Muslim, Arab And Billionaire: Hussain Ali Sajwani

Hussain Ali Sajwani is the UAE executive chairman, CEO and founder of the DAMAC Group. Here’s the backstory to his success…

Born in 1954, Hussain Ali Habib Sajwani grew up in Dubai. His father owned a watch shop and also controlled small real estate projects in Dubai. From a tender age, Sajwani knew he did not want to follow his father’s footsteps and join the family business. He already knew he wanted to become a white-collar professional with a degree and job with standard working hours.

After high school, Sajwani got a government scholarship and joined a medical college in Baghdad but he dropped out a while later. He told his father he wanted to study in the US and his father rejected the idea. After much insistence, his father gave in and asked him how he intended to finance his education in the US. He responded that he would work in bars and his father, being a pious man, gave him the financial assistance he needed for his education, dreading that his son might really do so.

After he got to America, he enrolled in the University of Washington where he studied industrial engineering and economics. He finally got his degree in 1981 and proceeded to work for Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Limited (Gasco) with an agreement that after two years of work, they would fund his MBA. But, of course, he didn’t stay long enough to see that through. He became determined to become his own boss rather than be ‘tied down’ to one company.

His official biography reports that he established his own food catering business in 1982 and called it Dariah Management Services Co (DAMAC) LLC which ultimately developed to DAMAC Group.

Alternative reports, however, say that the company Sajwani launched in 1982 was not actually Damac but a whole different business. Rumors say his first business was ‘a disaster’, that he had tough competition and ended up losing about Dh20m. So instead, he invested in a company in Oman which also nosedived. He recovered in 1997 when he began investing in the stock market.

Five years later, Dubai’s real estate industry was booming and Sajwani saw this as his golden opportunity. He started buying and re-selling properties from Emaar, a mega-developer and now Damac Properties is the largest private developer in the region with 670 million square feet of properties worth over $45bn. Talk about success.

Aside from being the chairman of the Dubai- based DAMAC Group which is now operating in over 20 countries in Europe, Far East, the Subcontinent, North Africa and The Middle East, Sajwani heads Al Anwar Ceramic Tiles, Al jazeira Services, Al Ahlia Insurance in Bahrain and Almana Building Material in Muscat.

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