The Chairman of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz has come a long way. From starting a small construction firm to managing and owning one of the leading Real Estates of Pakistan. He is an inspirational personality and a man of noble deeds. In an exclusive interview to IBEX , he gives his insight on Real Estate in Pakistan and Bahria Town.
Can you tell us about your personal and educational background? How did your interest in Real Estate develop?
I was born a 3rd child to a middle class family of eight. I graduated from a local school in Rawalpindi. Currently, I reside in Islamabad. Real Estate and the Construction industry have always interested me. Despite my family’s protest, I left my family business to start a small construction company. With little capital, I started with small projects. These small projects helped me understand the insights of this industry. I struggled immensely during my early years and it took me time to become financially stable.
These experiences now help me to identify the problems of the common man. These are the people for whom I am trying to improve the quality of life. I am proud to be the only property developer in Pakistan who serves as an eclectic client base.
Why is Real Estate such a large industry in Pakistan?
Real Estate is the largest asset class industry. It can boost economic activities in approximately 55 allied industries. The multiple effects can create maximum employment opportunities in addition to generating industrial, commerce and trade activities.
This industry, however still has a lot more potential. I strongly believe that if the government plays its role in helping the banks decrease their high interest rates then the housing industry is set for a real boom. The interest based monthly payment should be equivalent to the on-going rental value. I have always requested the government to put in a proper framework to formulate policies for this sector.
Have external economic factors caused the inflated Real-Estate prices?
There has been too much attention on external economic factors. Clearly, they have helped the housing industry but it is more than that. There is more demand than supply.
The provision of houses has not kept pace with the rapid urbanization and high population growth. The housing backlog has been currently projected at 6.19 million. It is estimated that overall housing production will have to be increased to 500,000 housing units annually to meet the backlog and the housing shortfall in the next 20 years. Under an estimate 50 percent of the urban population now lives in slumps and squatter settlements. This huge gap between demand and supply has helped the growth of this sector.
As far as the prices are concerned, with this wide bridge between demand and supply, it was natural for the prices to go up. However the prices in Pakistan are still of the lowest in the region.
Some property conglomerates have inflated the prices temporarily to exploit this situation. I always urge the general public to be careful in selecting an investment option. There are very few sincere and committed developers in the real estate market.
How did you come up with the idea for Bahria Town? Were you inspired by any similar projects in other countries?
Well, it was more circumstantial than pre-planned. I had already been involved with the construction industry, while working on different projects I had realized the non existence of real estate projects which could provide its residents with a complete living experience. There was no integrated property development. All developers were carving out plots from land and selling them off. There was no urban planning involved and no provision of leisure, recreational and commercial opportunities. No attention was paid to details and quality, let alone introducing any innovation.
Most importantly there was no property developer which catered to the diverse requirements of the different socio- economic classes in Pakistan, especially the lower income bracket segment. All real estate projects targeted the wealthy and the affluent only catering to their living needs.
I traveled extensively to Europe, Middle East,Australia and South East Asia and studied the best and latest practices in urban development. They were highly impressive and helped me in identifying a clear vision. With my research and visualization, the project of “Bahria Town” seemed to be the next logical step.
My main Inspiration for these real estate projects comes from Dubai. The way the construction industry has transformed Dubai‘s landscape is one of the most successful stories of the Middle East. Thanks to the real estate sector the region has seen tremendous growth in business and tourism. I wish to follow the same model here in Pakistan and to fuel the economic growth of this country.
In the current global recession, what is the present situation of Bahria Town?
In the present situation, when the whole world especially the western countries are facing recession, Pakistan is not much effected by it as compared to the other countries.
There is a large population of Pakistanis living abroad who are facing job problems and business losses. Many people are moving back to Pakistan and most of them are buying their own houses from their savings. The real estate prices in Islamabad and Lahor eare so high that it has become almost impossible for a common man to construct or purchase a house. As compared to these cities, property in Bahria Town is still at a low price.
A large number of people are shifting to Bahria Town and even in this time of recession the construction and house buying activities in Bahria town is increasing and the demand is further escalating.
Where do you see Bahria Town in the next five years?
I am very excited about the future opportunities that lay ahead of us. What we have achieved in last ten years has revolutionized the real estate industry in Pakistan. For me this is only the beginning of the realization of my dreams.
During the next five years many more of my projects will see fruition. The developments that we have embarked on during the last two years will be completed. New projects which include three master planned golf communities will be unveiled. A signature 18 hole PGA golf course by Mr. Gene Bates, the Golf course architect of the year 2004 will be ready for golf enthusiasts.
Many more lifestyle communities for all income groups are in the pipeline. Their developments have already started. With these ongoing projects the Bahria Town development value will exceed over 4 billion dollars!
Could you elaborate on your charitable work? What causes are most important to you and why?
I feel honored to be in a place where I can touch the lives of so many. With my position, huge responsibilities come – to my members, to my employees and above all the society. I have established a separate department which is solely responsible for charitable projects and company personal are directly involved in these initiatives.
I believe that the short-term community interventions must give way to lasting transformation if a cycle of self-sufficiency is truly to take hold. For this I have established an education trust fund. We are setting up a university block in Bahawalpur University(work under process), where print media lab will also be built. This is aimed at providing a unique opportunity to less fortunate from all over Pakistan, especially from less privileged areas to pursue their education with financial aid.
Other establishments include Dr. A. Q. Khan College in Safari Villas Rawalpindi in 1997 and Bahria Town Lahore School. Another school providing free education is being run in the Ghurki area .
Another project which is very important to me is the Begum Akhter Rukhsana Medical Trust, which provides medical care and support to the community especially the deserving patients. Two hospitals under this trust are fully functional in Bahria Town Lahore and Rawalpindi. Many facilities including dialysis, renal transport, bone marrow transplant, open heart surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are being provided to the deserving patients free of cost. It also has an emergency care unit working 24 hours a day. A mobile medical team is also there to provide free medical services to the patients of poor localities and villages of Rawalpindi and Islamabad since 1996. We have till date served more than 343668 patients (through out door, indoor and mobile teams initiatives). I provide the entire donation for the hospital.
We are also coordinating with a number of organizations and institutes nationwide and supporting them in providing health and educational facilities to the remote areas of the country. My donations for different welfare organizations will exceed Rs. 400 million in the near future.
What are the reasons behind your success?
I would attribute my success to my ambitions and to my courage to dare and attempt to achieve them. Apart from this, I have always made an effort to understand my customers. Their evolving needs has made me what I am today. I have always set new benchmarks for myself, for which I strive to raise the bar with every new project. This is what keeps me going and excited about work.