Today, Dubai’s Jumeirah Golf Estates is the picture of luxury: verdant greens, a quartet of Greg Norman-designed courses, and elegantly designed villas. Yet, when CEO Yousuf Kazim arrived in 2013, the ambitious development was well and truly in deep rough. “When I came to this place, there was no staff, literally no-one,” he recalls. “It was like a nuclear bomb had been dropped.”
Yousuf Kazim seizes a rare opportunity
Established in 2009, the estate was initially caught up in the flow-on effects of Dubai’s economic crisis that same year. “Contractors had left the site due to non-payments or because there wasn’t appropriate supervision or attention,” Yousuf recalls.
The first obstacle to overcome was the dramatic understaffing. “It was important to get the right team in place, one that could assist me in moving forward and establishing the key departments.”
Once these departments were set to go, the new team made it through the ‘firefighting’ stage. “We had to regain the trust of the market and rebuild the brand,” Yousuf explains. “When we started to establish all the departments, we brought the whole company back to normal.”
It was a rare opportunity to be engaged in developing a giant project.
Drawing on the experience he’d developed as senior general manager at Nakheel, where he worked on large-scale projects, he was able to remain focused on the upside of the situation.
“I saw that it would be challenging, but also that it was an exciting opportunity to present Jumeirah back to the market. Only a third of the 1,100 hectares had been developed, so for me it was a rare opportunity to be engaged in developing a giant project.”
A lofty vision for Jumeirah Golf Estates
There were, however, serious issues with essential infrastructure, so Yousuf’s first couple of years in the role were largely dominated by his efforts to coordinate with government entities to get the power, water and roads set up. By 2015, these logistical issues had been brought under control and Yousuf and his team could move towards fulfilling the lofty vision for the estate.
The centrepiece of the estate is the golfing facilities; the courses play host to the lucrative DP World Tour Championship, which is broadcast to 850 million homes. The estate incorporates a cutting-edge golf teaching facility as well. Yet Yousuf points out that only 40% of the estate residents play the game. Many are simply motivated to live there for the lush feel of the area and the high-level amenities.
The multifaceted nature of the estate means Yousuf and his team have to balance the logistical requirements of hosting an elite international sporting event, maintaining training facilities and residential suites, as well as attracting five-star accommodation, high-end retail and residential clients as tenants. All of this makes for a complex and potentially overlapping set of objectives.
Meeting the vision of Dubai 2021
Forging strong relationships with high quality suppliers has been vital in ensuring operational excellence in this demanding role, Yousuf says. “When we have long-term relationships, we see added value being brought in. The customers are discerning and appreciate quality suppliers, so those relationships have a major impact on our success.
“Often people say, ‘How have you been able to establish these relationships?’ Well, we identify parties who are a good match with us in terms of quality and because they are also continuously growing. They have that ability to maintain continuous supply and can provide us with the best rate at the highest quality. That’s something you don’t get in a one-off deal.”
In addition to quality suppliers, sustainability is key: The development has been designed to maintain a low-carbon footprint, using recycled water, solar lighting and energy-efficient design. Even the golf buggies run on electricity. “We take all aspects of sustainability seriously,” Yousuf notes. “This is a new concept in Dubai, but it is something we are proud of.”
These values will remain front of mind as the after-effects of Dubai’s economic crisis recede into the background. Yousuf is now totally refocused on growth. “Something that is key for us is trying to meet the vision of Dubai 2021. There will be an exciting announcement this year that will set the tone for the future development of Jumeirah Golf Estates.”