By Ian Katusiime
Nishat Candour is the CEO of Candour Property, a Dubai-based real estate firm which recently had a Strategic Alliance with Knight Frank Uganda. He spoke to Ian Katusiime.
Tell us about your management philosophy
Three things; we believe in being fun, to create a fun environment around your workplace, surrounded by staff who unleash their personalities and characters. So fun is the first thing. It is our number one rule in recruitment. Secondly; Crazy, you have got to have crazy ideas, think outside the box, make quick decisions and implement them. If you think there is an opportunity in Kampala, get on a flight and sort it out. Thirdly, we are intellectuals. We make sure intelligence is key. We apply our knowledge. I am a lawyer by academics and my partner is a chartered accountant. We sit down and make decisions before we promote. Also, we have investment interests in properties we sell. We do not market things we do not put money in.
Why decide to work with Knight Frank Uganda?
When you are selecting a general partner, you need a lot of comfort with the brand and people you are selecting. So there was like-mindedness with Knight Frank. I was born in London and raised in the UK in general. I was familiar with the name so it just came up straight away when I was thinking of this deal.
Why should Ugandans venture into this Dubai market?
It’s a full pronged process. They have to trust me. My mother was born in this country [Uganda], so I am not just someone coming from Dubai to simply tap the market. I have got an affiliation. People have got to trust the company we are representing. It has been around for eight years. My partner is very talented; he has been in the field for many years. We are like the Google-Facebook of real estate in Dubai. What is so critical is that once you have gone beyond the company, you have to trust Dubai, it has changed a lot. Dubai has set some of the most stringent rules of regulation in the world in terms of buying property. Everything I am offering is freehold. The person from Uganda will get 100% title-deed. It is theirs for life tax free. They do not even need to get residence there.
Won’t it be hard for some of these Ugandan investors to penetrate the market in Dubai considering how competitive it is?
The Dubai population doubles every ten years. We need another Dubai every ten years. There is no such thing as an over-supply. Even if it is a concentrated market, the opportunities are always available; you just need to identify them, which is what we do. I can come here with 20 projects that have been launched in the last one year but I have chosen to come with two because those are the two we sincerely believe in.
What is the most important aspect of the property market?
The maths and the calculation. If you are looking at it from an investor perspective, the return is what matters most. You want to make sure you are getting your yield. You also want to ensure your location is strategic, your developer has to be A grade, so it really comes down to the calculation.
Many economies have been devastated by the property market crashing first, how has Dubai been able to guard against this?
Dubai spent the last seven years hiring the best consultants and legal advisors. If I am developing land for instance, I have to own the land 100% cash. I have to also put down a 20% bank guarantee to ensure I can follow up on the construction. There is an escrow account where all the monies from clients goes into and it administered by governing bodies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This money is then released from the escrow account to me the developer in terms of how I need to pay to my contractors. So everything is very safe there in terms of the developments.
What should Ugandans look out for in terms of what Candour Property is offering?
We have both commercial and residential opportunities with prices ranging from around $150,000- $200,000 ticket sizes. Small ticket sizes, high yields.
Did you have any prior understanding of these other markets you are luring?
My father was from Tanzania so I am familiar with Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda in many ways not necessarily following property market trends but in terms of where they are investing overseas. There is a lot of foreign investment from these countries. But if I were to invest here, I would need some time to make that decision but otherwise real estate is my passion. Dubai is my passion, Kampala is my passion. The trend seems to be lower ticket sizes because people do not want spend too much money. They would be happy to invest anything around $250,000, anything beyond that would be quite tricky.
What is your final say to Ugandans coming over to invest in Dubai properties?
I want to be clear I am here to represent Ugandan people as well as my interests. There is a connection between me and Uganda, I am not here randomly. East Africans should start considering small ticket sizes in Dubai. It is a very safe environment with good rules and regulations and very good yields. Everything we offer is double digit, where else do you get something for $150000 and get 12-14% return a year? I do not think it exists.