Money & Me: 'Buying property is my hobby. It brings me happiness'

Varis Sayed of Fincasa Capital owns homes in four countries and plans to snap up distressed sales as real estate markets contract amid Covid-19

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 10 MAY 2020. STANDALONE. Money & Me feature with Faris Syed. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Keith J Fernandez. Section: Business.
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Varis Sayed is the founder and chief executive of Fincasa Capital, a global advisory firm specialising in cross-border investments and offering services for residency and citizenship through investment. The millionaire, Indian-born entrepreneur, who moved to the UAE in 2011, invests in real estate across the globe and believes the coronavirus crisis will throw up lucrative property opportunities for those with cash to spare. Mr Sayed, who is in his late 30s, lives in The Springs with his wife Shruti and their children, a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I grew up in Vadodara in Gujarat, an Indian state known for its entrepreneurial spirit. My dad was a successful serial entrepreneur with many businesses. I learnt from him that while money is good to have, it is equally important to pursue a good lifestyle, which comes from enjoying life and the luxuries that money can buy.

As an entrepreneur, I don't jump into every second project or investment that I am offered any more. I did this in the early days of my business – and that's when I lost money.

How much did you earn in your first job? 

I started working while still in school, with a series of summer jobs – events support, distributing magazines, selling mutual funds and a bit of modelling. It was important for me to make my own money, and the jobs allowed me to meet new people. My first earnings were 600 Indian rupees (Dh28.96), as a commission for selling mutual funds.

Who has been your biggest financial inspiration?

Richard Branson. He knows how to enjoy life, but is also unafraid of setting up multiple businesses – many of which have been failures. As he says, unless you take part, you can’t win.

When did you make your first Dh1 million?

Dubai is truly the land of opportunities and possibilities, which has made me what I am today. I made my first Dh1m in this country in the second half of 2015 after launching a business advisory service. It took me about four years.

What has been your weakest financial moment?

In 2014, as I was incorporating my first business in the UAE. I made several early entrepreneurial mistakes. To add to that, my wife was pregnant and I had no financial backup to even pay my bills. With the strong support of my wife, who has always been my backbone and stronghold, we came out of it quickly and within a short span, by the end of the following year, we made a profit.

What is your investment philosophy?

It’s important to choose your investments carefully. For me, investments in real estate offer a way to secure the future for my family. So, research, analyse and judge before you take the plunge to make an investment. If you’re looking at stocks and trade, for instance, it’s important that you weigh the situation and the markets, rather than just counting on your luck.

What is the most important financial lesson you've learnt as an entrepreneur?

Planning is important to stay ahead of the game. As an entrepreneur, I don’t jump into every second project or investment that I am offered any more. I did this in the early days of my business – and that’s when I lost money.

Why did you set up your business?

I saw my father invest overseas, and that attracted me to the field. When I began my career in India, I worked with a small advisory firm and saw the potential the field offers. That was enough for me to decide this would be my bread and butter going forward. We offer boutique, customised solutions for each client such as private equity, venture capital and investment projects across varied sectors, including real estate, start-ups and more. We also offer advisory services for second residency and citizenship.

What return can investors expect from a golden visa?

It depends where you invest. Each investment is customised in line with an investors’ retirement goal. The ROI (return on investment) varies typically from 2 per cent to 15 per cent or more, depending on a number of factors, including the investor’s risk appetite.

Have you bought into a golden visa scheme yourself?

Yes, I have taken Greece residency.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 10 MAY 2020. STANDALONE. Money & Me feature with Faris Syed. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Keith J Fernandez. Section: Business.

What's your financial dream? 

I want to own a mansion in West Palm Beach in Florida, a penthouse facing Central Park in Manhattan, a three-storey building in central London and vacation homes in Cannes, Greece and other corners of the world.

What financial goals have you already met?

I haven’t met all of them yet, but I now own a villa in The Springs in Dubai, as well as property in Vadodara in India, in Toronto in Canada and New York in the US. Buying property is my hobby. I like real estate. It brings me happiness.

Why did you choose these countries?

As a principle, it’s always advisable to diversify your exposure. The US, Canada and Greece all are different real estate markets, priced in different currencies. At the micro level, events in these markets are not related to each other. Also, the nature of my business means I often come across amazing deals which I cannot refuse. Because of the coronavirus crisis, real estate markets are likely to contract further, and we will see more distressed properties come on the market.

Have you already seen any distressed properties?

Certainly. You can now buy an apartment in downtown Athens for €50,000 (Dh206,452). The same amount in Dubai will only get you a property in International City.

What else do you invest in?

Investing is my passion. I like investing in stocks, start-ups and real estate.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your portfolio?

My personal investments are mostly in real estate and start-up companies, so from a book value perspective, the valuations will show losses but that's OK – the underlying asset remains. However, I have made sure to maintain a significant amount of cash to buy more real estate. In particular, I am bullish about Dubai.

Are you a spender or a saver?

Money is to be spent and enjoyed so why not buy whatever money can buy? Saving is boring. Getting 2 per cent a year is rubbish. Either spend or invest. I like investing and spending. I believe in collecting experiences. As a traveller, I want to see how life is lived. So rather than go to an amusement park, I make sure to go to the most expensive restaurant in a city I am visiting. In New York City, I’ll make sure to eat lunch on Wall Street. Even if I’m broke, if I lose everything, at least I will have enjoyed it.

What is your most cherished purchase?

I am fond of watches, particularly my Patek Phillipe Aquanaut, Rolex Yacht-Master and Rolex Explorer.

How do you plan to fund your retirement?

I invest in real estate, which can then be easily sold or rented out when needed.

How much do you have in your wallet right now?


What car do you drive?

I drive the latest new model GLS500 Mercedes Benz and an Audi.

Do you have any financial regrets?

Yes, I have missed many good investment opportunities. In 2015, I nearly booked a flat near Wall Street in south Manhattan but didn’t go through with the purchase. Now it’s being sold at a 40 per cent higher price.