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‘We are determined to change luxury real estate landscape in Africa and beyond’

NIDAL TURJMAN, the Group Chief Operating Officer of Palton Morgan Holdings, is not new to emerging markets. He is a thoroughbred professional and transformational leader who has worked in UAE, Pakistan and other countries before coming to Nigeria. In this interview with CHUKA UROKO, Property Editor, Turjman shares his thoughts on Nigeria’s business environment and the real estate sector. He also speaks on living and working in Nigeria, Palton Morgan’s vision, and what government can do to boost the real estate industry. Excerpts:

With your professional background in the Middle East, particularly the UAE and Pakistan, what attracted you to Nigeria in general, and Palton Morgan in particular?

My optimism brought me to this continent, especially Nigeria, the greatest economy of Africa. Although there is a global economic downturn, there is growth potential in this market. The imagination to see the country’s unmet needs as opportunities will take her to greater heights. The business community is committed to building and taking their businesses to the next level. Africa, in general, will come out of this crisis faster than any other continent, and this is what I believe.

I am responsible for creating systematic processes and durable culture to breed more leaders for the Palton Morgan. There are only three things that have more power than you to make your company successful: your God, your Customers and your Employees. The rest is a distraction.

I must say that Palton Morgan is among the most dynamic holding companies with a clear vision and active leadership, which is determined to change the landscape of luxury real estate in Africa and beyond.

What role do you see the Palton Morgan group playing in growing the economy, especially in the areas of social housing and luxury real estate?

Challenges are always meant to be overcome. Besides, the Nigerian government is set to revive policies to boost the real estate economy through new tax regimes, exemption of SMEs from the tax net, the new finance bill and policies on the recapitalisation of mortgage banks and insurance. These will boost real estate growth.

Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. We all need to optimise the potential of economic growth as we are one of the major segments that bring investments in the country. Our focus is on the real estate sector. We have created our niche to attract investment, and we are constantly working to create a balance between demand and supply in the luxury segment.

Palton Morgan consists of subsidiaries that handle different real estate market segments: Grenadines Homes is focused on the luxury properties segment, and Propertymart manages quality affordable housing for the masses. So, all our development companies are positioned at the top of the developers’ category. We are working on changing the development skyline of Lagos. And we will celebrate this in a few years.

On coming to Nigeria, did you experience any culture shock with its business environment? If yes, in what ways? And how has the adaptation process been for you so far?

I would not say it was a culture shock, as I have lived and worked in different countries, and I did my research and planning before coming. So, I have had to adapt and adjust to the Nigerian way of living. I have adapted well to Lagos’ culture.

Given your diverse and rich international experience, what’s your assessment of Nigeria’s business environment and the real estate sector?

The real estate development industry needs to adopt international best practices in eco-friendly development. Technology and innovation would take the lead in shaping the product that copes with the demanding lifestyle of the youth population.

The mortgage and banking industry has to be developed because the current interest rate does not help build all industries. Also, lowering interest rates by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will improve investment in all sectors, including the real estate industry.

The construction industry in Nigeria, with a few exceptions, would require significant improvement in technology that may achieve cost saving in the workmanship and materials used. This industry has been developed to great levels worldwide, and in some countries, you can construct over 30 story towers in few months.

I believe that we can add immense value to the industry that will impact the economy and improve Nigerians’ lifestyle.

You are renowned as a transformational leader that helps achieve the best business objectives through re-structuring, high profile sales and project management, amongst others. How are you bringing these to bear on Palton Morgan’s operations?

Many factors will play a vital role in bringing Palton Morgan and the Nigerian real estate segment to new heights. This is our common objective. I have seen and experienced many booms and recessions in the past. There is always a dawn after the dark. My role would be to minimise the effect of recession and introduce strategic plans to welcome the good time, which is not far off.

The foreign markets see a bright future in Nigeria; they expect a boost in Nigeria when the electricity issue is resolved and security gets better. Dubai is an example; it isn’t the same as it was in the early 90s. Today, Nigeria is on the same track to attract and encourage foreign investors to come and invest in Nigeria. This country has all the capabilities and resources available. The rebranding drive, ‘Good People Great Nation’, focused on changing perceptions about Nigeria. Now it’s the time to prove it.

As the Group Chief Operating Officer, you are primarily constantly managing people and processes for optimal productivity. Based on your experience with Palton Morgan, what do you think of the Nigerian worker? In what ways have you been impressed with his attitude and the way he does things?

Nigerians are eager to learn and get their knowledge everywhere. This nation is alive, very lively, and with the provision of necessary resources for professional training, miracles will be achieved.

For me, the keyword is personal attitude. Resilience and adaptation will define good potential team members. Hard skills will be reached with on-the-job training. This is why we select our leaders on merit, and knowledge but most important are employees’ characteristics which include leadership skills, organisational skills, interpersonal skills, intelligence, integrity, ambition and a strong work ethic.

I don’t see any challenges that we cannot handle. Even if there is a lack of qualified service providers in Nigeria, we have support from international entities interested in transferring the know-how to Nigeria. I actively encourage international organisations to come and invest in Nigeria.

The Palton Morgan group’s vision is to become the ‘preferred real estate brand in Africa and beyond’. What is the group’s operational strategy to attaining this lofty continental ambition?

We focus on our products, as all our development is to deliver the lifestyle our customers are looking for. Hence, our strategy is to enhance the customer experience in quality product, delivery and well-maintained development.

We are also enhancing our human capital, which is our biggest strength in Palton Morgan, with advanced training programmes and enriching the team with experienced team members exposed to international best practices.

How are you keeping track of the company’s progress? Are there specific metrics?

Yes, we keep track of our business performance. I have my dashboard that addresses the performance of our development program, commercial activities and handovers. We have metrics for each type of operations, and the more important are the ones relating to the customer life cycle and product life cycle. These are the core of the business.

The Paramount Twin Towers is Palton Morgan’s latest project. Can you tell us about this landmark initiative and its objectives?

Yes, it is. We are creating a perfect lifestyle in the most desired neighbourhood of Oniru, Victoria Island, a few steps away from the Atlantic Ocean.

The Paramount Twin Towers development is driven by our desire to change the meaning of sophistication in Nigeria.

We have consulted world-renowned architects and building contractors to deliver these luxury towers. We take pride in the fact that Paramount Twin Towers contains more than just efficient floor plans and innovative designs, but provides an unrivalled lifestyle and a great service level.

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