Cityscape Talks was a centerpiece of Cityscape Qatar, with three days of discussion and presentations at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center last week. Some of the top minds in Middle East real estate came to focus on Qatar, today and future, with 30-plus speakers and more than 200 in the auduence.
As a special feature, CityscapeWIRE (Women in Real Estate) was launched in Qatar, with a panel discussion and networking featuring women leaders.
Their wide ranging one-hour discussion, closing out Day 2 of the conference, came under the broad title, ‘Industry Intersection - what lies ahead for the real estate industry in Qatar.’
Billie Teshich, Managing Director, Omnivision Qatar and President, National Association for Women in Construction in Qatar, was moderator.
Dr. Athba Thamer Al-Thani, who is Chief Business Development Officer at QDVC, a leading construction company in Qatar, brought insight from years of experience in the construction sector.
Maria Maximova, Head of Business Strategy, Qetaifan Projects, Qatar, offered her perspective from a leading development company in Qatar.
Meanwhile, proptech insights came from Sevgi Gur, Chief Marketing Officer, Property Finder, and from Haajerah Khan, Chief Operating Officer of the start-up hapondo in Qatar.
CAPITAL COMING IN AND ALREADY HERE
Sheikha Athba Althani began by talking about the important legacy of Qatar’s World Cup-related infrastructure investment, which will continue to attract investment in the country.
Haajerah Khan emphasized the point, saying, “We always knew it was for post-World Cup, it was not for just one mega-event.”
“We see at the macro-level, the strategy level, with Qatar National Vision and now the upcoming NDS3 – National Development Strategy 3 – we know there’s going to be a huge push to bring foreign investment in.
“Also, we know that we sit on a lot of untapped private capital here in Qatar…it’s something exciting to look forward to in coming years.”
She also said that the publishing of real estate data by the country’s real estate authority will provide important transparency, which is key for a company such as hapondo, helping buyers to make informed decisions.
Maria Maximova spoke of the ongoing work at Lusail City, including her company’s development of artificial islands there, as a ‘blank slate’ kind of development that will continue to be important throughout the Middle East.
Sevgi Gur elaborated on the importance of the Lusail projects as ‘signature projects’.
“They create first, a brand for the country. And they attract investors,” she said.
“They set the standard in terms of lifestyle, which is extremely important for international investors.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Ms. Gur also discussed the long-term impact of the World Cup, which brought people to the country and showed its potential for investors.
“We can see how Qatar is becoming a kind of hot spot for international investors, with payback in the long term,” she said.
For this, she also emphasized the importance of transparency and data availability.
Sheikha Athba Althani referred back to her work as Sustainable Development Manager at QVDC, going back to 2010 and seeing changes up to today, in order to look ahead.
“We see that people more and more know how to react to the importance of sustainable development, in all sectors including construction,” she said.
“What’s amazing about Qatar is that it has published a transition strategy, so we know dependence on natural (carbon energy) resources is not going to be forever,” said Haajerah Khan.
“We see real estate as being a key big industry.
“There is a saying, ‘real estate can never die’, so it is key to investment and stability,” she said, elaborating further on how the residential and commercial sectors are closely linked and thrive on incoming investment.
Ms. Khan also looked at Qatar from her perspective at the leading edge of property technology, saying, “The ecosystem for start-ups in Qatar is quite strong.”
She emphasized, however, that new technology needs to connect to the existing industry, to brokers, developers, builders and others.
“We all want transparency, to make data available, but it can’t be a huge jump,” she said, emphasizing the importance of incremental change, even starting with the quality of images and descriptions of properties.
Sevgi Gur said that finding talent is among the biggest challenges for protech companies, including engineers and others. And again, transparency and access to market data is critical for ‘meaningful’ technology.
The two women also commented on the sort of data that can be leveraged by incoming AI and other tech, such as data on property availability, price trends, locations, and so forth.
WOMEN IN REAL ESTATE
Sheikha Athba spoke of the growing impact of women working in the sector, once dominated by men.
“It was not easy to start, but our contribution as women of different nationalities, we are motivating others as well.”
She sees an industry now benefitting from the contributions of both women and men.
“What’s happening today, we will see the impact tomorrow,” she said.
Maria Maximova spoke of her experience working in a development company, with many trends occuring at once, including ‘Qatarization’ and other factors.
“Internships have converted into job offers for local women,” she said. “And that extends to all women in general, as a good workplace for women.”