Stock - Deepak Babani (Eros)
Deepak Babani keeps the investment ideas flowing after stepping down Executive Chairman at Eros Group. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Deepak Babani – one of the most prominent names in the UAE retail sector for close to three decades – is taking a new career path as a property developer. His company, Satguru Holdings Ltd., is building a ground plus 14-storey project in Al Furjan, one of Dubai’s fast-emerging residential communities.

Babani has plans to do more in real estate – “I am scouting for the right sort of locations to build,” he said. “The Al Furjan one was to get a feel of how the market functions and all the rest of it. We will bring in the project designs, the investments and more to any venture we take on.

“Real estate has always held a fascination for me; and I do dwell on all the minute details and the reasons why they are so.”

Until now, Babani’s role in the property space had been as an investor in some of Dubai’s biggest freehold plays. Through the last 15 years, he has built a sizeable portfolio of such investments. Becoming a developer himself is the next logical step.

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More than a change of roles

All this comes after a near 43-year stretch with Eros Group, one of the biggest tech and electronics retailer in the Gulf, ended on December 31 last. The latter half of this period was spent as CEO and Executive Chairman, during which phase Eros turned into a multi-billion dirham company. Eros was the distributor – and among the biggest sellers - of Samsung devices from the mid-1990s. Even now, Samsung-related sales represent about 40 per cent of Eros sales.

“I had initially stepped down from the Eros role in late 2019 – but then came COVID-19 and I was asked to make a return to see how we as a company could cope with the disruptions,” said Babani. “It was meant to be a six-month phase, but ended up as a further 18 months. Finally, on December 31, I did say goodbye to the 40 plus years I had at Eros.

“No, I am not a shareholder in the company, though many keep believing this to be the case. Even now, with the final exit, I will be available for any future consultation.”

Expand the portfolio

Since returning to the fold in 2020, Babani focussed on widening the Eros alliances with global tech and home appliance brands. One such association was with Huawei to create the IdeaHub, a B2B focussed device destination. “We already had Huawei consumer stores, and the IdeaHub opened up another round of growth opportunities for us,” he said.

“COVID-19 led to many disruptions, months of lower sales, but we managed to beat the worst of it back. And in 2021 we made a return to stronger growth levels.”

Mr. Deepak Babani earned the respect and admiration of staff, the Board and industry leaders. He also transformed Eros Group with initiatives such as Eros Retail & Ecommerce, strategic partnerships with brands and many more fruitful business decisions. Babani has left his mark of reform at Eros Group, and he will be missed by all

- Mohammad Badri, Director of Eros Group

A time to travel

Babani had been preparing for a stepping down from Eros since 2016-17. A target date of end 2019 was set by which the needed transitions would be in place. “I wanted to get into new ventures, and also wanted to travel for purposes other than business,” he said. “Japan and Australia were definitely top on the list, and so was Canada. There are also parts of India that I so want to visit.

“Sure, the pandemic has shifted around all planning, but I will revisit all those travel goals when the time is right.”

As for now, Babani has property and Satguru Holdings on his mind. Stocks are the other big investment play he wants to make, primarily tech-specific ones in the US and India. “I have the time – let’s see where it leads to.”