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Interview: Not the End of the World, Safi Qurashi

by Hannah Raven on Jan 17, 2015

Safi Qurashi, CEO and founder of Q Group
Safi Qurashi, CEO and founder of Q Group

At 17 years of age, Safi Qurashi would drive his father’s van around south London, selling cigarette lighters and stationery to newsagents after noticing their giant markup.

He is a man of humble beginnings, and even now at 46 years of age, as he sits at the helm of the Q Group companies and plans what to build on his $60m offshore island, Qurashi does not do flashy.

Construction Week met Qurashi at his company’s headquarters, a basic office block in Dubai’s Al Barsha 1 district, though he is planning a move to Emaar Square in Downtown Dubai.

It is impossible to pinpoint Qurashi’s area of expertise. When asked, he simply replies, “businessman”.

“The principles of business are always the same and I think it’s a question of working out where there’s a gap in the market and structuring your management, delivery and your sales,” he asserts. “You can replicate that, irrelevant of what it is.”

The Q Group has divisions in armoured vehicle manufacturing, facilities management (FM), property development, aerial access platforms and investment, but Qurashi’s fortune was borne out of a real estate fluke.

Approximately 10 years ago, he put down a 10%, £20,000 (then AED146,000) deposit on an off-plan Emaar apartment after he was forced to give up his villa when the employment contract that had brought him to the UAE fell through.

A month later, he got a call from his estate agent which changed everything. “She rang me up and said ‘I’ve got a buyer, and it’s double what you put down’.”

He sold it, and immediately bought two more apartments, selling them off just months later, again doubling his money. In six months, he had bought 30 properties, but frustration kicked in.

“The [real estate] agencies weren’t professional,” he said.

“I thought, ‘if I set up an estate agency and run it like I would do in London, I think I’d make a lot of money’.”

Three years later, Premier Real Estate Bureau was employing 100 people.

“I was buying it and selling it and not even getting my hands dirty. It just kept on growing,” he said, making no bones of the reality that timing was everything.

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