Former Apprentice Turned CEO of One Investments Shares his Property Journey
Zeeshaan Shah has had a truly globetrotting career as a property expert, from London to the sunny climates of Dubai Mr. Shah has climbed through the property market and to emerge as the CEO of property firm One Investments. Struggling through the financial crisis of 2008 and even making it onto national television on 2013’s series of The Apprentice, Mr. Shah now banks a wealth of property know how and an impressive investment portfolio. The businessman speaks to The Asian Today about his career, his experience on a reality show and key tips for anyone entering the property field.
Can you tell me about your background such as where you were born and your education?
I was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire however when I was 8 years old my family migrated back to Pakistan. Our ancestral home is in Punjab but we moved to Karachi, the economic and industrial hub of Pakistan. I lived in Pakistan for 11 years, completed my secondary education there and then came to the UK for my higher education.
What made you choose a career in property?
When I left University in 2006 the Dubai property market was booming. I had a lot of friends who were making good money for themselves and their investors were buying and selling properties, so I quickly got involved.
You entered the property market in Dubai in 2007, what was your experience like there; do you feel Dubai had an impact on your career today?
The Dubai market was my foundation in the property industry and I don’t believe there could have been a better learning ground. Between 2006-2008 Dubai’s property market did what most markets do in a decade, the market moved on a daily basis and the development and boom took place in just a few years. The subsequent bust taught me in a few years what I would have learned in a decade elsewhere. Dubai was almost a crash course for me on the property market and it was an invaluable experience working at the heart of what is now regarded as the biggest property boom of this millennium.
You continued to work through the financial crisis in 2008, do you feel you learnt anything from that experience?
Initially when the market crashed I started to promote international property in the UAE however the market and investors just weren’t ready, they were still hurting from the Dubai property crash and investor sentiment was low. I then dabbled into the sports promotion business where I was working with a boxer I got acquainted with during my time in Dubai, Floyd Mayweather. He was interested in fighting in Dubai, so using my links with certain members of the royal family in Abu Dhabi I secured significant funding for the first major boxing event in the UAE. Unfortunately this never came to fruition due to reasons outside of my control however it was a great learning experience. To this day due to my effort there are constantly talks of major boxing coming to the UAE.
Circa 2010 I came back to the UK and set up One Investments my property investment sales company focussing on UK investment property within the hotel, student and residential buy to let sectors. In 2014 we sold over £25 Million worth of property in the UK, a large proportion of which was off-plan apartments in Birmingham City Centre – a market we are actually very keen on and actively looking for new projects in. We also launched our first development the £8 Million ibis Styles Hotel in London under the One Capital banner. The hotel is in a prime location on the Greenwich Peninsula with walking distance to the O2 Arena and minutes away from Canary Wharf. Surprisingly there is only one hotel currently serving the O2 Arena which operates at 95%+ with astronomical rates, so it was a fantastic opportunity and one which I was very lucky to come across. We are currently selling rooms in the hotel to investors with a guaranteed yield of 8% and with prices from £139,995, it allows retail investors an opportunity to invest in pound for pound the most lucrative sector of the property market.
You appeared in series 9 of The Apprentice, what made you want to apply?
It was a decision influenced by family and close friends who thought it was the perfect fit for me. I personally never really had any interest in the show and I actually don’t even watch TV, even this series that just passed I managed to catch a couple of episodes on BBC iPlayer however didn’t actively follow it.
Overall it was a fantastic experience though and gave me massive exposure on an international level which has proven to be invaluable. As a businessman I don’t think I did myself justice but I have come to accept that it is a television show made for entertainment and that is just what it should be taken as.
What makes One Investments unique?
One Investments are a hands on company, we go out of our way to make sure we promote the best and importantly the most secure property investment opportunities on the market. It can be tough at times as our competitors will be promoting what I would say is questionable product with rental guarantees for 10 years at 10%, which is just unrealistic and we have to compete with that but no matter what we don’t compromise on our principles. The motto of my company is Growth with Security and if delivering quality products to our clients means losing out slightly in the short term we are happy to do that because in the long term both One Investments and our clients will be the winners and we are in this business for the long haul. I am 30 years old this year and in due course I want my children to join this business, I want to develop a global brand and to create such a business where you cannot afford to be even slightly short sighted.
What is your business mantra?
I’m a lifetime learner and I feel I am constantly evolving so I would really be limiting myself if I was to stick with just one mantra, however there are quite a few that resonate with me deeply. Fundamentally if you ask me my understanding of business I would say ultimate success is achieved when your passion is backed up by your capabilities and aligned with market demand. In broader terms what that means is that for success on a major level (Bill Gates or Steve Jobs) your business needs to be your passion, the purpose of your business shouldn’t be to make money but to bring to life something that appeals to you on a personal level outside the sphere of commercialism. The next stage is that your personal capabilities should support this passion and finally there must be demand in the market place for the product or service that you are so passionately delivering.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to anyone purchasing a property what would it be?
Fundamentally focus on yield and don’t bank on capital growth, look at what the property will give you immediately and in the near future as a residual income. Capital growth is a bonus but it is not certain and your property investment strategy certainly should not be based around capital growth. There are opportunities across the UK now where you can realistically make 7%+ on property investments and these are the opportunities you should be looking at. Primarily focus on city centre properties and those properties located close to centres of transportation and education or major regeneration zones, but again the bottom line should be your yield.
Visit www.oneinvestments.co.uk for more on Mr. Shah’s work
Follow him on Twitter @OfficialZeeShah and @One_Investments
Find him on Facebook at ‘Zeeshaan Shah’