In focus: Danube Properties
1 year ago by Afrah Mohammad
In an exclusive interview with CustomerService.ae, Mr. Rizwan Sajan, Founder & Chairman of Danube Properties talks about the trends and service expectations of customers in the real estate sector in UAE. He also highlights that his business is run on the philosophy of exceeding customer expectations and focused on customer happiness.
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“We are a customer-centric organization”
Q: Tell us a bit about OPALZ by Danube Properties and what sets you apart from your competitors?
Rizwan: We launched OPALZ about a month ago and it was sold out on the first day – within a few hours! There are certain reasons why and how this happened. First of all, the external factors – investors are flocking to Dubai and investing in real estate due to higher returns of say, between 4-7 percent, depending on the location, size of the units and other factors.
Due to the effective handling of COVID by the UAE authorities, most international investors are now more confident about relocating to the UAE than before. These external factors, coupled with our own initiatives have helped us to sell the project at launch.
As a developer, we now have a rock-solid reputation for delivering projects on time and on quality – which has reinforced public trust in our ability to deliver properties on time. As a result, whenever we launch a project, there is no shortage of buyers.
Then the pricing of our properties as well as the industry-leading 1 percent payment plans are some of the key reasons for our success. Our properties are priced at their lowest – to make them affordable – without compromising the quality of construction, use of building materials, finishing, facilities and amenities. So, we are providing luxury homes at a very affordable price.
One of the biggest problems we found in home acquisition is funding. Most middle-income families with limited income can’t pay a huge amount to buy the property, while mortgage is also not easily available for off-plan properties for them. So, we have an easy payment plan, where we collect around 20-25 percent of the property price in the first six months then put the balance 75 percent in 1 percent monthly payment plan – that eliminates the need for mortgage finance.
This way, the buyer gets the property delivered when 50 percent of the payment is done. So, the family can move in after paying only 50 percent – and the balance could be paid in the rest 50 months. This is good for the property buyers and investors. So, if you are an investor, you can start earning after paying only 50 percent of the property price.
For example, if you are buying a studio for Dh460,000, you get it delivered after having paid Dh230,000. If you put it on rent, for say Dh35,000 per annum, your return is Dh35,000 on Dh230,000 – or 15.21 percent. But if you calculate this on the full property value of Dh460,000, then the return is 7.60 percent. This return is way higher than any other property markets.
On top of these perks, the first-day buyers get fully furnished apartment, as we provide Washing Machine, Refrigerator, Dishwasher, foldable wall-mounted bed and other furniture – free of cost! This helps us to get more sale on the first day as buyers tend to save at least Dh25,000 on furniture and fittings, when booking the property on the first day.
So, we have set ourselves apart by offering the best solutions to our customers.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the changing service standards and trends in the real estate industry? How do you measure and stay in sync with these changes?
Rizwan: We run our business on a simple philosophy – how can we exceed customer expectations. We encourage our team members to find out what the customers need. What are the new trends – both in terms of products and service proposition and after-sale service.
This simple approach keeps us abreast of the market needs, trends and customer happiness that we strive to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, in home acquisition, the biggest problem is mortgage finance or lack of it for middle-income families, especially for off-plan properties. With our trendsetting 1% monthly installment, we have solved the problem – by eliminating the need for mortgage finance. Instead of banks providing the mortgage, our 1% monthly payment is solving their problem.
This is a great example that shows up to what extent we stretch ourselves to make the customers happy. So, instead of following the trends, sometimes we create the trends – and others follow as it works.
Q: How have customer expectations changed over the years in the real estate sector?
Rizwan: There are a number of expectations that property buyers have. First, timely construction, completion, delivery on time and on quality. Quality of finishing, facility and amenities are key concern for buyers. Better use of livable space – or space-saving designs are critical. It provides more livable space per square feet.
In the real estate business, what matters most is trust. Buyers need to trust the developer in delivering on time, on quality, with lowest price and convenient payment plan. I believe, we have achieved it in the last eight years.
Q: What are some of the essentials customers look for when they want to purchase a property?
Rizwan: In addition to what I have just mentioned, location of the property is crucial – the surrounding environment, connectivity, transport infrastructure, communication and community facilities are important, such as clinic, school, park, etc.
In our project, we fulfil some of the community or social needs. All our properties come with common areas – landscaped garden, gymnasium, health club, children’s play area, barbeque area, tennis court, swimming pool, among many other common area facilities. So, a property buyer can stay on the property almost all the time – other than having to go to work and shopping outside.
In our latest projects, we have added jogging track around the project and now we are adding co-working space within two-bedroom apartments. At Opalz, we have introduced in-house swimming pools – to give the maximum comfort to our buyers so that they can enjoy life within the boundaries of the property. We are selling lifestyle – not just concrete. We provide good quality life for the best price that money can buy.
Q: In terms of service, what is your philosophy to ensure customer happiness?
Rizwan: We are a customer-centric organization. We work for our customers, their happiness. I tell our colleagues – your salary comes from the money paid by the customers. So, make them happy to justify your income. It is also our sacred and divine responsibility. A happy customer is our biggest ambassador and he can bring ten new customers – this is happening.
Q: What customer feedback mechanisms do you have in place and how do you deal with negative feedback from your customers?
Rizwan: There are multiple online and offline avenues through which customers can complain to us about products and services. Every time there is a customer complaint, we investigate it and take appropriate action – by reaching out to the customer with the right products and services, till he is happy.
Q: Do you offer online customer support on your digital platforms and is this support 24/7?
Rizwan: Yes, but when it comes to customer complaints, personal interaction works better to address issues. Building a one-on-one connection helps the customer feel more heard and satisfied.
Q: In terms of technology, what innovations are you incorporating to make the customer experience better?
Rizwan: Our digital and social media channels are working very well in property sale. A lot of campaigns are now online. People come to know of our new properties well before we launch them – through the teaser campaigns we do online.
Q: Do you have any staff training programs in place and what key soft skills do you focus on?
Rizwan: Yes. Although we hire trained people, yet you need to up-skill and sometimes re-skill to bring them up to speed. Sometimes they see new things before us and we then create orientation programs around the new developments so that everyone is aware of the new trends.
Q: How do you plan on making customer experience better in the future?
Rizwan: The only way this is possible is by remaining customer focused. If we remain alert about their needs, then we will find solutions to their needs. Needs can change and when they do, we just have to readjust ourselves.
For example, a large number of businesses have started allowing professionals to work from home following COVID-19. So, working couples now need more space at home to do office work – be it calling customers or doing accounting work. They need more space.
So, in our latest project, we have made provision for some open-space that can be used for co-working or a small home office. This is going to be a trend in the future and we are delivering it now!
About Rizwan Sajan
Rizwan Sajan is a business leader who raised his business empire from a two-membered husband-wife team way back in 1993 to a multi-billion-dollar sustainable diversified business conglomerate with 9 businesses spread across 50 locations in 10 countries employing more than 3,600 people.