Follow The Leader: Azizi Developments CEO Farhad Azizi

"Without trust in off-plan development, there would be no sales in the sector– it is that simple. It is absolutely fundamental to the industry that we operate in, and it is what drives our growth trajectory."

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As the CEO of Azizi Developments, Farhad Azizi, who is also the Vice Chairman of Azizi Group, oversees the UAE-headquartered real estate enterprise's operations, while also leading its strategy and guiding the direction of its managerial team. Having kicked off operations in 2007, Azizi says that his company, which is the real estate investment arm of the parent Azizi Group, has, so far, completed 13 projects in Dubai, as well as 41 buildings and six shopping malls internationally. "We have delivered over 8,200 homes globally, with another 4,000 units to be delivered this year," Azizi says. "We currently have over 200 projects at different stages of development, nine of which are due for handover by year's end, including five buildings in Al Furjan, Phase One of our flagship development Azizi Riviera in Meydan One, Mina by Azizi in Palm Jumeirah, Aliyah Residences in Dubai Healthcare City, and Azizi Aura in Downtown Jebel Ali. We are also looking to establish ourselves further in high-growth international markets, to show the world that a Dubai-based developer can build iconic properties overseas."

Azizi Developments
Farhad Azizi, CEO, Azizi Developments

Farhad Azizi is the CEO of Azizi Developments and the Vice Chairman of Azizi Group.
Source: Azizi Group

Now, that may sound like a lofty dream- but Azizi has his company's standing in the market backing his ambition up. "We have recorded robust sales this year, underlining not only the pick-up in growth of Dubai's real estate sector, but also the confidence customers have placed in our ability to deliver immaculately-designed residential projects in the most strategic locations across the Emirate," Azizi notes. "2019 has started far better than 2018, with sales in the first quarter of 2019 being significantly higher than in the first three months of 2018." It's not just about sales though- Azizi Developments has managed to snap up a slew of industry awards over the years, which testify to its history of successful business practices in the region. As for the secret sauce that has enabled all of this to happen, it is the enterprise's unflinching focus on the customer that Azizi credits for all the success it has seen so far. "As a leading developer, we envision –and strive to offer– elegantly designed world-class homes that are affordable, and yield high rental returns," he says. "At the core of our operations are several key pillars, the most important of which is customer-centricity. Moreover, the importance of transparency, honesty, a construction- and research-driven approach, and proactive technology adoption are all guiding notions that we believe determine the success of our business."

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Azizi referred to these factors again when asked to detail his approach to positioning Azizi Developments in the market. "First and foremost, we strive to be the most customer-centric developer by keeping our customers at the very forefront of all of our decisions," he explains. "They are the core of our business, and the reason Azizi Developments is what it is today. There are several ways in which we continuously improve their experience with us, such as by researching and tailoring our products and services to their specific needs, reinforcing our customer care team, and enhancing our communications with them. What makes customers the happiest, though, is a solid ROI. We therefore make sure that every unit yields them a substantial return on their investment, which ensures their satisfaction, and converts them into repeat customers. Moreover, we are committed to the highest levels of transparency in everything we do- from marketing and sales, to operations and delivery. We place a strong emphasis on earning our customers' trust through honesty and transparent communications, in the form of regular updates and by increasing the quality and number of communication channels. Investors and stakeholders have to be kept up-to-date on completion progress, company announcements, and any other information that is relevant and useful to them. We have therefore recently implemented more comprehensive monthly email newsletters, and have increased the frequency and quality of communication channels."

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"Thirdly, what sets us apart is our research-driven approach," he continues. "We have a dedicated research and development department that conducts in-depth research to uncover market trends and customer needs, using advanced research methodologies and technologies, such as machine learning algorithms. Only research-driven companies that implement the latest technologies, which now extend far beyond mere desk research to big data and machine-learning algorithms, will have insights that allow them to innovate and prosper. The fact that all of our developments are strategically located in terms of their vicinity and/or access to business, retail and leisure hubs, and their connectivity to major highways and public transportation is another major competitive advantage that we have. Our research uncovered the most promising areas with the most growth-inclined ROIs, which we leverage to the benefit of our customers. Lastly, our developments go beyond mere buildings– they embody and allow residents to be immersed in enhanced lifestyles. By incorporating outstanding sports, entertainment, shopping and other lifestyle amenities, as well as by integrating social livable spaces in our masterplanned communities, we do our very best to enrich the lives of our residents."

