Site Visit: Sobha Hartland
It’s all about location, implies Raj Chinai, MD, Sobha Group, when talking about Sobha Hartland
You already get a taste of luxury when visiting the yet-to-be-completed Sobha Hartland project – a 74.3ha (eight-million square feet) freehold community boasting lavish villas, quad homes and apartments in Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City, Dubai. It is, therefore, a no-brainer when Raj Chinai, managing director, Sobha Group explains why the project is named Hartland. “If you look at the map, Hartland is located in the heart of Dubai, with no other large parcels of land in the vicinity remaining to develop a gated community at this scale,” Chinai says.
Elaborating more on the project, Chinai says: “Hartland is a mixed-use project. It has various components such as villas, town homes, and apartments. We have two schools, one of which is operational now, and one of which will be operational in September 2017. The school that is currently operational is called Hartland International. It has 310 students. We are in our second year of operation at Hartland International. The second school is called NLCS – North London Collegiate School, which is a very prestigious school from London.
“In addition to this, we have a hospitality component within Hartland. We will be having three hotels [in Hartland], one of which will be our own hotel. We are entering into the hospitality arena with our own brand called Strada.”
Some of the other features of Hartland is that it is surrounded by 22.2ha (2.4-million square feet) of greenery. It is also set along the Dubai Water Canal, which according to Chinai was never anticipated and that now it is a game changer. He goes on to add: “Hartland is interesting for both end users and investors. We are giving people an opportunity to buy something in the heart of the city, with easy access to Business Bay, DIFC and other neighbouring landmarks such as Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa.”
Chinai says that the $4bn project has 23 six-bedroom waterfront villas that will be situated on the Dubai Canal. Talking about the completion of the project, Chinai says: “Phase-1 of Hartland Estates contains 48 villas with a completion date of December 2018. Then, we have another Phase-1 of 27 Quad Homes; its completion is December 2018 as well. Finally, we have 167 apartments, known as Hartland Greens, which are scheduled for completion by December 2017. Overall, we have 264 villas, 5,400 apartments and 80 townhouses.”
The state of MEP and construction sector
When asked about the future of the MEP sector in the region, Chinai says the company has always looked at the macro environment in the real estate with a two to two-and-a-half year downward and a two to two-and-a-half year upward cycle. “We are currently looking at the rest of 2017 with careful optimism. We came out of a soft market in 2016. We began seeing the market shift into a bit of a positive zone starting in October 2016 or so. While this was not a radical shift for us, the early signs of positive momentum were evident, as seen by our sales traction. Fortunately, this shift has continued to increase with time. If I look at October to December, December was again a much stronger month. In fact, Q1 growth has followed a similar trajectory.” The reason for this growth, Chinai believes, is that Dubai continues to be a sentiment-driven market. Moreover, he adds: “We have a location that we believe has a long-term competitive strength.”
In order to explain how quality is maintained at Sobha Group, Chinai elaborates on the journey of the company chairman, PNC Menon. “The initial part of our journey began in Oman, where our chairman, PNC Menon, launched his business with a focus on interior decoration work for very high-end clients. This was in partnership with a local Omani partner. This included a broad range of projects, encompassing mansions, five-star hotels and palaces. He completed the palaces for four different rulers from the GCC. Our presence in Oman still continues today. Given that fact that our Chairman was granted Omani citizenship, he is effectively a GCC national and hence, does not need a local partner to enter into new opportunities. We can launch new ventures on our own, which gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Our chairman has developed a very strong competency in delivering the highest standards of quality. This has been his forte. Moreover, we are the only company in the world that’s fully backward integrated. And it’s a complex business model, as you can imagine; we execute all aspects of the value chain under one roof, including interior design and construction. This operating model ensures that we deliver the highest levels of quality at scale and with great consistency. “It’s been a journey of learning, mastering and continuous improvement. It’s a fully integrated approach. We are constantly updating ourselves and our technology on what we can do better, what we can do faster, and what we can do with better quality – thereby enabling us to create a villa, townhouse or apartment that is unlike any other in the market,” Chinai proudly concludes.