From ice cream scoops to skyscrapers: How Dubai woman built business selling properties worth billions

Hailing from a middle-class family in India, Qurat ul Ain moved to the UAE to finish her education; she funded her tuition fees by selling ice cream for Dh20


Waheed Abbas

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Qurat ul Ain, co-founder and chairperson of DRE. Photos: Supplied
Qurat ul Ain, co-founder and chairperson of DRE. Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 24 Jun 2024, 2:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jun 2024, 10:01 PM

Dubai is a city where dreams come true; success stories of rags-to-riches echo in its streets. We often hear about individuals who arrived with just a few dirhams and have since transformed into millionaires, overseeing businesses with transactions worth billions of dirhams.

Qurat ul Ain, Co-founder and Chairperson of DRE, is one such inspiring success story. From selling ice creams to skyscrapers, the entrepreneur has made her name in Dubai's highly competitive real estate market.

She began her career as a sales executive, selling ice cream in a supermarket 20 years ago. Today, she is the successful leader of a multi-billion dirham company, selling properties worth over Dh5 billion in 2023 alone.

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Hailing from a humble middle-class family in India, she moved to Dubai to get an education, but she always wanted to fund her education.

Qurat ul Ain during her early days in Dubai
Qurat ul Ain during her early days in Dubai

“I moved to Dubai 20 years ago for university education and soon realised I wasted my time meeting friends and socialising every day. My parents were able to afford my university tuition, but they couldn’t afford a big pocket of money. So, I decided to scout for a job. I found a job selling ice cream for Dh20 per hour at a supermarket in Sharjah, making around Dh2,000-Dh2,500, which was quite a big amount at that time,” DRE co-founder told Khaleej Times in an interview.

Really good at sales

A year later, she joined a hospitality marketing firm to sell privilege cards for hotels, where she was instrumental in the company's growth.

“I started doing very well in selling cards and used to make around Dh5,000-Dh6,000 a month. Once I graduated, I got an offer from the same company, and my basic monthly salary was raised to Dh9,000 plus commission in 2004-5. Then I went on to earn Dh20,000 a month because I was really good at sales. After all, it was in my blood.”

Qurat with brother and co-founder of DRE, Mudasir Wani
Qurat with brother and co-founder of DRE, Mudasir Wani

At her request, Qurat’s brother Mudasir Wani later joined her from London to study at a university in Dubai.

Her breakthrough in real estate came from her uncle. He asked them to join his real estate firm in Dubai as the emirate witnessed its first growth cycle from early 2000 till the 2008 financial crisis.

“After joining the real estate business, we did really well initially. However, a financial crisis hit, and my uncle lost Dh40 million. He decided to sell the company and we took over it and started with the leasing in Dubai Silicon Oasis.”

Mudasir Wani, CEO and co-founder of DRE
Mudasir Wani, CEO and co-founder of DRE

DRE co-founder continued, "I would still be in a hospitality company if not for my uncle and brother. I was quite comfortable because the salary was good. I came by luck but didn't get success by luck. I put in a lot of hard work."

Turning point

Since Qurat's entry into the property business was during the financial crisis, she started it from scratch and had no losses or debt burden. She had no exposure to the real estate sector and started it with leasing, which was a relatively safer option then.

“We had just started, and we were into leasing. The turning point came when we met Saudi billionaire Abdul Latif Jameel, who wanted to buy a commercial space in Dubai to relocate his business from war-hit Lebanon. Initially, they asked us to buy them one floor, which cost them Dh8 million. Then they called me to buy more and asked for a better price. I bought them 13 more floors in the same building. It was a turning point in our lives and the business's success,” DRE co-founder said.

Abdul Latif Jameel Group recommended more clients to Qurat after the successful deal. "This has led to a significant increase in our business, with us becoming busier in selling properties in Emirates Hills, The Lakes, and Meadows. Our relocation from our initial 400-sqft office in Karama to Business Bay opened new doors of success for us. Last year, we achieved a remarkable milestone, selling over Dh5 billion worth of properties."

Challenges of female entrepreneurs

DRE is now among the top 10 agencies for most of the developers in Dubai.

“We believe in people and culture. We started with three people, and now the company employs around 150 people. Around ten property companies have been formed from DRE by its former employees. So I’m thrilled we taught them well, and they would be independent.”

The group also recently signed a contract where DRE will be the exclusive sales agent for Dh2.5 billion.

“Since it’s a male-dominated society, it is not an easy journey for female entrepreneurs. But thanks to the Dubai government, Dubai is extremely safe for women. There are definitely hurdles on the way, but you need to get up and get through them,” Qurat ul Ain said.


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