Mahir Ali Khan Ratul
Mahir Ali Khan, nicknamed Ratul, was born on 29th November, 1992, and got his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from North South University. He’s more of a philosopher in nature, interested in astrophysics, science, and art.
His hobbies are sports, reading books, and travelling. Being in a corporate world, it’s hard to make time for sports, especially football. Nevertheless he makes time for it in the evening, sometimes even skipping work for it! Some of his favorite books are Robin Sharma’s ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ and ‘Outliers’, and ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho and according to him one’s journey of enlightenment is not complete if they’re not into reading books. He has strong religious beliefs.
Rupayan Group is a diversified conglomerate, having stakes in real estate, infrastructure, media and many others. Mahir Ali Khan started out as an intern here about 7 years ago. It’s a family owned business and his father is the chairman of the group. It’s hard being professional when you are in a family business, it’s not easy to separate the boss and the father in one man, he exclaimed.
From an intern, he was soon promoted to an executive, moved onto senior executive and from there, took a big jump – became the Head of the Project. His first project was telecom-based, an international gateway. Following that he became the Deputy Managing Director of another company dealing with Port Analytics and handling containers. From there, he worked his way up to the Vice-Chairman.
Primarily, he is more concentrated on the business of technology and real estate. One of his recent milestones is that he launched the first city brand in the real estate sector. It’s a brand which focuses on building large cities and not individual buildings – the level of expertise to build a city is completely different than that for building cities.
Rupayan was founded by Khan’s father, and the name ‘Rupayan’ means ‘beautification’ in Bangla. They had been doing construction for a while but then they realized their vision was to transform peoples’ lives. After extensive research, they came to learn that singular buildings cannot address many issues, like children not having adequate access to playgrounds and you can rarely find others to socialize with in your building because there are no community spaces. They felt that real estate could contribute to social well-being more than what it was currently doing. And for that, they initiated their first project in Narayanganj, which is the Rupayan town, also a satellite city by itself. After ensuring a successful infrastructure and model, Rupayan wanted a location in Dhaka and so decided that Uttara would be a good place to start.
This project surrounds the 3 P’s: Prestige, Protection, and Privilege, as the city is governed by these 3 core values. Wherever you look, you will see protection and security, you will see privilege incorporated, and the prestige factor as the community is quite different over here. The message that clients are now owners of a city and not just a building creates a much more prestigious impression.
We did not want to just think of the project as a bare shape where people live but rather make it more scientific in terms of how we structure our lives – the quality of interaction with our family, physical activities, and mental development. These were all considered when building this city. People of the Sky Villas will not be able to enter the community of premium condominiums and vice versa without authorization from security. The design of the city reflects its organization. For example, in places like Gulshan, it’s hard to keep track of who your neighbor is, and disorganization can mean an extremely elegant building having a weathered building right across from it, for which you have a mixture of community, and as a result comfort and safety become an issue. And we at Rupayan felt that we had to create that private jurisdiction to ensure safety.
Speaking of Digital Bangladesh, if you want to transform the country in such an intellectual manner, it can only be done if you have quality minds, which cannot grow and thrive in just any place. They need proper accommodation, access to mental facilities, and physical fitness. The 2nd thing is that the infrastructure is rapidly growing. If you look at Uttara, its connectivity with Gazipur and Dhaka is helping it become a gateway. 3rd, people in Bangladesh are now looking forward to better quality of living arrangements. Eventually people want to move forward and improve their lives and this is where the idea of premium mega gated communities comes into play.
A city requires an ample amount of land, so it has to be large enough to accommodate city lifestyle, and you need to plan everything in an economically feasible manner. You can’t build a community based on just one specific group, you must have a diverse background of people to create a genuine community within a city.
When you want to develop a diverse community, you will need to look into economics. Even if there is land available in places like Gulshan or Baridhara, economics will not fit into the value proposition of diversified customers. Another consideration was that we wanted a location in Dhaka, and you can consider Uttara to be close to downtown Dhaka. Also there is a lot of connectivity for Uttara, like places such as Gulshan and Baridhara will not have Metro access. You can’t expect to see an elevated highway in those places. If we look at the infrastructure, developed communities are ranging from Purbachal, Bashundhara and Uttara itself to Gazipur. Considering the future, we predicted people would be looking particularly at Uttara. We had to take into account what will happen to Dhanmondi or Gulshan in the next 5-7 years. We feel that these locations were already saturated in terms of quality development and thus we chose a location that could best accommodate our vision. Uttara is a nice location considering a quality city lifestyle.
