Personality of the Month: Passion, dedication, commitment and versatility has been a way of life for Ajay Bhatia, CEO, SOL Properties. Over the years, he has worked in the construction industry before diversifying to real estate and now is into hospitality. Bhatia has been steadily creating businesses that enable Dubai to prosper as a regional hub for business. He shares his story with TRAVTALK.
Q Do share with us a brief about the company.
SOL Properties is a homegrown, mixed-use real estate developer with a legacy spanning 40 years. SOL Properties’ success and resilience is mirrored in Dubai’s meteoric rise as a commercial, business, and residential hub. Fuelled by a passion for Dubai and a dedication to delivering residential, commercial, and hospitality real estate of the highest caliber, SOL Properties is committed to supporting Dubai’s leading position as a regional hub.
With a hands-on approach, and appreciation for the finer details, SOL Properties delivers properties and experiences that reshape residential and hospitality expectations in Dubai. Leading with quality design and meticulous execution, SOL Properties continues to develop Dubai real estate of the highest quality in coveted locations without compromise.
Q What was the reason to dive into the property business?
Property business has been an organic diversification from our main business, that is, construction. Once the freehold properties started in Dubai, we purchased land parcels and started development of townhouses in JVC. During the 2008 crisis, SOL developed the entire project irrespective of payment being received from our customers and successfully delivered all the projects to the satisfaction of our buyers.
Q Could you share how it was like when you first established the business?
The main business that the group has been engaged in is general construction under the flagship company Bhatia General Contracting Company (BGCC). Over the years, BGCC has worked with government authorities, leading developers, and well-known architects. With all this successful construction of projects being delivered by BGCC, SOL was established as the real estate arm of the group to develop properties under the banner of SOL Properties Development LLC. Moving forward, SOL Properties have ventured into hospitality development. This year is a milestone as the real estate developer has come up with a 5-star 275-key Dubai EDITION in Burj Khalifa, scheduled to open in 2021.
Q Which is your most cherished achievement?
Moving from general contracting to residential development, and then from residential development to venturing into hospitality, our challenge has been to transition and to adapt to the different norms of various industries. Lately, apart from having successfully built luxury residential projects such as SOL Bay and SOL Avenue, I can confidently say that we have developed a jewel in the heart of Downtown Dubai, The Dubai EDITION, which I can’t wait to unveil to the city in October 2021.
Q In your opinion, how has the landscape of your business changed?
There is a shift for our business due to a big diversification into the hospitality sector. From being general contractors to being residential developers, we’re boldly venturing into the hotel industry with the upcoming opening of The Dubai EDITION, a luxury lifestyle hotel, located in the heart of Downtown Dubai. We’re also developing a new 4-star beachfront property in the Palm Jumeirah which is set to open in Q1 2022. We have entered into the short-term vacation rental sphere under the SOL LIVING brand giving travellers more flexible accommodation options that offer the privacy of a home with hotel-like services and facilities and 24-hour concierge services which is not available with any of our competitors or short-term rental operators. We are also embarking on a new venture under the SOL Kitchens brand. The brand will be a Cloud kitchen facility hosting 30 kitchens and is expected to open by October 2021. Moving forward, providing unparalleled services both in our existing and diversified business ventures is going to be the key for SOL.
Q Markets undergo ups and downs and the past year had been challenging in many ways; how did you manage the situation?
We did what we do best – adapt! We followed the leadership of the UAE government and remained positive and addressed the challenges of these uncertain times on a case to case, day-to-day, week-to-week basis by being innovative and thinking outside the box in order to find solutions for our team and our customers during these unprecedented times. We continued with our developments without any halt to any of our projects. We also adapted flexible policies which have kept us afloat. For example, we have provided rent-free periods to our tenants due to the partial lockdown and also waived off or deferred receivables to the maximum possible time. This has reinforced strong relationships with our tenants and customers.