Business | Investment

India's Sobha buys land in Dubai's Meydan for mixed-use project

The project, Sobha City - will be located at Meydan’s Godolphin Parks area

  • By Saifur Rahman, Business Editor
  • Published: 15:44 February 5, 2012

Indian developer obtains huge plot for Meydan City project
  • Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News
  • From left: Ajay Rajendran, P.N.C. Menon, Saeed H. Al Tayer, R.S. Mani, managing director, Sobha Group, Mohammad Al Khayat, commercial director, Meydan Group and Meghnad Warrier, financial controller, at a press conference.
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Dubai: Indian developer Sobha Group has obtained eight million square feet of land at Meydan City for an undisclosed amount to build a mixed-use project, officials said at a press briefing.

The project, Sobha City, will be located at Meydan City's Godolphin Parks area, near Al Khail Road. The project will include a cluster of luxury signature villas — the closest freehold villas to be made available to buyers near the central business district.
Saeed H. Al Tayer, chairman of Meydan Group, said the deal reflects renewed investor interest in Dubai's real estate sector.

"This is the biggest sale that we have concluded so far and it reflects a new era in the development of Meydan," Al Tayer said at a press briefing.

"This is a pivotal step in the overall development of Meydan City and we are pleased to forge this relationship with the Sobha Group. This investment and the commitment of [Sobha Group chairman] P.N.C. Menon is an indication of the international confidence in Dubai and its significant infrastructure.

Impressive record

"Under his leadership, Sobha Group has achieved an impressive record of success and creativity. Their commitment to quality and innovation complements the goals of Meydan City and all of Dubai. We are pleased to welcome Sobha Developers, as we welcome a new era of development for Meydan and Dubai."

The Grandstand — the centrepiece of Meydan City — was built in record time with Dh10 billion, despite challenging situation. Al Tayer said that as the infrastructure is in place, future development will be with less infrastructure works.
 

"Going forward, we will have to invest less on infrastructure," he said.
Although no further details have been revealed, including the sale value of the property and the development value of the proposed Sobha City, company officials said, they would complete the project in eight to ten years.
 

Great success story

Menon, the owner of the group, is a non-resident Indian (NRI) businessman from Kerala who 35 years ago embarked on a journey to Oman which changed the course of his life. He established a business in interior fit-outs and later construction and built a few palaces in the Gulf.
 

"I am a firm believer of the prospects of Dubai, which is one of the greatest success stories in the world. The scale of development and opportunities that are available in Dubai continues to attract the international market," Menon said.
"The kind of infrastructure that Dubai has created can't go wrong."
He said the project will be kick-started later this year after the masterplan is ready.
 

Clear vision

"We will utilise our own resources in developing the project with some debts. But it will be mostly equity financing," he said.
 

Menon established Sobha Developers in India in 1995 with a clear vision to transform the way people perceive quality in the real estate sector.
 

"You won't find a better place than Dubai between London and Singapore with such world-class infrastructure.
 

"This is why the Sobha Group is so pleased today to announce this partnership with the Meydan Group. Vision creates opportunity, and the Sobha Group is confident of the result of this partnership with the Meydan Group — success."
 

The company currently has 23 residential projects totalling 6.99 million square feet and 38 ongoing contractual projects totalling 7.42 million square feet in various stages of construction. Sobha has its footprint in 20 cities and 12 states across India.
 

‘Best location'

"Real estate is about location, location, location, and we have chosen the best location, close to Burj Khalifa — the world's tallest tower," he said.
The company's work at hand is valued at Rs20 billion (Dh1.48 billion), according to Menon.
 

Today, Sobha Developers, a Rs15 billion company, is one of the largest and only backward integrated real estate players in the country.
 

Menon said he is not worried about the oversupply of properties in the market.
 

Demand for villas

"Yes, there is definitely an oversupply in the market, especially in commercial properties. However, in residential property, business is coming back, especially for villas. There are good transactions taking place in villas, and by the time we complete, the extra inventory will be absorbed by new demand," he said.
 

Since its inception, Sobha Developers has completed 71 residential projects and 191 contractual projects covering about 42.68 million square feet. The company achieved a turnover of Rs14.64 billion in its last financial year.
 

Meydan projects

"In 2011-12, Sobha plans to launch about 11 million square feet. In addition to launches in the four existing cities of operations — Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Thrissur and Pune — the company plans to enter three new territories of Mysore, NCR and Chennai," Ajay Rajendran, vice-chairman of Sobha Developers, said.
 

Meydan City is the brainchild of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Meydan City has been masterplanned to feature an interconnected cityscape of four distinct districts where business, sport and cosmopolitan-living merge to complement one another.
 

Situated approximately four kilometres from the mouth of Dubai Creek, Meydan City currently features the project's flagship, the Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse, and the adjoining five-star, The Meydan Hotel.
 

Completed in 2010 as the initial phase of the multi-faceted project, the facility serves as the foundation for a vital special events and conference district.
 

Stunning canals

Meydan Horizons, located at the heart of Dubai's burgeoning urban landscape and in close proximity to Meydan Racecourse, is conceived as a phased development with land area of approximately 15 million square feet that will be set among stunning canals and will offer a careful balance of premium commercial office space and stylish residential units.
 

