Abdulla bin Lahej — powering Ayana Holding’s growth

The former group CEO of Emaar and Dubai Properties is spearheading 13 separate entities that are growing at a breakneck speed both at home and abroad amid ambitious expansion plans across verticals


Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Sat 5 Nov 2022, 5:15 PM

Last updated: Sun 6 Nov 2022, 12:09 PM

Abdulla bin Lahej is an epitome of Emirati entrepreneurship.

The chairman and founding partner of Ayana Holding since 2012 had a successful corporate career with Emaar and Dubai Properties between 2000-2016 and 2016-2018, respectively, until he decided to begin his own entrepreneurial journey.

Bin Lahej’s success as a corporate leader and a businessman was built on solid foundations — steeped in early years of struggle of a young nation that was coming to terms with freedom from its colonial powers and diversifying to a new economy from the traditional pearl diving.

His father, too, was in pearl diving and moved around the Arabian Gulf to North and East Africa in the 1950s. Bin Lahej and his 10 siblings initially grew up in Shindagha and later moved to Jumeirah while spending a few years in Bur Dubai in between. He attended Imam Malik Secondary School and Milwaukee School of Engineering in the US and majored in architectural engineering.

On his return to the UAE, he joined Emaar Properties as an executive director for design and development, projects and contracts in 2000, placing Dubai on the global map with its renowned landmarks and communities such as Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina, Arabian Ranches, Dubai Hills, Cairo Heights, Marassi, etc.

Bin Lahej scaled dizzy heights with the real estate firm in 2014, when he was named the group CEO of Emaar Properties, and was made responsible for managing the company’s operations, driving profitability, managing organisational structure, strategy, and communicating with the board members.


In 2016, he joined Dubai Properties as the group CEO. He contributed to the supervision of the design and development of iconic landmarks and business hubs such Business Bay, one of Dubai’s contemporary financial districts, and other residential communities such as Remraam, Amaranta, Villanova, Mudon, etc.

Shifting gears

“I’ve been a successful corporate leader for the better part of my professional career. But the time was ripe to start my own journey with Ayana Holding, which has several verticals and each with a distinct vision and outlook,” said bin Lahej, who operates out of a tastefully decorated office in Karama.

His vision for Dubai is in sync with that of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“I’m ambitious and excited to see the next stage of developments in Dubai, which is rapidly making strides to become the leader of cutting-edge innovation,” he said.

His bullish attitude to business gives him the edge to seek out new challenges. He possesses a rare ability to leverage existing business platforms and relationships in new ventures, which can be attributed to his hands-on technical experience with strong organisational and communication skills. “I’ve consistently demonstrated these skills throughout my career in management of complex projects while safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders,” he added.

Prior to Ayana Holding, Bin Lahej and his partner were engaged in value-added design inputs through their architectural firm aptly titled VX, which stood for value experts and sowed the entrepreneurial seed in him.

“Ayana Holding provides end-to-end industry-centric solutions for governments and real estate developers across the globe. It’s the parent organisation of 13 different companies — all of which are growing at a rapid clip. Each venture is looked at as a collaborative effort, promoting synergy within the holding group,” he said.

Ayana Holding has provided its construction and design consulting services to many companies such as DIFC, Wasl Properties, DMCC in the UAE and in King Abdulla Economic City, Saudi Federation For Cyber Security & Programming, Diriyah Gate Company Limited (formerly Known As Dgda) and Rua Al Madinah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Bin Lahej’s corporate grounding has ensured strong fundamentals to his business practices. He brings in a culture of excellence, nervous energy, collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking that have helped build a portfolio of companies, which are known to provide quality, reliable and result-driven services.

“We’re focused on building a network of powerful companies at a global level. With robust financial, operational and strategic experience and a wide-ranging network, we have the resources, global capacity and know-how to continuously transcend borders, boundaries and benchmarks that are disrupting industries. Since inception we have evolved into a multi-million-dollar group of companies with a proven track record of navigating within diverse, transitioning and complex economies, placing us at the forefront of innovation,” he added.

People first

Human resources are the biggest asset of Ayana Holding. “It’s the people who use their intelligence, innovation and entrepreneurship skills to help us achieve excellence every day. We support them by fostering a culture that promotes trust, integrity and respect in our business practices and relationships,” said Bin Lahej, who always believed in giving his employees and subordinates a free hand as opposed to micromanaging.

The employees’ freedom to express themselves has been Ayana Holding’s hallmark.

“We allow people to be part of the business and provide them with space to implement their competencies. We focus on the technological know-how, professional expertise and communication skills of the team members,” he said.

Work and new technologies are the only way that a workaholic bin Lahej indulges in to unwind.

“We’re at the cusp of exponential growth and I don’t want to distract myself by engaging with trivial pursuits,” he added.

Global and domestic footprints

Ayana Holding has announced that it would be joining hands with Nad Al Shiba Holding and Kazakh Invest National Company for the construction of a multifunctional residential and commercial complex, The Grand Mosque Residences, in Astana, Kazakhstan. The cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $576 (Dh2,115.63) million, and the total cost of the project is $2 (Dh7.35) billion.

It is looking at developing luxurious properties on its own in some of the tony neighbourhoods of London such as Hyde Park, Belgravia, and Kensington.

It is supplying building materials for large construction projects in the KSA.

XPLOR is a game-changing innovation concept, where users can buy a non-fungible token (NFT) to own units of real estate in Mars, the Red Planet. Mars renders took around two months to create and have been active for almost a year.

For Dubai and other parts of the UAE, Ayana Holding has created master plans for residential, commercial and mixed-use land development.

M2L Concepts opened Dubai's latest outdoor destination M2L Market, which is located at Gate Avenue, DIFC, Zone B, on Friday and it would be operational till end-March 2023.

The market features a four-concept pavilion and offers plenty of family activities.

The Art Lab features artists, art workshops and exhibitions; the eSports pavilion has gaming stations for all age groups and at Wrkbay, parents along with their children, can craft their own pizzas. There is also a Creative Hub with instagrammable spaces for selfies.

M2L Market is a foodie’s paradise, thanks to Local Fire, Smoked Meat Kitchen, El & N Café, Burger 28, House of Pops etc. International retailers such as fashion brands Wasted Youth and handmade Arabic perfumes from Ahmed Al Maghribi’s Perfumes are an integral part of the market.

Besides, there is live entertainment during the week such as open mics, stand-up comedy, music festivals, dance battles, intensive workouts.

The activities are open from 4pm to midnight on weekdays and 12 noon to midnight on weekends. Fees apply to certain activities.

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