To date, Azizi Group, has completed 13 projects in Dubai, as well as 41 buildings and six shopping malls internationally.
Source: Azizi Group

Now, it's one thing to create such investment opportunities for potential customers it's another thing altogether to get them to actually sign on the dotted line. In Azizi Developments' case, while it does have strong customer bases in India, Pakistan, China, Russia, the UK, and the UAE, in order to cater to the millennial market, the company has customized offerings specifically for these young professionals, and thus encouraging them to move away from home renting to home ownership. "One of the many ways in which we cater to this segment, which our research finds is often anxious due to a fear of commitment, is by offering revolutionary payment plan options, such as through our partnership with Dubai Islamic Bank, which grants them monthly payment plans with 0% down payment," Azizi explains. "Moreover, we are seeing less of a need for comprehensive kitchen utilities and parking spaces, due to the rise in food delivery and ride-sharing apps, and more of a demand for social livable spaces in and around our buildings. These are the types of insights that we consider and act on to ensure that our product suits this growing demographic's needs." According to Azizi, such activities are necessary in order to build strong relationships with both existing and new clients, with such ties being absolutely critical in an industry like theirs. "Essentially, as an off-plan developer, at the time of purchase, we sell a promise to our customers, rather than a tangible product," he points out. "For them to buy this promise, it requires trust, which can only be achieved and maintained through high levels of transparency and honesty. Without trust in off-plan development, there would be no sales in the sector– it is that simple. It is absolutely fundamental to the industry that we operate in, and it is what drives our growth trajectory."

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It should have become clear by now, based off his responses so far, that Azizi is a leader who actively chooses to lead from the front, and he believes his enterprise has been all the better for it. "CEOs need to be hands-on," he declares. "They need to be directly involved and engaged in all levels, rather than just steering the company's direction. I personally visit all of our construction sites every Tuesday, which to me is not just a matter of quality control and ensuring timely delivery, but is also tremendously fulfilling. Witnessing the tangible progress first-hand is the most rewarding part of my week. I also make sure that all top management, including myself, maintains an opendoor policy. This is crucial in ensuring an uninhibited, friendly and progressive work environment in which suggestions are heard and actioned. To open the organization up to advancements, unrestrained and direct lines of internal communications need to be nurtured. This is how we uncover issues that can then be solved immediately, which would be difficult and time-consuming in more bureaucratic and formal enterprises. I am a strong advocate of the notion of intrapreneurship– I do my very best to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in all staff as I believe that this fosters agility and progress. I have also made my personal phone number public, and have invited staff, customers, and other stakeholders to reach out to me directly with any questions, feedback or suggestions. This, too, is important to me as it boosts transparency and facilitates progress. I believe that a developer's CEO needs to be the most visible, approachable, and reachable ambassador of the brand."

Azizi Developments CEO Farhad Azizi shares his tips for entrepreneurs

1. ALWAYS KEEP THE CUSTOMER FIRST "Instill a customer-first mindset across all operations, and most importantly, in all employees. Keeping the customer at the forefront of all decisions ensures that business functions operate optimally, in line with market trends and demand, driving profitability and success."

2. RUN A TRANSPARENT BUSINESS "Maintain and enhance levels of transparency, honesty, and trust. Customer trust is fundamental to any business, and it ensures continued growth through repeat customers and word-of-mouth."

3. KNOW YOUR MARKET INSIDE OUT "Start with in-depth research, and substantiate all business activities with it. Conducting comprehensive research, especially using advanced technologies such as machine learning algorithms, keeps the business relevant, and allows it to tailor products to customer needs."

4. STAY ATTUNED TO THE BUSINESS LANDSCAPE AROUND YOU "Continuously adapt to changing market conditions. Agility and responsiveness to customer needs and market trends is of the utmost importance. It is no longer survival of the fittest, but survival of those who know how to adapt."

5. FUEL YOURSELF WITH PASSION "Do what you love. You cannot succeed without genuine passion for your industry and customer interests."

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