Dubai: Tauseef Hayat Khan was a fresh civil engineering graduate looking for a job when the Gulf War hit the UAE and the Middle East.
His father, Sheruzaman Khan, ran an auto garage in Kuwait.
Khan, who studied civil engineering from India's Aligarh Muslim University, was on his way to see his father in Kuwait and stopped over in Sharjah where his sister, Rizwana Husain, and her family lived.
Finding a job in UAE
Rizwana asked him to try to get a job in UAE instead of joining his father's business as planned as the situation in Kuwait was pretty bad. “People were running away from the country. My father lost everything he had tried to build. He was in Kuwait from 1976 until 1990. He had tried to build a small business. It was not anything big but it was enough to educate his children,” he recalls in an interview with Gulf News.
Destiny has different plans
But during this turbulent time, Sheruzaman's business had gone bust. “I had to get a job. I am the oldest boy in the family. I had to find a job immediately. My father was out of work and it was my responsibility to help the family. So I was desperately looking for jobs. I took up a small job [in Sharjah]. It was a job for a civil engineer and my salary was Dh1,850,” he says.
“It was a tough phase in my life. I had to take care of the family – which consisted of my parents and four siblings."
But the genes of entrepreneurship would win out in the end. Come 1997, Khan began to consider new business ventures. He saw opportunity in real estate.
Starting out in a small way in UAE
“In 1997, I started my first company with a small office in Deira, close to the Clock Tower. There was a very famous restaurant called Caravan restaurant [in the same building]. I had the office set up there," he says.
Having acquired its maiden property that year, City Tower Real Estate now has a portfolio of more than 100 buildings across the city. "Later, I shifted my office to Al Maktoum street. Here we took an entire tower on long-term lease. But it was a challenging market,” he says.
Developing the first maiden property
Khan, however, admitted the success did not come overnight. “There was a lot of hard work, my sweat and toil that went into establishing the company it is today. When I started out on my own, it was pretty much a one-man show. I was a secretary, taking calls, booking appointments, making visits like a salesman, concluding deals – all on my own. Literally I started from the scratch,” he said.
“Then 2008 happened,” he said. “The big financial crunch hit the city, but we survived it. It was my father’s values and lessons of wisdom that helped me get through this phase. My father always told me honesty, hard-work and perseverance will help me in life. That is what helped me earn my success. This is when we forayed seriously into the leasing model. Personally, for me, I wanted to learn the leasing model myself. And so we decided to change our business model completely.”
Growth and change
“Our success has come from providing a full suite of property management services, whether on partnering basis or through management service contracts with the property owners and brokerage services for freehold clients. Since its inception, we have enjoyed the confidence of satisfied and assured landlords across UAE,” said Khan.
In 2016, Khan diversified his business interests into property development and launched his new venture, City Properties Development. The primary focus of the company was the then burgeoning affordable housing segment.
Today, City Properties has plans for developments in key areas of Dubai and the rest of the Middle East and Asia, each backed by the superlative experience of City Tower Real Estate and its reliable management services.
When he talks of the risks he took, Khan keeps it matter of fact. "There were risks I took, but they had to be taken. No business is successfully without a certain amount of risk and so it was for me.”
“Remember, we changed our profile from building manufacturing materials to real estate. It was important for us to do it. Leasing became our top priority and we were doing well.”
How Khan survived the real estate market
Today, Khan is popular in the real estate industry of UAE for his ingenious ways of making the real estate business work.
In 2017, he came up with the idea of interest-free instalment plans for up to 10 years on his real estate properties. Khan introduced the first major project – Al Haseen Residences. The purchase plan was hard to ignore and overnight City Properties became a well-known brand.
“We came up with a very different business plan [than previously available in the market]. Buyers could book their properties by paying just five per cent with a total of 40 per cent to be paid by the time of handover – five per cent every quarter. The remaining 60 per cent will be converted into monthly instalments spread over 10 years at zero interest,” he explains.
“The idea behind the scheme was to convince those who are renting their properties into homeowners and convert their rents into investments,” he adds.
And Khan made a success out of this model.
Till today, his ingenious leasing model has made him a success in the real estate market.
The UAE is a magical place
Khan pays tribute to the land he now calls home. “It [UAE] changed my life 180 degrees. I came to the UAE by accident. But look at this. It gave me a living and a successful one at that. I could not have achieved my success anywhere else in the world,” he says.
Khan had dreams – and he added these dreams were achieved in the UAE. “My sister was an angel. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be here. But more importantly the UAE, its policies and the ease of doing business, thanks to its leaders, did it for me,” he says.