The 'Real' Deal

Tall, debonair and impressive, the handsome Imran Shaikh, CEO of renowned real estate company, Shaikh Holdings, is a man of many talents indeed. An expert in acquisition, development, marketing and the sale of exclusive properties, his professional acumen is more than impressive. However, what really has us floored is his ability to make time for more than just work. This family man is often found spending a quiet evening with his family or getting dirty on the sports field with a rowdy hour of soccer or a game of raucous cricket. Yes, there is more to this remarkable man than meets the eye. We spend an afternoon filled with fun chatter in the Masala! awards judge's fabulously appointed home...

What were your formative years like and where were you raised?
My family has had roots in the region since 1913. My great grandfather came to Bahrain and started a small trading business which turned into Ashraf's, one of the region's leading consumer products distribution companies representing over 80 global brands.

I was born in Bahrain and raised in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In 1985, I left for Canada and what was meant to be a short education stint, turned into almost 20 years of boarding school, university and involvement with real estate development. It was real estate that brought me back to the region in 2003 and fuelled my passion to grow the business.

Can you tell us more about your work in the Real Estate Market?
We are a privately-owned real estate investment and development company called Shaikh Holdings. Although we maintain a diversified real estate portfolio, our core focus is building luxury real estate in themed golf and waterfront projects.

I am the CEO of Shaikh Holdings, which means I do a little bit of everything but I have a great team that supports me and makes my job easy, especially my two younger brothers. There is no business like a family business and I am very blessed to be surrounded by family at home and at work.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when the real estate market hit an all-time low?
The biggest challenge was managing market perception and expectations. Market perception determines asset value and market expectations focus on asset quality and delivery. The key was to get people to understand fundamentals and believe in existing and future opportunities.

What is your opinion on the state of the current real estate market?
The real estate market in Dubai is rather interesting. It is a market that everyone seems to have an opinion on. There are those that invested in the market and made money and there are those that invested in the market and lost money. And, finally, my favourite people are those who didn't buy or sell anything but who still have a lot to say about the real estate market in Dubai.

Most of the commentary on the real estate market focuses on the general demand-supply equation and points to the grim over-supply condition. In my opinion, the real estate market in Dubai is actually very fragmented. Essentially, you have a number of sub-markets within the market and each of these sub-markets have their own unique demand-supply equations and therefore behave differently.

The bottom line – although the general market trend seems to suggest a longer road to recovery, there are certain sub-markets that are already showing increased demand with strong valuations and therefore they will recover sooner. Not all sub-markets are the same. Quality and location will always prevail.

What advice would you offer people who are looking to buy property in Dubai at the moment?
Despite the challenges over the last few years, Dubai still provides a strong value proposition and holds a unique position within the region – my advice is to 'buy right'. You make your money when you buy not when you sell. The key is to buy the right asset at the right price.

What was your role in creating The Real Estate Regulatory Authority?
I served as a member on the Board of Directors at RERA's Dubai Developers Committee. The group's mandate was to provide feedback to the government on issues related to real estate developers in the market. The Dubai Developer's Committee together with advisory committees representing other real estate stakeholders, worked to collectively provide input to the government to assist in creating the
RERA framework.

We hear you are a sports fanatic– which sports do you enjoy the most?
Although I enjoy playing and watching all sports, I am most passionate about basketball and cricket. At some point in my life I would love to own a professional basketball or cricket team.

What do you like to do when you are not working?
That's simple. When I am not working I am trying to balance my life between sports and family. I love both!

How many children do you have? Are they more like you or your wife?
We have three girls. Amaal is 10, Ayaan is seven and Arishae is four. It's nice to know that when I am old and grey, I will still be surrounded
by the women I adore. The girls have their own unique personalities but one looks like her mother, one looks like me and one is a mix of both of us.

Your home is gorgeous. Who decorated it?
Thank you. My wife, Aisha decorated it. Kudos to her for making our house feel like a home.

What piece do you love most in your home?
There is painting that hangs in our living room of a couple of wild horses on the run – I love the colours and the power of the image. Actually, this was my wife's favourite piece but it has grown on me and I, now, love it more than she does.

Can you tell us about your favourite Masala! Awards moment?
My favourite moment was winning the 'Young Achiever in Business' award last year. I was as excited about winning the award as I was about being recognised in the 'Young Achiever' category.

What are you most looking forward to at this year's awards?
The Masala! Awards get bigger and better each year. I am excited to see how Masala! tops last year's awards.

Have you been on any exciting family holidays recently?
Unfortunately, we could not get away this summer. Our last family holiday was to Singapore and Malaysia. It was a great getaway enjoyed by all of our family members.

What is your favourite room in the house?
My favourite room in the house is the family room. It's an informal space where I can lounge and relax with the family. After a long day at work there is no better place for me than to be than chilling out in my family room with my wife and girls.

If you had to choose a second home, where would it be?
Istanbul – it's a fantastic city with lots of history, culture, great food and beautiful people.

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