During this pandemic, the most widely used term was ‘work from home’, and homes are the product we work with. And home is the most important tool that we need for our future survival. Work from home has proved that the idea of home is changing and we’re building gated communities in a way to tackle these issues.
Many cities have a tendency to become stuck. Eventually you want to have convenient access to groceries or playgrounds, and our city is designed in such a way, that if you want to work from home, the work-life balance will still be available. Gated communities will play an important role in ensuring safety for possible future pandemics. 2nd, the social well-being will be improved greatly. These days we find children learning how to interact with their communities. They are much more efficient with technology. They are intelligent but are not emotionally developed, and so we want to build communities where they are socially strong and know how to mix with people from a very early age.
Most of the wives in Bangladesh don’t have options on how to spend their time, until and unless they are going to relatives houses. They don’t have many opportunities to engage and that is also creating societal issues like addiction to television and media, which may not be beneficial in shaping perceptions. We need to promote our own culture and that cannot happen if we do not allow people to communicate. The people of these communities are going to be very different in terms of their interactions, intelligence and physical health. If many other communities come together to develop these ideas, we can actually accomplish our Digital transformation.
On the concept of planting the idea of a premium mega gated community into Bangladeshi minds Khan informed that since this is a new concept, seeing is believing. We have already established construction to help people visualize the concept. Showcasing is an important part because unlike stand-alone buildings, we need to find ways to bring people to these locations and see for themselves. We are also promoting people to come through campaigns. It’s rare to see real estate companies go to media firms but we are trying to establish and maintain 360 degree awareness of this concept so people can learn about practical solutions, which cannot be accomplished with a traditional approach.
In terms of facilities, we titled ourselves as ‘the city of entertainment’ because if I go to the listing, we’ll find 25 unique propositions. In the Sky Villas there are concepts like rainforests. But we’ll have movie theatres. The condos have business centers so if you want to invite people for business, you don’t have to take them to your home. The community itself can create conferencing solutions and not everyone needs an office in their home. You will find schools, utility shops, mosques, and shopping malls within your community. Jamuna Future Park is roughly 27 lac square feet, ours will be 30 lacs square feet. It will be an iconic development to landscape Bangladesh itself.
Coming back to the community, we will have 3 classes. 1 is upper middle class, in-between upper middle and elite class who can be found in the Sky Villas. We are mostly looking to collaborate with communities looking for something anywhere between 2000-8000 square feet. The square foot demand reflects the general lifestyle and expectations of its inhabitants. The city has been designed in such a way that there are diversified communities and within those communities exist people genuinely searching for quality of life.
Rupayan Gated Communiuty started out in 2014. It was launched by Saurav Ganguly. It took time to conceptualize and incept the idea into people. Back then, Bangladesh was at par with other countries in terms of building gated communities. We could only see a few township projects in India or Dubai. But people are taking time to understand the concept and also the strategy we took, we need to make the whole project visible to people who need to believe that such types of mega-cities can exist in Bangladesh. One major concern was whether an individual company could take on such an immense challenge. But now that we have a foundation, people are coming on board with the concept.
Khan was asked to comment on handling such a big project at such a young age and he mentioned the revolutionary nature of the project has synergized well with the youth. Such kinds of revolutions require unique approaches, we need to shift the paradigm of the whole concept. This requires minds and perspectives that are not rigid and bound by conventional methodology. I was born in a generation where technology was booming so innovation was a concept that governed our mind for everything. This innate governance helped the project to become something innovative.
This industry needs more gender diversification, we see male entrepreneurs playing a leading role in this field. We also want to see more women in this field to allow a full spectrum of ideation. Moreover, we would love to see more of the youth step into entrepreneurial roles, but not just in terms of professionals. Young entrepreneurs introduce fresh perspectives and the industry thought process changes. If you look at other countries, we can see that real estate is a class factor for the country as they reshape city skylines and also create a perception of how a city can look and how the people of those cities can be like. There are many diverse opportunities and areas where youth can apply their innovation.
Mahir Ali Khan’s vision is to change the perceptions of real estate. I don’t want people to see it as just a product where people stay, but as a way of life. Rupayan has the potential to contribute to so much greater, and I’d like to take it to a global platform.
We’re even receiving offers from countries like Nepal and India to develop cities such as Rupayan City Uttara. This gives us the chance to show our local potential on a global scale!
Apart from my business life, I want to contribute to the field of space and science and also want Bangladesh to excel in these fields. I wish I could find a black hole and time travel to the future where my vision has come true, but in life the real black holes are one’s efforts, intention and courage that really turns visions into a reality.