Perfect balance

Meydan Metropolis will encourage a diverse blend of commercial enterprises that will be situated in stylish office blocks and uniquely linked to retail and residential to create an active urban space.
 

Meydan Godolphin Parks will be a striking environmentally conscious district highlighted by exceptional detail and planning to serve as the perfect balance of sustainable engineering with urban lifestyle sophistication.
 

Meydan Godolphin Parks will also serve as a distinctive shopping destination with a signature mall to fulfil the consumer needs of residents and international guests that will be drawn to the luxurious, serene cityscape.
Chance meeting changed his life


Dubai P.N.C. Menon, who was once billed by Forbes as the ‘Richest Non-Resident Keralite, has worked hard to earn every bit of it. However, when it comes to business, he used his heart more than brain — giving the fullest attention to detail.
 

Menon started his business in Muscat with Rs50 ($7 at the exchange rate then) in 1976, after "accidentally" meeting Capt. Sulaiman Adawi, an Omani army officer at a hotel lobby in Cochin, Kerala.
 

That changed the course of his life. That "luck-by-chance" meeting led to another rags-to-riches story. However, history will judge him differently because of his CSR (Corporate Social Responsibilities) initiatives.
 

"‘Where is the Sultanate of Oman?' was the first question I asked the Omani gentleman," says Menon, chairman of Sobha Developers, while chatting at his Jebel Ali office that looks after the GCC operations.
 

Furniture business

After about 45 days, he was in Oman, looking for business.
 

"Upon landing in Oman, my partner and I borrowed 3,000 Omani riyals to start a small street-side furniture and interiors business under the name of Trade and Services Co.
"Initially, it was a ‘briefcase business' — trying to fix small things, maintenance, etc — but then developed into an interiors outfit.

"Slowly and steadily, we grew, repaid the loan and began to grow our own capital," he recalls.
 

By 1984, the company began to get big contracts, driven mostly by word of mouth due to its quality of works.
 

"I am a quality-conscious person and I have developed my business as quality-driven, " he says.
 

One day, Menon received from the Diwan — the Sultan's office in Muscat — to work on a palace.
 

Omani citizenship

The rest is history. His company then went on to work for the royalty of Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, and the president of Tajikistan. He spent the most glorious part of his career in designing and developing palaces, royal facilities and mosques. The Grand Mosque in Muscat is a testimony of his work and reflects one of his best footprints.
Menon was later granted Omani citizenship.
 

Later, Menon expanded his business in India by launching Sobha Developers in Bengaluru in 1995, where he started with some residential and commercial projects.
The company was named after his wife, Sobha — which means beauty and grace. But she brought him luck as well.
 

Menon's strength lies in the quality and timely delivery of his works. Designing a structure and building it with the latest interiors is both a science and art, and he has perfected both.
 

His colleagues speak of the quality consciousness built within the company.
"It's the attention to details that makes the difference and Mr Menon has made his mark by developing a knack for intricate details in his works that stands out — something I am yet to see elsewhere," says Colonel (Rtd) M.S. Kapoor, a retired Indian Army officer and a long-time associate of Menon.
 

Big break

His big break in India came from Infosys when he was contacted to build a campus for them. It was a big challenge for Menon. However, he put in his usual best efforts. On its inauguration, Infosys chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy was impressed to see the intricate work and the quality of finishing. He wanted to meet the person who delivered the project.
 

Thus Menon was introduced to Narayana Murthy. He was then assigned almost all Infosys projects. He also built the Infosys Global Education Centre, spread over 337 acres in Mysore. This is independent India's largest monolithic structure. Over 16,000 students walk through the hallways every year.
 

"Quality has to be endorsed by others," Menon says. "Money is only a by-product of the success. You've got to choose success, rather than money.
 

In nearly three and a half decades, Menon's philosophy at work and the principal reason for his success remains the same: passion, quality and attention to detail.
When Menon launched his company in India, he attached ‘Passion at Work' as its motto. And it works.
 

"You've got to be different from others," he says. "If you are doing the same thing that others are doing, then you are the same as others."
 

In order to deliver quality, Menon ventured on to undertake backward integration of Sobha Developers — so that the company could produce most materials in-house from bricks, interlocking tiles, woodworks, metal glazing furniture, interiors and exteriors to bed mattresses, rather than outsource them.
 

"This way, we are in full control of our projects, quality and delivery," Menon says.
Helping the poor
 

In 2006, Sobha Developers went public with strong investor response. From a Rs1 billion, the company went on to become a Rs15 billion conglomerate with market capitalisation crossing Rs24 billion in recent times.
 

With Rs14.6 billion revenues and Rs3.2 billion net profits, Sobha Developers is one of the best-managed property developers and contractors in India that have emerged stronger from the financial crisis of 2008-09.
 

The company has four projects in Dubai, awaiting deliveries.
At the age of 63, Menon is currently preparing to retire. His son Ravi Menon, vice-chairman of the company, will take over.
 

These days, he is devoting time for the upliftment of the poor.
Satan cannot make you sin, he will just make you very busy until you can no longer pray, and that, for him, is already a victory. Our biggest downfall is when we no longer take time nor make time to pray because we are too busy
 

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