Face to face: Karim Adi, Swiss Property
Karim Adi, founder of Swiss Property, reveals why he decided to start his own real estate company in Dubai and shares construction updates on its projects in the emirate, including a partnership with Dubai Healthcare City
In detailing the origin story of Swiss Property, Karim Adi quotes neither French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, nor 19th century playwright, Charles-Guillaume Étienne, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the principle behind the company’s founding echoes the spirit of the advice oft-credited to the two historical figures: “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
Adi, chief executive officer of Swiss Property, tells Construction Week that when he first moved to Dubai four years ago, in 2013, he found himself on a frustrating hunt for a property that was right for him.
“I couldn’t find anything that I liked because most of the properties [available on the market] were very similar to each other, particularly in terms of finishing, and I wanted something different,” he recalls, revealing that the difficulty he encountered during his search ultimately led him to establish Swiss Property in 2014. “That’s when I started to consider setting up a real estate company.”
Armed with his background in finance – he worked as an equity trader for more than six years – and his personal experience as a property buyer, Adi carried out market research to discover what residents and expats like himself needed.
“I looked at, of course, demand and supply. I researched what people were really missing in Dubai,” he says.
When asked about what it was exactly that he was looking for, he offers an example by elaborating on his earlier point about finishing: “For instance, I love parquet, because it gives the room a cosy, comfortable, and warm [atmosphere]. But it’s very difficult to find an apartment in Dubai with parquet finishing. Most developments here have tiles.
“Another thing that I struggled with, and something that I know a lot of expats are struggling with as well, are storage rooms, or the lack thereof. There’s never enough storage space, so you end up [putting] your luggage in your wardrobe.”
Despite having been a player in the Dubai real estate sector for only three years, Swiss Property already has two residential projects to its name, both of which are in the development phase.
Located in Jumeirah Village Triangle, Park One is valued at around $16.3m (AED60m) and has a built-up area of 9,197m2 (99,000 square feet). It comprises 56 apartment units, as well as a rooftop swimming pool and barbecue area, a gym, a children’s playroom, a grocery store, basement parking for residents, and covered outdoor parking for guests.
Park One also comes with panoramic windows and metal, stone, and wood elements to create “warm, comfortable, and relaxing spaces”, according to Swiss Property.
Due for handover in Q1 2018, the project commenced construction in Q3 2016, with Dubai Walls Construction as the main contractor, Adi says, adding: “Park One is our first project. I wanted something that was on the affordable side, but high-quality and eco-friendly. It’s been designed, and certified, according to [Dubai] green building requirements.”
A considerably bigger project than Park One, La Reserve Residences is a partnership between Swiss Property and Dubai Healthcare City. With a projected cost of $136.1m (AED500m) and a built-up area spanning 83,613m2 (900,000 square feet), La Reserve will consist of 230 units, as well as amenities like lap and leisure pools, shaded pavilions, a running track, a gym, storage rooms, and basement parking for both residents and visitors.
Talking about how the company’s collaboration with the free zone came to be, Adi explains: “We set up a meeting with Dubai Healthcare City because we wanted to develop a property based on the concept of healthy living, and we liked the location of Dubai Healthcare City’s Phase 2 [in Al Jaddaf]. It’s next to Dubai Creek and the Flamingo Reserve, and really close to Downtown and Dubai International Airport.
“When we met with them, we discovered that we shared the same vision, and so we decided to partner on the project and develop the concept together.”
Apart from offering amenities that encourage a healthy and active lifestyle, La Reserve will feature landscaping and greenery, notes Adi, pointing out that this focus on nature and the environment is “very Swiss”.
“I grew up in Switzerland and lived most of my life there,” he reveals. “I called the company Swiss Property because when you think of Switzerland, you think of quality and efficiency, of nature and greenery. An image based on those is what I wanted to communicate through the name.”
Hoping to get La Reserve Residences ready for handover by the end of 2019, Swiss Property has brought on NSCC International as the enabling contractor and is in the tendering stage for the main contract.
The company has other projects in the pipeline, says Adi, but emphasises that at the moment, he would rather that Swiss Property focusses on Park One and La Reserve. “We don’t want to do too many things at once, so we’re limiting ourselves to one to two developments a year,” he says. “We also want to stay a boutique developer, because we want to maintain a relationship with our customers. We want to make sure that when they buy a property from us, they find exactly what they need.
“We all have different tastes. Some like big balconies, others don’t. Some want a lot of storage space, but there are those who want something else. We’ve taken note of [what] different people’s requirements are, which is why, at La Reserve, we have 27 unit types. We want to provide people with what they want, and in order to do that, we cannot have too many projects at the same time.”
Swiss Property is limiting not only the number of projects it will take on at a given time, but also the location of its developments, preferring to establish a presence in Dubai before looking at expansion possibilities.
“There are a lot of opportunities in Dubai,” explains Adi. “It’s an interesting market, because its expatriate population gives it a very international dynamic. It’s constantly evolving – you have people coming from different parts of the world, and they bring with them ideas from other places that they want to apply here. For example, you have people coming here, wanting to bring the Miami lifestyle to Dubai. Again, it’s a very interesting market.”
Dubai’s appeal as a property sector nothwithstanding, Adi admits that establishing a real estate business in the city has not been without its share of problems and challenges.
“There are always many challenges when you start a new company, so you have to be disciplined and determined to achieve what you want,” he says, adding: “The environment and mentality here are, of course, different from what you’d find in Switzerland, or in other parts of Europe. You have to, therefore, adapt and try to find a balance between the way you usually work and the way people do their work, and hopefully you can make it a good match on site.”
Despite the challenges, however, the pros of doing business in the emirate outweigh the cons, says Adi. He concludes: “Dubai can be a very competitive market, but there is room for everyone. There will always be demand, so for me, the key to handling obstacles is to turn them into opportunities.”