Milken Abu Dhabi forum hears why big data is a big deal

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Hussain Sajwani
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Jonathan Goldstein, CEO of Cain International said: “What we are finding across our business is that by using data sensibly, we are able to understand want our customers want, what they look for.”
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Updated 13 February 2020

Milken Abu Dhabi forum hears why big data is a big deal

  • Damac’s founder says new technologies being used by firm for customer relations and sales
  • CEO of Cain International says firms must reflect mindset of millennial customer base

ABU DHABI: Property companies should use technology to stay in touch with a fast-changing market or risk being left behind, an Abu Dhabi forum heard.
“The ability to access data is essential,” Jonathan Goldstein, CEO of Cain International, a private real-estate investment firm, told the first day of the Milken Institute’s 2020 Middle East and Africa summit.
Speaking in a session titled “Being the disruptor, not the disrupted: Innovators shaping real estate,” Goldstein said: “What we are finding across our business is that by using data sensibly, we are able to understand what our customers want, what they look for.”
He said that millennials, who make up a quarter of the global population, “look at the world differently.”
“We need to reflect that mindset,” he said.
Referring to the role of data and modern technologies in the real-estate industry, Goldstein said the more a company knows its customers, the better its chances of success. 
Hussain Sajwani, founder and chairman of Dubai-listed Damac Properties, told the forum that the company has been aggressive in incorporating technology in its operations.




Khaldoon Khalifa Al-Mubarak, group CEO and managing director of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company. (Milken Institute)


“We have been going digital. We are moving very fast in adopting new technologies for customer relations and for sales,” he said.
Sajwani said that technology has given Damac a greater understanding of its clients, allowing it to focus its spending strategy on customer acquisition and retention.
Only 1 percent of spending last year went on TV ads, while 90 percent went toward digital expenses, he said.
“A lot of companies are going through disruptions. The risk is very high,” Sajwani said, adding that some retailers have gone bankrupt because of their inability to compete with the technology-driven rise of e-commerce.
While physical assets are still important, their value can be enhanced through the application of technology for sales and customer relations, Sajwani said.
“It is amazing how big Damac’s data is for us to be able to monetize it in the interest of the company and customers ... but not to sell to third parties,” he said.
Sajwani’s comments came as Damac reported its first full-year loss in almost a decade and a 28 percent drop in revenue.
Full-year revenue fell to $1.2 billion, Damac said, as it “selectively launched fewer projects in softer market conditions to avoid adding new commitments and focus on selling complete and near completion inventory.”
Banks in the UAE are bracing for more write-downs from the real-estate sector amid a downturn, especially in the Dubai property market.
Fitch Ratings recently said that a weakening property market is likely to put more pressure on the asset quality of the UAE banking sector.
 


Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.