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Hilshaw Group is leading Smart City developments in the Middle East, Africa, and the Commonwealth of Independent States by executing nine projects worth more than $40 billion, its top official says.
The Dubai-based group, which primarily invests in low supply and finite real estate opportunities, focuses on green development initiatives in its Smart City projects to offer a pollution-free environment.
“We have a strong pipeline for Smart City projects in Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, and Uzbekistan that are each valued at approximately $5 billion,” Lal Bhatia, chairman, Hilshaw Group, told Khaleej Times during an interview.
Hilshaw Group is a multi-family office and investment advisory with an existing fund size of $500 million. It has offices across Thailand, Italy, and Russia, with its investment and acquisition headquarters in Dubai.
Bhatia said the company has been appointed as an exclusive advisor for a Smart City development in Nairobi that is valued at seven billion euros. It is also an exclusive advisor for an 86 hectare project in Kazakhstan and raised $450 million to start construction soon.
“Hilshaw Group is consulting for a Smart Green City Project in Kenya and two smart city projects in Nur Sultan and Almaty,” he said.
Investing in UAE real estate
Bhatia said Hilshaw Group has recently allocated $175 million towards the UAE real estate market to capitalise on the business opportunities in the country.
“When the government introduced the ‘Work from Dubai’ program to cater to the growing demand of remote working in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we picked up on it, realising that it is indeed the future.
“As you are aware… the program welcomes non-resident employees and their families to live and work from Dubai and enjoy its open border policy and conducive climate all year round, while the employers of such applicants enjoy increased productivity based on the emirate’s world-class infrastructure and higher workforce happiness quotient due to reduced pandemic imposed restrictions,” he said.
An organisation, he said, on average spends 25 percent of its employees’ wages to support the infrastructure needed for a productive work environment.
“Needless to say, following 2020, many organisations are eager for opportunities to save while ensuring the safety of their employees. Several blue-chip tech brands are looking to exit from their now-defunct (due to global lockdowns and/or social volatility) campuses and adapt more era-appropriate HR strategies,” he said.
Work from Dubai
Bhatia said the ‘Work from Dubai’ program offers a two-pronged benefit to employers in the form of cost savings and productivity.
“Hilshaw Group is investing in ‘Ready to move in’ or ‘Close to completion’ residential real estate in Dubai like the one we are in…and retrofitting it for the ‘Work from Home’ mandate. It is negotiating with three blue-chip tech firms for a total relocation of over 5,000 employees and their families,” he said.
Upon formalization of agreement, he said the invested-in real estate would be rented out for a secured three-year corporate contract alongside a concierge service for an additional fee to all relocating employees and families for essential processes, including banking, education, and other general social integration.
“Hilshaw Group’s plans include the development of ‘Smart healthcare’ and ‘Smart education’ infrastructure across developing nations, while we continue generating exceptional returns for all the company’s investors and partners,” he said.
In reply to a question, Bhatia said Dubai already emphasises a lot to ensure all construction activities should be environment-friendly and in line with the building and design regulations.
“All our projects are in line with the government’s regulations as far as green initiatives are concerned,” he said.
Carbon credit deal
Bhatia said carbon credits are a concept of any tradable certificate that gives the bearer the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gas. Carbon credits and carbon markets are a part of national and international attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of greenhouse gases.
“One carbon credit is generally equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide. Carbon trading is a process of emissions trading with the goal is to encourage low emissions or less carbon intensive approaches than those used when there is no cost to emitting carbon dioxide. The sales of these carbon credits to commercial entities willing to lower their carbon footprint is used to fund and develop green and smart technologies and projects,” he said.
In line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, he said Pan European Carbon Fund (PECF) has Carbon Offset commitments approximating between $500 billion and $1 trillion of finance and investments by 2050 to help transition to a net-zero carbon economy and help build a thriving and resilient future for society and businesses across developing countries.
“PECF has approved two smart city projects in Kazakhstan that Hilshaw Group is consulting for and has invested $450 million in the developments,” he said.
Expo 2020 Dubai to drive economy
To a question, Bhatia said the Expo 2020 Dubai has been an event of great significance to the UAE. However, the pandemic has now dubbed it as the world’s largest business event after two years of global disconnect.
“We have great expectations from the Expo and its lucrative aftermath. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on the fruition of his vision,” he said.
He said the impact of the Expo will become evident by the mid of 2022 when visiting organisations realise the value of a presence in Dubai and set up shop, and investors recognise the city’s position as a global business capital and bet on the winning team.
A journey from expat to resident
Lal Bhatia, Chairman, Hilshaw Group, said the vision of the country’s leadership made Dubai a leading destination for businesses, investors, and professionals alike, and it is no surprise that our beloved city has been named the fifth best place to live in, across the world.
“The golden visa and now green visa will further Dubai’s global appeal. It instills a greater sense of belonging amongst expats, which is paramount to attracting long-term committed investors and high-level talent,” he said.
While sharing his feelings about the golden visa and how this initiative is beneficial for the country, Bhatia said the UAE is a nation that welcomes everyone with open arms and offers equal opportunity to everyone that chooses to call it home.
“It was home from the day I personally decided to relocate here. Still, as you said, “From expat to resident’, and while the commitment towards the place where we live was always there, the golden visa has instilled a greater sense of responsibility towards the progress of the nation and its reputation. I am thankful to the country’s leadership for granting me the golden visa and considering my contributions worthy,” he said.
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