Exceeding Expectations: Rony Mourani, General Manager, Mall Of Qatar
It is one of the most anticipated developments in Qatar today, and now, with less than a year to go for its official opening in August 2016, the Mall of Qatar (MOQ) seems to be all set for a grand launch that befits the spectacular scale of the project. For the uninitiated, here’s how big the MOQ project is: built on a 500,000 sq.m. plot (that’s like 50 soccer fields, by the way), the shopping mall will house 450 stores, over 100 restaurants, a 16,000 sq.m. family entertainment area, 19 cinema screens, 7000 parking spaces- one could probably go on and on about the mall’s sheer magnitude, but the aforementioned numbers should suffice to give you a fair idea of the same.
But if MOQ’s size by itself isn’t enough to impress you, its current leasing status should cause you to sit up and take notice. “The mall is now approximately 90% leased,” said Rony Mourani, General Manager, MOQ, during a visit to Dubai in September. “And we are looking forward to reaching full occupancy by the end of this year.” And the tenant mix that Mourani and his team have whipped up for MOQ is certainly worth a mention: besides anchor tenants like Salam Stores and Carrefour, more than 40 new brands from the fashion, F&B and entertainment sectors are expected to make their first appearance in the GCC region at this particular shopping mall. “The mall is [aimed to be a] super regional [shopping center], so it has been planned and designed to attract all kinds of customers, starting from luxury, going down to the middle market, and then down to the value and middle-low sector as well,” Mourani says. “The mall has capitalized a lot on closing all the gaps that exist in the market, so our first aim is to create such a signature destination, a super regional shopping mall that will enter into the league of the super regional shopping malls of the region and that holds the name of the country.”
But given the number of malls planned to rise up in Qatar soon, are there any concerns about how MOQ’s future will play out? Mourani doesn’t seem to be too worried- on the contrary, he’s quite confident about the mall’s prospects, citing their own market study that was done prior to its development. “If you look at the existing retail offerings in Qatar, you’ll see that the market is definitely in need of new retail space,” he says. “It is undersupplied at the momentthe last super regional shopping mall that opened in Qatar was in 2006… And while the population has grown [significantly] since then, there have been no new offerings in the market. So, definitely, there’s a need. The challenge, however, is that this need has been caught by several developers, and there are a number of new shopping malls that are coming to town. But every single shopping mall has its own characteristic- you can’t put them all at the same level… So if you look at the 15 new shopping malls that are coming, their sizes vary in terms of size from 250,000 sq.m. to 500,000 sq.m. of leasable area. So, eventually, when you filter all of that, the market will probably have three super regional shopping malls, and the first one will be MOQ. We’re capitalizing a lot on being the first of this league of shopping malls to open, and we put lots of hope in capturing a large portion of the market share by introducing a high level of industry standards, which will give consumers in Qatar the shopping center experience that they really deserve.”
Mourani continually stresses on the MOQ experience when talking about the shopping center’s USP, and he says that this feeling begins at the very onset when a consumer is trying to decide on a mall to go to. Given its location in the middle of Doha, MOQ is easily accessible, be it via road (the new 12-lane Khalifa Avenue highway connects straight to the mall) or via rail (a metro station is scheduled to open in 2019, and it’s also going to be close to a GCC Railway station as well). Once you reach the mall, the experience starts from the mall’s impressive façade, and onward to its spacious interiors, with its remarkably high ceilings and an expansive racetrack design for the ground. Then there is the mall’s tenant mix, which Mourani counts as being extremely important: “If you have a building made of gold, but you don’t have the right tenants inside it, then the consumers will [simply] not visit.” Adding to MOQ’s appeal is its aim to be perceived as the country’s ultimate entertainment destination- besides the cineplex and a family entertainment center, there’s also a special stage area in the mall’s central ‘oasis,’ designed to bring grandiose shows of the sort seen in places like London, New York and Las Vegas to Qatar.
For Mourani, the impressive wins that MOQ has been able to get so far are essentially fulfilling the mandate that was laid out to him and his team when setting out on this project. “The biggest challenge we had is that we were handed over a project that holds the name of the country,” he explains. “The name -Mall of Qatar- gives an indication of how massive this project is, and the great responsibility that has been put on the shoulders of this project. So we have a big mission to deliver, and it must be delivered at the highest level possible, and the best possible level as well.” As the General Manager for the project, it does look like Mourani has certainly been successful with what he was tasked out to do- but he is quick to note the hurdles he had to face along the way.
“There were several types of challenges,” he says. “You have design challenges, as well as the challenges relating to the infrastructure you need to make and create to accommodate such a massive new development. There are also the challenges of the market, of course- the special characteristics of the Qatari market, the number of shopping malls coming to the market, etc. So, all of that together formed huge challenges, but with the dedicated and highly professional team that we have employed, we’ve managed to go through all these challenges, and actually deliver. Hopefully, everybody will be able to see it next year, when we deliver a five-star super shopping mall that will compete with any of the high league of successful shopping malls in the region.”
Mall of Qatar: At A Glance
Real Estate Over 500,000 sq.m. of total built up area, of that there is 256,000 sq.m. of leasable space on three levels
Outlets 500+ stores
Developer UrbaCon Trading & Contracting (UCC)
Financer Qatar National Bank NB (Phase I in excess of a $1.2 billion investment)
Development Team Chapman Taylor, KEO, Hill International, UCC
Leasing Team McArthur + Company, UCC
Operations Mall of Qatar WL
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.