Mahmood Shaikhani, Managing Director, Shaikhani Group On Running (And Growing) The Family Business In a region where over 80% of businesses are either owned or controlled by families, it's easy to note the similarities between the growth stories of the Shaikhani Group of Companies and other family businesses based here in the Middle East.

By Aby Sam Thomas

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Shaikhani Group winning Best Residential Project award at the 2016 Construction Innovation Awards.

In a region where over 80% of businesses are either owned or controlled by families, it's easy to note the similarities between the growth stories of the Shaikhani Group of Companies and other family businesses based here in the Middle East. Much like its peers in the market, Shaikhani Group was brought into being by a visionary entrepreneur, the late Abu Baker Shaikhani, who started the company in Pakistan as a real estate brokerage in 1978 and then diversified its offerings by moving into other industries like trading and manufacturing. He then followed it up by setting up shop in a new market- which, in this case, was the UAE, through the establishment of a rubber insulation factory in 1994 in the Emirate of Ajman. In the years since, the Shaikhani Group has grown and evolved quite a bit- given that its core business in Pakistan was in real estate, it was only a matter of time before the company made its entry into the UAE's property development sector as well.

The Shaikhani Group proudly declares that it has already been able to deliver more than 30,000 residential units in Pakistan and the UAE, and given that it has a development pipeline of AED3.5 billion in the latter market, it's safe to say this Dubai-headquartered enterprise is set for a lot more growth in the near future. Managing Director Mahmood Shaikhani, one of Abu Baker Shaikhani's four sons, is the one in charge of the Shaikhani Group today, whose 12 different business units employ more than 350 people around the world. The company currently boasts of an annual turnover of over AED220 billion, a figure that seems set to rise given its plans for the future. "Today, we have 11 projects overall [in development]," Shaikhani says, while revealing that AED1.5 billion worth of these are close to completion, while the others are expected to be ready by 2020.

With locations like Dubai Sports City (Frankfurt Sports Tower, Champions Tower I, II, III and IV), Dubai Silicon Oasis (Cambridge Business Center) and Jumeirah Village Circle (Gardenia Residency), Shaikhani explains that the variety of projects that his company is pursuing is an indication of its growth strategy, wherein it seeks to be in line with the vision that H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has set for the Emirate. While it is definitely clear that the company has grown in the years since it set up shop in the UAE, it seems that Shaikhani is dreaming bigger things for the enterprise, and he seems to be leaving no stone unturned to realize his ambitions for his family business.

A representation of the project under construction Gardenia Residency.Image credit: Shaikhani Group.

His current role at the helm of the company was one that was he was groomed for, but Shaikhani, a graduate in Business Administration from London Metropolitan University, was clear that he'd forge his own path when it came to leading the business to its next stage of growth. "I was brought up in such a manner that [I was told] I'd have to run the family business, but I didn't have to do the same thing as whatever my father was doing," he explains. "I had to bring something new into the business- because I was educated in such a manner." Fortunately for Shaikhani, his family has thrown their wholehearted support behind his ambitious plans for the business, and it looks like the industry at large is also sitting up and taking notice of the company's progress as well. And the reasons are aplenty- for one, Shaikhani Group is one of the property development companies that managed to steer through the economic recession successfully, and is now on track to deliver all of its other projects as well.

Related: Succession Planning In The Context Of A Family Business And Why You Need Outside Help

Shaikhani Group's ongoing real estate projects, for instance, are targeted toward the mid-market segment, which is where demand is already picking up, and set to rise even further. Smaller units –just like the one- and two-bedroom apartments Shaikhani Group are bringing to the market- are seeing a lot of interest in the Dubai property sector today. The company is also trying to facilitate more buyers for its offerings through its payment plan- billed as the Family Homes initiative, it will allow for buyers to pay 50% of the price when they sign on, and the remainder can be paid after handover over a 24-month-long period.

But it's not just the buyers- Shaikhani Group's projects are also getting noticed in Dubai's real estate business community. Its AED220 million Gardenia Residency project was declared as the "Residential Project of the Year' at the 2016 Construction Innovation Awards presented by Construction Business News Middle East in October this year. In a statement released after the win, Shaikhani called the award "a defining moment" for his enterprise. "These industry-leading awards reflect our customers' trust on us and the business community's sincere appreciation of our works and the quality of our works," he says. "I am pleased to accept these awards, which are the results of dedication, teamwork, hard work and collective efforts by my team members, and the award goes to them." With his company's footprint now firmly embedded in the property development and industry sectors, Shaikhani aims to diversify his family business further in the future, by moving into the F&B and textile industries. With regards to the former, Shaikhani reveals that the company has already signed contracts with two franchises in the UK, whereas for the latter, the search is still on for good business opportunities in that arena.

As for his existing businesses, Shaikhani is clear that in order for them to move forward, the integration of new innovations and a continued emphasis on research and development will be essential. Shaikhani doesn't rule out the potential of an IPO in the years to come as well- he's gauging the state of his business and the market at large for its readiness in terms of such an exposure. "Being an entrepreneur means you should be knowing what will happen in the future," he says- it is this kind of foresight that Shaikhani credits for the company's success, and it's what he hopes will sustain it in the years to come as well.

Portfolio check

An overview of the Shaikhani Group's diversified lines of businesses

Real Estate

Through its group companies based in the Middle East and Asia, the Shaikhani Group caters to real estate project development, with projects including Frankfurt Sports Tower, Cambridge Business Center, etc.


Shaikhani Contracting is a subsidiary that delivers a wide array of services, including HVAC and MEP, glass, aluminum and cladding works, joinery, metal and cabinet, civil, flooring works and insulation contracting.

Facility Management

As Shaikhani Group's facility management arm, Takmeel specializes in the provision of services like design and concept, construction and project management, property management, etc.


Rubber World Industries, the leading manufacturer of closed-cell rubber insulation Gulf-O-Flex in the Gulf and Southeast Asia, is the pioneering project of the Shaikhani Group of Companies.


Gulf-O-Flex Trading is the trading arm of Shaikhani Group with dealers and distributors network across the globe. It aims to provide a one-window solution to all the HVAC related material requirements of its customers.


Shaikhani Autos is a key dealer of new and used cars from the USA. The dealership ably offers affordably priced automobiles for the United States and Middle East markets.


De-Express delivers worldclass strategic BPO services to leading European energy service providers and their consumers. Based in Karachi, Pakistan, De-Express offers a variety of key services to a growing customer base.


MS Britannia LTD has a series of franchises, a food griller chain in the UK, and the group will be introducing 10 branches in the UAE. MS UK Foods LTD is another food chain of Rio Piri Piri Chicken in London.

Related: Family First: Securing Continued Growth For Family Businesses In The MENA Region

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

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.  

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