This is a general summary of key participant points from the London launch of SMARTInvest Real Estate by The Grid Media Ltd in partnership with Bird & Bird LLP on July 19, 2018.


Michael Rudd, Co-Head, International Energy & Utilities Group and Marco Nicolai, UK Head of Construction, Bird & Bird LLP

May Khizam, Founder & Chief Strategist and Tasneem Mayet, Research Director, The Grid Media Ltd

The private round table was attended by market leading participants representing a broad cross-section of the built space value chain from the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. The discussion focused on front line thinking, with a focus on disruption, at the intersections of investment, real estate and technology. (more…)

“Believe me, there is nothing more demoralising for the finance professional who cannot get engagement from the audience after how hard they have worked”

The Grid: With data visualisation being a growing area of data analytics, there is a shift in focus towards creating visual stories around financials for corporate decision-making. Can you elaborate on that for us?

Danielle: There has definitely been a big focus shift onto visualisation of data for sure. Having said that, number crunching is still just as important as ever.

As analysts, we know that nothing is more important than the accuracy but ‘non-finance’ management professionals increasingly want to see visuals. It’s all about how the numbers are communicated.



The Address Hotel Downtown was my Dubai muse, like the Battersea Power Station my London muse. Granted, the two are starkly different. Yet both chisel into the way communities interact with buildings. They have withstood weary times. They still resonate authenticity, whether dwarfed by a Burj Khalifa or a Shard. Nearly two years in, I for one can’t wait for The Address to reopen.


November 12, 2017

Why I will Scale Cheesecake

“Quality is not about how expensive a product is but how consistent it is”

The Grid: You have focused on a specific area with in the food service industry, why?

Rehan Samee: You mean deserts? There was such a glaring deficiency (in terms of quality) and still is. When you go to a Starbucks, for example, you have a variety of food items to choose from; lollipops and packaged nuts near the check out counter to croissants, muffins, cookies and cakes in their display chillers. These are supplied by different vendors. What we found – and what we still find – is that the quality of these products, particularly bakery and pastry items, is very average. There is sweetness but nothing else.

Now take a step back and just visualize what “food” is to us today … it’s not just a means of survival … it is an experience! Switch on any TV network in any language. There are channels just dedicated to food. Look at the trends reflected there and on social media. There is a growing consciousness of the quality of ingredients, flavor subtleties and texture combinations and clearly a demand for more.


November 12, 2017

A Sweet Spot in Outsourcing

“We wanted something more scalable than [a restaurant] at a small incremental cost”

The Grid: From banker to B2B desert maker. What was that moment of change?

Rehan Samee: I always had the entrepreneurial curiosity. Since I first came to Dubai twenty years ago I have been itching with ideas. Whether it was to create nutritious preservative free TV dinners, inspired by the most amazing Thai red curry cooked by my ex-wife; or looking to establish different types of entertainment centers when all my boys would have to play with in malls when they were growing up were ball pits! Why not carting, archery or even miniature golf… with some kind of F&B? So I have been down a lot of paths that never materialized.

The Grid: Why do you think that was?

Rehan Samee: In hindsight, it was not as much about the feasibility of the product as it was the type of co-operation – particularly with the TV dinner idea. The person you think of as the co owner of the company interprets roles differently to what you do sometimes. Pieces therefore don’t fall into place.


“There is nobody that cares more for a building than the people living in it”

The Grid: You presented on technology and property management at SMARTInvest Real Estate last month. What would you like to see happen in the industry most?

Fadi Nwilati: The RE industry and PM industry are far behind on technology platforms. We still do the same things we did ten years ago including processes. Yes we as an industry are using new platforms and software but they are related to document management (e.g. financial management like invoices, receipts, budgets).

This helps back office but there has been very little or virtually nothing done to improve tenant/landlord, resident property manager and resident security communication in a building. (more…)

October 16, 2017

Keeping Tenants Safe

“This is the difference between a well-managed building and one that is not”

The Grid: Tenant management is increasingly important as it can have an impact on real estate yields for investors. What are best practices today?

Fadi Nwilati: Although that is the common term used in the industry, we like to separate it into:

  1. Lease Management (managing documentation, administration, legal and commercial activities)
  2. Resident Management

Lease management is purely administrational and relatively straightforward. We follow ISO 9001:2015 practices for quality management and administration and use technology to automate those processes as much as possible, reducing human error and improving customer satisfaction. It is a documentation-heavy process so tenants typically complain about signing so many papers even after a lease is signed.


“The introduction of VAT regime is not merely a change in taxation. It’s a change in how we do business”

Grid: With implementation of VAT around the corner in UAE, what more can you tell us about the proposed VAT legislation, with an emphasis on financial services?

Jigar Doshi: UAE VAT law has been designed in such a way that, at a macro level, it will cover almost all the supplies of goods and services including import of goods / services, real estate, energy and even water supplies.

There are certain relaxations offered in the manner of zero rating and exemptions in the UAE VAT law. For instance, exports, international transport, certain education services are to be zero rated, whereas certain financial services, supply of empty land, local passenger transportation are to be exempt from the VAT levy. All other supplies will attract the standard rate of 5%.


October 13, 2017

The Art of Opportunity

“New growth opportunities come from non-customers: those who do not buy your product or services”

The Grid: Marc, in your workshops across the globe, you introduce a new approach to strategy based on your own methodology and framework carefully set out in your book “The Art of Opportunity”. Why do you think we need a new approach?

Dr. Marc Sniukas: Every business is interested in growing its revenues and finding new sources of growth. Many, however, find it increasingly difficult to do so by applying traditional approaches to growth which follow that you just try to sell more to your existing customers, increase profits, or maybe buy new growth through mergers and acquisitions.

The Grid: What do you suggest for businesses that may be stuck between traditional attitudes towards growth and a desire to disrupt the existing mindset that holds them back?

Dr. Marc Sniukas: The framework that we outline offers a new approach to finding and seizing opportunities for growth by answering the classic questions of strategy: “How” and “where” to play and win in a new way? (more…)

“F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning” and allows us to view failure in a new way”

The Grid: Tell us about your successes so far with the Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN)?

WAIN: Let’s go through some of our statistics. We have invested almost $500K since we formed 3 years ago. We have invested in 6 companies and with one firm, Little Thinking Minds, we invested a second round. We have 30 investors currently and will grow our investor base by another 20 by year end. Our members make an average number of 3 investments. A little over 7% of our current members are a Board Member and/or an Advisory Member with our investee firms.