Hussain Sajwani is the owner and founder of DAMAC, a global property development company. He is also a pioneer, a great leader and a fantastic businessman with a great vision. Hussain Sajwani is often listed among the top 100 most influential Arabs, thanks to his amazing success with DAMAC Properties and his other business. Sajwani is also the world’s tenth richest Arab, who is actively looking to extend his presence and activity in Asia.
Early Beginnings of Hussain Sajwani
Although DAMAC Properties has grown into a large and successful international company, it is not Hussain’s first business success. Before he became famous as the DAMAC owner, Hussain spent a lot of time helping others succeed.
Growing up, Hussain Sajwani spent time after school helping his family business prosper. He admitted several times that this experience was crucial for him at a very young age. Sajwani also admits he’s always been a risk taker.
Born to an entrepreneur father, Hussain Sajwani sold watches in their family shop. He also obtained a government scholarship and became one of the first students sent by the UAE government to the US.
During his studies in the US, Hussain earned money by selling timeshare apartments. Focused on getting the right education, Hussain Sajwani graduated from the University of Washington, where he studied Economics and Industrial Engineering. Soon after the graduation, Sajwani realized that he was ready to take the next step and start earning money by himself.
Of course, the DAMAC owner knew that before he takes such a big step, he needs to gain the right experience, so he worked in the finance department of a large company for two years. This time was valuable for Hussain as he was directly involved in processing payments for contracts. Very soon, he realized that he could make a lot more money with his own business ideas. Luckily for Hussain Sajwani, this was the best decision he’s ever made in his life.
Still, Sajwani has never regretted the time he spent working for someone else. The experience he received there was incredibly valuable as it helped him get ready to start his own business journey.
In 1982, Hussain Sajwani opened his own catering business. The business scaled quickly and became a market leader managing more than 200 projects and serving over 150,000 meals daily. Currently, Sajwani’s catering covers multiple markets including the Middle East, Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States.
But soon, he saw another opportunity. Real estate market was developing fast and Hussain Sajwani decided that he wanted to be a part of it.
DAMAC owner Hussain Sajwani saw an opportunity in real estate and acted fast. He started small, with developing small hotels only to become a part of great projects such as developing towers in the top areas of Dubai.
The story of DAMAC starts with the forward vision of the UAE’s founding fathers. UAE has always been a country led by a forward vision, which was a great inspiration to Hussain. “The spirit of this vision and our understanding that we are united in prosperity propelled me to work hard at supporting the UAE’s development of sustainable business and social infrastructure,” Hussain Sajwani said in an interview.
To Sajwani, entrepreneurship has always been a natural thing. In the early 2000s, when the UAE opened up the real estate market, Hussain saw a great chance and decided to create DAMAC Properties. The rest is history!
Of course, things haven’t always been easy. Sajwani admits that one of the biggest decisions and risks he had to take was to make DAMAC public. “This step required us to make a lot of internal changes, in order to be compliant with various financial regulations. It also meant that our books are open to public review and scrutiny, which is a big decision for a business owner to make,” the DAMAC owners says.
But DAMAC is no longer limited to Dubai only. The company has grown and today it is a part of the other countries of the Middle East and also the UK. Around 2000 employees work at DAMAC. However, the company would never grow so powerful if Hussain didn’t have such great vision of what his business could achieve.
In 15 year, DAMAC owner managed to make his team more powerful than ever, and even more importantly, he gave them the freedom to do what they do best. Sajwani’s team gave them an international success in return.
Just like his catering business, DAMAC Properties has grown very quickly. The company’s impressive development portfolio includes over 17,900 homes and 44,000 units. It is safe to say that Hussain Sajwani’s companies have been able to achieve such great success only because he has always been able to recognize the right opportunities, act fast and capitalize on them.
“DAMAC has reached a size and a level of maturity that enables it to start looking beyond the region. We have delivered over 20,000 homes, which only a handful of developers in the Middle East have done, and I know that we can leverage this expertise to expand our presence and offering to other markets around the world,” Hussain said proudly.
Employee Engagement and Diversity at DAMAC
At DAMAC, diversity is an essential part of everyday politics. “It means we have a wealth of varying views, ideas and perspectives to tap into when developing strategic plans or when making critical business decisions. Diversity gives us range, and that is a clear advantage in business. At DAMAC, we currently have 77 nationalities working for us, from every continent,” the DAMAC owner explained.
Nowadays, people quit their jobs because they don’t feel like they can excel in their careers. Another great thing about DAMAC is that it provides a unique opportunity for everyone to move forward rapidly. Hussain Sajwani knows how important motivation is, “We have no barriers that prevent people from presenting and implementing their ideas, strategies or recommendations. We welcome anyone who has ambition, goals and a desire to prove themselves, as such, high performers tend to shine brightly and rather quickly at DAMAC.”
Hussain Sajwani also knows how important it is to help people stay focused within the organization. The DAMAC owner insists that having clear goals helps people stay organized as he is a big advocate for empowering employees and delegating efficiently. He believes that people perform better when they are given space to do what they do best. So far, Sajwani has found this approach the most successful.
Also, everyone at DAMAC is able to contribute to the company’s growth, innovation and performance. “We don’t have one central team or department that is solely responsible for this. Each department has its own approach to drive creativity and problem solving among their teams,” Sajwani says.
Some departments might choose to find their inspiration outside the DAMAC offices, while other like to incentivize their teams to share creative ideas. Hussain encourages healthy living too, “which is an imperative part of remaining mentally sharp and being able to critically analyze information.”
That said, DAMAC employees are encouraged to pursue active living through various initiatives. That’s why the company regularly hosts department-led fitness challenges, and community-based events that encourage their employees and their families to get active!
