Interviews

Mufakkharul Islam Khasru, Managing Director Finlay Properties Ltd.

Mufakkharul Islam Khasru is the Managing Director of Finlay Properties Ltd, an affiliation of James Finlay (JF) Bangladesh Limited. Earlier worked as the Chief Executive Officer of SANMAR Properties Ltd, Khasru finished his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Dhaka during 1989-1993. Besides, he was also the secretary of REHAB Chittagong and the Director of Eastern Bank Limited. The notable personality is also the member of Chittagong Club, Bhatiary Golf & Country Club, and Chittagong Boat Club.

Demand for commercial real estate is directly correlated to investment in new ventures and expansion of existing business. Unfortunately, Chittagong is facing a challenge in renting or selling commercial (office) spaces as not enough investment has been made to develop it into a commercial capital of the country due to lack of govt. policies. 

What were the key components that contributed to the success of your business?
It was very challenging when we first decided to start the real estate business in Chittagong in 1999. Back then, people were not much accustomed to apartment living and preferred procuring a piece of land to build their own house. Hence, we had to put in a lot of effort to change their mindset and demonstrate the benefits of community living.
Our commitment has always been in the product quality, time frame, customer service, and aesthetics and we ensured our customer get value for money. Greater understanding of customers’ requirement, the timely handover of projects, dedicated customer service, and reliable financial strength have what led to the success of our business.

As Chittagong is a cosmopolitan and port city, how do you plan to develop real estate sector there?
Chittagong has a huge potential in the real estate market. But, wrong planning and policies, centralization of commercial activities towards Dhaka and lack of political feasibility have made the economy suffer. People do not buy apartments as an investment since the rental market is insufficient and not at all lucrative. It can’t be denied that generally, the port cities around the world are the most vibrant ones. However, this isn’t true in case of Chittagong. We are centralizing everything in Dhaka and making it uninhabitable. But, it’s high time that the government should now come up with final decentralization plans to ensure the holistic growth of the Port City as well. We must follow the Chinese model to develop various cities of the country and provide equitable growth by implementing infrastructural projects like physical connectivity, education, and medical facilities. This will, in turn, create employment and allow the real estate business to sustain.

What technological advancements concerning Real Estate, is your company looking forward to bring?
Bangladesh is far behind its regional partners in terms technological development in the construction industry. In fact, the size of the economy, purchasing power, investment, and demand for space determine the use of advanced technologies for faster delivery of space. Cost optimization can be done using advanced construction techniques such as modular construction; pre-fabricated steel structure, etc.

What possible challenges, is the industry facing in providing financially feasible properties in Bangladesh?
Some challenges exist while moving towards an investment feasible real estate market. The government must come forward with land bank to construct affordable housing for mass people and should act as a regulator rather than a developer. Moreover, the trust in developers is diminishing nowadays as some Sunday developers have entered into the market without any commitments and financial strength. They have misplaced the market by providing unrealistic ratios to landowners and offered low prices to collect cash that will eventually make both landowners and buyers bankrupt. Besides, customer invests less as the rental market is not that great considering the inflation that ultimately slows down the sale of real estate.

How does your firm plan to distinguish itself from other real estate companies in Bangladesh?
Finlay is committed to unparalleled quality and customer service in all aspects. We believe in a bunch of core values, which will help our people to distinguish us from other real estate companies:
Long-term customer relationship; Trained and knowledgeable human resources (HR); Integrity of Colleagues; Delegation of Authority; Transparent Transactions; Value-added services; Good Interpersonal skills; Sharing information and Self-Motivation.

How do you see the commercial real estate market evolving in the future?
Demand for commercial real estate is directly correlated to investment in new ventures and expansion of existing business. Unfortunately, Chittagong is facing a challenge in renting or selling commercial (office) spaces as not enough investment has been made to develop it into a commercial capital of the country due to lack of govt. policies. But the demand for retail space is still not met the saturation point.
With an average demand of about 50,000 apartments per year, the scarcity of sellable land in the country causes the land price to be high. Is there a chance for the price to drop in future?
Bangladesh has a scarcity of land. Unless the government comes up with land bank and ensures accommodation facility for the citizen, the land price will never go down, and affordable housing will only remain a myth.

What adversities are you facing while operating in this sector?
There are hundreds of obstacles you are facing in this sector amongst which plan approval, policy support, and high registration cost, high land price, etc. are a few.
Policy support is vital for the real estate industry where there are a lot of backward linkages.

What sort of policy support are you demanding in this scenario?
A more investment-friendly policy support is needed here which may include an arrangement of the land bank, low registration cost, support to invest undisclosed income, etc.

Do you plan to lay out any low-cost housing projects in the market anytime soon?
It’s a dream project for developers as of date. Unless the government comes up with a definite plan, affordable housing will never be possible in our part of the world.

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