Can you tell us about the types of projects Ranj Group prefer to pursue?
Our foremost aim is to build the infrastructure of the country. So, this means projects relating to energy, education, agriculture, industry, or any other sector. On the other hand, our preference is to build cities or villages that have the total package, including the most modern design concepts. We look to other cities like Dubai, Istanbul, Paris, and New York for our inspiration. Of course, we will not be like them right away; however, it makes sense to incorporate what’s being done in those cities to our work here in the Kurdistan Region. Our goal is to one day be like them, so it starts with implementing modern ideas and approaches.
The Luxury Timber Villas certainly has a distinctive design. Where did those designs come from?
We want to incorporate some of the new styles or modern techniques into what we are doing here. We don’t want to copy what someone else is already doing, but we do want to examine the countries that have become modern and see what we can do to replicate what has worked for them. So, with the Timber Villas, we wanted to combine luxury with energy sufficiency. Here in Kurdistan, most of the houses are built with cement and rebar; these materials allow the house to get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. The heating and cooling costs tend to waste a lot of energy. Utilizing wood framed houses with timber reduces these energy costs for both the individual user and the country as a whole.
We have incorporated these modern approaches and I believe we are creating better homes as a result. People here are also responding to these new homes. It’s mostly foreigners from Europe or the United States who are purchasing them at the moment. As word of mouth spreads and the local population learns more about these types of homes’ benefits, their popularity will grow.
Have there been any drawbacks in terms of operating in real estate sector?
The mortgage market, or lack thereof, definitely creates some problems. Banks here don’t give mortgages to potential homeowners, nor do they give loans for investment. Most companies operating in the Kurdistan Region aren’t big enough to finance all of the construction process on their own. So they instead have to construct the project in pieces and then sell individual units to finance additional construction. This can slow the construction process down considerably and makes the housing market more prone to fluctuation.
Has Ranj Group considered investing in other sectors?
Whenever we enter a new sector, Ranj Group establishes a five-year plan based on what is needed for the country. Initially, the Kurdistan Region needed an airport. Once the airport was completed and people began arriving here, the Region needed hotels, apartments, and homes to accommodate these new arrivals. So, it made sense to get involved in this sector. Now that process has slowed, we are looking to enter other markets that are in need of development, specifically industry and agriculture. However, before we get involved, we need to know exactly what services are needed. We have examined new technologies, such as solar power, as well as areas of critical need, like construction materials. At the moment, we have invested our money into the real estate and construction because we are more familiar with this sector. The new city that we are developing will cost around $15 billion dollars, so I don’t know if we can manage this project and expand into other sectors.
As with our other designs, we also aim to construct environmentally friendly houses that don’t rely on massive amounts of steel and concrete. We want to show that Kurdistan can be home to a modern, European city that incorporates modern ideas.
When do you expect construction of the new city to begin?
We have applied for the license and are working to finalize our plan. We are talking to Disneyland and Europark about the possibility of bringing an amusement park to the city. We are investigating the possibility of bringing in a zoo, as well as a university and a golf course. We want it to be the total package. So, we are studying our options and aim to have a finalized plan in the near future. If that plan is approved, then we will begin bringing in investors and will initiate construction. This will all obviously take some time, but we hope that we can begin having people living in the city within two years.
What are the main pillars guiding the operations of Ranj Group?
Creativity and Innovation, Energy Efficiency, Social Responsibility, and Safety Assurance. These are the areas upon which we have placed considerable value. However, there is one more element that should be prioritized by all companies operating here in the Kurdistan Region: the desire to speak up and help guide the future of the country. Ranj Group has identified some areas that we think the government needs to improve to better serve the people of the Region, and we will continue to push it to deal with these needs. There is still a room for improvement in food availability, education, and health. If the companies here push for change in these areas, then change will happen. So, encouraging dialogue could perhaps be our fifth pillar.