Fully interactive virtual real estate and communities designed in the metaverse are driving significant growth in DAMAC Properties’ ‘pure online sales’, according to Ali Sajwani, General Manager of Operations at DAMAC Properties and CEO of D-Labs.
Speaking alongside fellow Web3 experts at the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, Sajwani revealed that online-only transactions are accounting for an ever-increasing proportion of DAMAC Properties’ real estate activity – approximately $100 million per quarter, at present. The UAE-headquartered developer has now set an ambitious target to grow this figure to $150 million per month by mid-2023.
In addition to Sajwani, the Dubai Metaverse Assembly’s ‘Sector Deep-Dive: Opportunities in Virtual Real Estate’ panel featured Joe Abi Akl, Chief Corporate Development Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Group, Guy Parsonage, Partner and Leader at PwC Experience Center, and Sam Hamilton, Creative Director at Decentraland Foundation. The session was moderated by Sarah Forester, Deputy National News Editor at The National.
Speaking in front of delegates during the panel discussion, Sajwani said: “When the global pandemic hit, DAMAC Properties started an online-only channel for sales. We would sell to our customers using Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and these sales are substantial. We now generate over $100 million per quarter using that channel.
“But as you will appreciate, conversions tend to be low because this is not an immersive experience, so we took the decision to invest in the metaverse, creating ‘digital twins’ of all our assets and communities to allow our customers to inspect the villas and apartments they wish to purchase virtually,” he added.
The metaverse, also known as Web3, is increasingly being used by real estate developers to host ‘digital twins’, virtual facsimiles of real-world structures and communities. In conjunction with virtual reality (VR) technology, these models not only enable investors to view and inspect properties from anywhere on the planet, but they can also be used to supplement owners’ physical assets by allowing them to engage with digital environments.
Sajwani and his fellow panellists discussed a range of topics related to real estate and Web3, including the burgeoning virtual-only property sector, how the technology is being leveraged to engage prospective investors, and the trends and opportunities we can expect to see as the metaverse develops.
Commenting on the importance of leveraging Web3-specific talent and expertise, Sajwani told delegates: “What’s key for organisations that want to move into this space is to set up a separate entity and team. The talent in this space and the skillset; they tend to be younger people who may not be suited to typical corporate cultures. We set up an entity called D-Labs to work on the DAMAC Group metaverse project.”
Launched by DAMAC Properties’ parent company DAMAC Group in April 2022, D-Labs forms part of company-wide ambitions to catalyse advancements in digital assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), establishing the group as a leading global brand in the metaverse. With up to $100 million of investment earmarked for the venture, D-Labs is working to develop a variety of virtual homes and communities, as well as digital wearables and jewellery from DAMAC-owned brands such as Roberto Cavalli and de GRISOGONO.
Through initiatives such as D-Labs, DAMAC Properties is pioneering the development of fully-fledged online communities, which offer cutting-edge digital accommodation and retail experiences while enabling asset owners to interact in beautifully realised digital environments. Those who invest in the developer’s digital real estate also gain access to its real-world amenities, including food and beverage (F&B) outlets, hotels, resorts and more.
Building on the Dubai Metaverse Strategy under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, the Dubai Metaverse Assembly was announced by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The assembly was hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation at the Museum of the Future from 28-29 September 2022. The global event brought together more than 300 regional and international experts from over 40 industry leaders who are playing an active role in shaping the Web3 landscape and capitalising on its potential applications.