Hussain Sajwani’s Vision and Inspiration
Per his own admission, Asia and its continued economic growth, especially China’s, drives the interest of Hussain Sajwani. “DAMAC has been active in the Chinese market for several years, but I am now looking at extending our presence there. The value of China’s emerging middle class continues to grow and I see great opportunity to capture additional investors thanks to increased bilateral relations between the UAE and China,” Sajwani says.
However, Dubai will always remain Hussain’s first and biggest inspiration. Whenever he looks at the city, he imagines how it will be in 10 or 20 years from now, and that keeps him going. The DAMAC owner has always been taking calculated risks and if he believes that something has potential, he won’t give up until he makes it happen, no matter how much effort he needs to put into it.
The fear of failure is, therefore, something that will never stop Hussain Sajwani. After so many successful businesses, DAMAC owner realized that both success and failure are a part of him. “I have learned many lessons, some good and some bad, but together they have put me where I am today,” Hussain explained.
But even Hussain needs to get his vision and inspiration boosted from time to time. One of his favorite activities is to read about history and lessons that can be learned. And just like his role models, Hussain Sajwani is always interested in what’s ahead of him. So for example, Sajwani is impressed with the evolving world of social media and the idea that the platform gives everyone an opportunity to communicate around the clock.
Hussain Sajwani is a man of vision, history and future, but not just because he is a great businessman. Hussain believes that education is the foundation that helps everyone understand the world around us, but also, it enables us to advance in our professions. Without education, there is little chance to gain the right experience needed for continued growth.
So if you ask Hussain to choose between education and experience, he will tell you that both matter equally. “Education exercises the mind and opens it up to new ways of thinking. Education can take place within the walls of a school or through casual conversations with elders or experts,” the DAMAC owner explains.
Hussain Sajwani knows that once we are able to understand the world around us, we can carry these experiences as we progress through a company, but also, through life. “In my opinion, that’s real growth,” Hussain says.
But how does Sajwani increase his own productivity? Hussain likes to travel. He believes that traveling allows him to expand his horizons and see things from another point of view. For Sajwani, being productive is not just about working hard, it’s also about building a better perspective and expanding your mind.
Speaking of travel, Hussain Sajwani believes that there is great potential in real estate investments in popular cities. According to him, the short-term ups and downs of real estate prices don’t matter that much in places like these because in the long-term, property values tend to go up. That’s why Sajwani recently bought a book of photography for the city of Dubai from 50 years ago. This book keeps reminding Hussain of how much Dubai has changed in the last 50 years, and it shows how holding real estate property in growing cities can result in enormous profit.
“Seeing a tower or a development begin its journey as a sketch or idea, and materialize into a home or community. The process takes years, several hurdles and lots of hard work, but the impact of seeing your idea take shape and turn into a dream for a homeowner is what I love most about DAMAC,” Hussain Sajwani says.
In the case of Dubai’s skyline, the constant change is a good thing. However, when it comes to trade wars, tariffs, and oil price uncertainty, keeping up with the fast pace of change can be a problem. “I have never been one to read too much into politics, so all this talk is just that, talk. I am only concerned with policies and changes that affect my organization. This allows me to make small but important adjustments to how we grow as a company,” Hussain says.
Adapting to new circumstances seems to be the key in these situations, and the DAMAC owner knows how to do this. When global politics change the dynamics of the industry and the markets DAMAC operates in, Hussain policy is to adapt and revise the company’s approach to make the best of the new opportunities.
Hussain Sajwani’s Daily Routine and Favorite Tools
The DAMAC owner is a very busy man. That said, he relies on many routines throughout his day. On the most of the days during the week, Hussain is meeting with his management team to make sure he has all the information he needs to stay updated on the various aspects of his business.
Sajwani is also meeting business partners on a daily basis as he believes that nurturing and growing the business network can only bring prosperity and growth. However, Hussain admits that his main priority is to make sure he spends quality time with his family. For him, this is the key to keeping a balanced and healthy life.
The DAMAC owner is also an advocate of using newsfeed services to stay informed about everything that happens in the world. For Sajwani, current events are always an opportunity to create something new and exciting. That’s why Hussain believes that business leaders should follow the advice of Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of GE, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” There is no doubt that Hussain Sajwani is a great role model for all aspiring entrepreneurs who want to succeed.
One of the tools Sajwani uses to stay informed around the clock is social media, “Both DAMAC and I are active on social media, across various platforms,” he admitted and added “I believe these networks have become one of the most effective marketing and communications channels for any organization. We use social networks to communicate our products, views, success and even advice. As long as you engage your audience by sharing content that is relevant to them and are respectful to the community, you can continue to grow your audiences, which ultimately has a positive impact on your brand and image. It also has facilitated two-way communications with our customers, offering a way for them to connect with us on a personal level.”
Besides DAMAC, Hussain Sajwani is affiliated with a few other successful businesses as well. Here are some of them:
- Nine Elms Property Limited
The company is a subsidiary of DAMAC Properties and Hussain Sajwani plays a key role in running the company. Nine Elms Property Limited is growing steadily and developing buildings in the UK.
- Mina Al Sultan Qaboos
Hussain Sajwani partnered with Oman Government’s tourism arm to create the Mina Al Sultan Qaboos, a tourist port and lifestyle destination that includes hotels, residences, retail stores, restaurants and other attractions. As the DAMAC owner, Sajwani has a large ownership of the company.
- Akyon Maldives Resort
This is another amazing property that Hussain Sajwani manages through DAMAC. The resort is not finished yet, but once it’s done, it will be one of the finest resorts located in the Maldives with 100 luxury suites, bungalows and water villas.
- DICO Investments
DICO investments is Hussain Sajwani’s primary investment company. Founded in 1992, the company includes strategic holdings, debt instruments issued by regional banks, ownership subsidiaries in growth industries and long-term investments.