A passionate motor-sport enthusiast, Khalid Al Malek uses lessons learnt from the race track in his corporate life.
Khalid Al Malik, Group CEO of Dubai Properties Group (DPG) and former General Manager of the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF), has none of the flamboyance of a race-circuit regular. In a natural response to the thought progression, he says, "A lot of the strengths that I acquired on the track have helped me cope with the magnitude of responsibilities I drive at DPG."
It was in July 2009 that Khalid Al Malik was invited to lead Dubai Properties Group with a mandate to oversee the entities of Sama Dubai, Tatweer and Dubai Properties. When informed of his selection as CEO of DPG, the first thing he did was to return to his office and surround himself in silence. Even if he had been well primed for the role through his earlier capacities as Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Industrial City, and later Senior Vice-President of Tatweer and eventually as its CEO, the enormity of leading three companies under one umbrella seemed an overwhelming challenge.
"I deliberated on whether I should accept the offer because I knew the going would be tough and require a sacrifice of my personal choices, primarily because the real estate landscape was passing through one of its most critical phases. Clarity of thought soon took over and I decided that I owed it to my city and my Ruler to rise to the occasion."
Despite bracing himself for what lay ahead, Khalid was least prepared for the barrage of calls that he would receive, soon after his appointment made national and regional headlines. "It was like going to war," he confesses, "where you had to deal with thousands of projects, clients, consultants, contractors - all of whom were impacted in one way or the other by the crisis. I had no choice but to stay focused. And, one of the first and toughest decisions I took was to give up my first love - motor sport."
The initial year in office was particularly testing. I decided to move ahead with projects that would increase the revenues. I told our vendors and contractors that we needed to agree on a plan to deliver the projects and would have to put some hard work together. Our sustained activity contributed to creating a solid reputation for DPG and we successfully built a strong commercial positioning, which allowed us to move ahead with our objectives.
Soon enough, we emerged as one of the few leading developers that continued to bring projects on stream despite the odds. We are indeed proud that through the last three years, DPG has successfully shaped communities such as the Al Waha, The Villa, Layan, Shorooq and Ghoroob. In addition, we have developed the Executive Towers and Vision Tower. Remraam is our most recent offering to the market.
The Business Bay is also taking shape with its distinctively designed buildings. Dubailand is another major project in the DPG portfolio. We already have the Global Village, Dubai Sports City, Al Barari, and Dubai Autodrome currently operational at Dubailand. We are also negotiating with other developers and hoping to finalise fresh projects by mid-2012. Regardless of all the talk, I would like to assure everyone that Dubailand is an ongoing project and an integral part of Dubai.
With the consolidation phase behind us, we are looking towards expansion as our next goalpost. To me, expansion is also about generating opportunities in the form of jobs, wealth, or the promotion of responsible living.
If I were to list key management lessons that I have learned recently, listening and transparency would take the top spot. Second, confidence in your ability and an awareness of your limitations is essential. The third takeaway has to do with delivery. Without an objective, you can rarely be result-oriented.
I entered competitive motor sport as a 15-year old and became one of the youngest participants in the UAE rally landscape.
It happened by chance - a friend had signed up for a local 4x4 rally in preparation for the highly anticipated Masafi championship that was to follow in a few months. His co-driver had opted out for personal reasons and as the next available choice I volunteered to step into the navigator's seat. This was my first rally in the UAE.
My second opportunity came during the Masafi rally itself. I was nearing 16 when I entered this championship in 1984. As luck would have it, we won the Masafi Rally that year. The media frenzy that followed was unbelievable. Our names and photos were splashed all over the press the next day. The manufacturer of our car placed a full page congratulatory message in one of the dailies.
Predictably, my parents were shocked and insisted I back-off from driving or motor rallying. After hours of arguments, they realised my passion for the sport and extracted a promise that I would be careful. Thereafter, I went on to collect a whole ensemble of titles including the UAE championship in 1984 and 1995 and the Middle East championship in 1995.
I was named director-general of the Emirates Motor Sports Federation in 1995. During my tenure that lasted until 2008, we organised autocross, rally, and kart championships, classic car parades, motorbike parades, and community outreach activities that positioned the federation as a strong body for motor sports in the UAE.
It is probably my love for the open that I find solace in the desert. For years, I have been driving to the dunes at least once a week. During the months of October-November, I accompany my friends to watch them practice falconry. In the winters, we follow the rainy season and experience the beauty of the valleys and wadis, which have a form that is very unique to this region. I also enjoy my solo trips in the desert. Its solitude and beauty convey a sense of peace and space that help me disconnect.
As for my other interests, I prefer the radio to television. And I enjoy classical music. I also like reading business books and novels and take an average of two to three weeks to finish a book. As we speak, I am on the last few pages of In the Country of Men by Libyan-British author Hisham Matar.
It is my hope that DPG emerges as one of the most reliable developers in the region. This is a very challenging vision as the word вАШreliability' is easy to articulate but daunting to achieve.
Personally, I would like to focus on writing my book and working on my website. I am looking to complete this work within three years. Undoubtedly, my favourite chapters would have to do with my days of rallying when we alternated between the joy of winning and the remorse of losing, sometimes by mere seconds.
If there is one dream that I have nurtured for a while now, it is to travel by road to different countries across the continents of the world. I would love to visit India and travel through Pakistan, China, and onward. I plan to start with Europe next year for a three-week cross country expedition. Thereafter, I aim to take this mission forward, one region at a time. If you were to ask about my dream car, I hope to own a Ferrari someday although my dearest possession is a 1956 Land Rover.
Education is an area that I have a high regard for, and one of the reasons I chose to do a Master's in e-commerce from the Zayed University right in the middle of my career in 2001. I was also fortunate to be selected by Dubai Holding for the two-year Dubai Government Excellence Programme that seeks to build the capacity of high-calibre executives.
My faith in continued education is what prompted me to conceptualise the Corporate Academy at DPG. To be rolled out next year, the academy will offer bachelor's or postgraduate degrees from world-class institutions.
I have four boys and two girls between the ages of five and 14 years. I am a hands-on parent and consciously set aside time to help them with their lessons. To me, education is also about teaching them life lessons. I like to take them to places where I think there is a learning opportunity, whether it is the desert, museum, fish market or heritage sites such as the Shindaga. It is my dream that they complete their education up to the master's level, after which it will be their turn to pursue their own dreams.