Dubai number plate collector donates Dh100m to charity


Dubai number plate collector donates Dh100m to charity

Dubai - Other than the D5 number plate, he also has several exclusive numbers in his collection.


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Mon 27 Mar 2017, 9:45 AM

Last updated: Mon 27 Mar 2017, 8:53 PM

It was in 1995 that Balwinder Sahni first got his hands on a set of exclusive digits. At that time it was a mobile number, but 22 years later, it has spiralled into a much-loved hobby for unique car number plates; and it's a hobby that has benefitted many charities too.
With about 15 exclusive numbers in his collection - including the famous D5 Dubai number plate which sold for Dh33 million in 2016 - Sahni told Khaleej Times he has so far donated about Dh100 million to charity through various auctions. "This is my passion. I love number plates, so if I can fulfill my hobby and give back at the same time, it is a win-win for me."
Today, whenever there is mention of that D5 number plate, almost everyone in Dubai knows the man behind it is 10-year Dubai resident Sahni. That's a feeling he "quite enjoys".
But what is it exactly that piques Sahni's interest and why does he fork out for these number plates time and time again? The Indian businessman said it all started more than 20 years ago, while living in the place he was raised, Kuwait. That's when he got his first taste for exclusivity after purchasing a unique mobile number from an individual seller.
"I remember getting such a buzz off that first purchase. I paid $300,000 for that number and my family just didn't understand it. But to this day, I still have the number. I like to keep them, collect them," he said. For Sahni, purchasing these numbers has nothing to do with making a sound monetary investment; instead, it's simply an investment in a hobby that he loves. "Some people think I am crazy, but then I think there are some crazy people in the world too. I love numbers, they are my passion so what harm is it to others?" he said.
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With exclusive car registrations in Dubai, Kuwait and India, Sahni reminisced on some of his biggest standouts to date. "The first car registration I bought was the number '225'. Then, in 2006 I bought my first number plate exclusive to Dubai. I'd say my favourite right now is D5, the one I bought last year, and that's because it adds up to my favourite number, nine (add D - fourth number of the alphabet - to five)."
He also purchased the 09 number plate for Dh24.5 million in early 2016, another which stands in his collection as a firm favourite. As no stranger to charity auctions, Sahni said he always goes into the bidding knowing what he wants, with "no maximum budget" set in place. Back in October 2016, it was that very sentiment that won the 44-year-old his lucky number D5.
Following a fierce bidding war between 16 people, Sahni reigned successful, but he said he was confident from the start, and as people were increasing the bids in hundreds of thousands, he raised them in their millions.
Today, that exclusive plate sits proudly on his Rolls Royce - one of six among a collection - and like with all his number plates, they will forever remain in his personal car collection. "I like being different. I've always been different and by having these numbers, it's the exclusivity that I like."
But for those hoping to rein victorious in any future upcoming charity auction, he said he has a few words of advice.

"Don't do it for status. Only do it if you have enough wealth and you'll get satisfaction from knowing the money will go to a good cause. You won't get long-term satisfaction if you're just doing it for show."

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