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KAFD

SAUDI ARABIA - Economy

Gautam Sashittal

CEO, KAFD DMC

Bio

Gautam Sashittal has been CEO of KAFD DMC since 2021. His career has seen him work in both the private and public sectors across industries including oil and gas, real estate development, free zone regulation and development, trade facilitation, and healthcare. After a career at Shell spanning nearly two decades, he held a range of leadership roles in companies across the Middle East, including CEO of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC). He serves on numerous boards including UNOPS, Copenhagen, where he is a member of the audit advisory committee; Fintech Innovations International, to which he is an advisor; and Risk Quotient Ltd. Sashittal has also been named on Forbes’ top 50 Indian Business Executives list.

“We are building for the future—that is where our focus lies.”
KAFD will focus on developing more infrastructure and mobility options, ensuring sustainability, and maintaining livability for its residents in the face of future growth.
What is your strategy to bring life, dynamism, and a variety of additional services to make KAFD a “livable 24/7 district?”

We took over 95 buildings, and the tenants have started their fit-out works. PIF and SMB Bank have moved in, and the Ministry of Culture will start moving in shortly. In 2022, we delivered about 76% of our stock and plan to reach 96% by the end of 2023. The next challenge is to bring the city alive with retail options, open spaces, entertainment options, and lots of amenities. We currently have 210 occupied residences, and we are focused on furnishing 700 apartments and reach 1,000 apartments by mid-2024. Our major focus has shifted from just construction to completing the towers and developing the enabling infrastructure. Mobility is an important priority for us: we have 43 skywalks linking all the skyscrapers, and we are planning to launch the monorail as well. We are heavily focused on creating multiple mobility options. The next stage is looking at district-wide valley services to attract more than just residents to the district; we are also targeting visitors. One way to bring greater life to the district is by hosting events. The winter season has started again, and we have various events on the agenda, such as the MDLBEAST every Thursday evening on a rooftop. The Saudi Fashion Commission is also promoting its activities in the district. All these events will play a key role in helping to activate the city.

The number of conferences KAFD has hosted has been steadily growing. How do these events contribute to KAFD’s international standing and reputation?

We are working to create a business ecosystem unlike any other. We want KAFD to be the prime business and lifestyle destination in the region. We aim to create a large business ecosystem by first getting a mix of businesses—public, private, local, and international—and having that business ecosystem feed itself. We are bringing business leaders together, whether they are in KAFD, Riyadh, or the region, so they can gain insights on major developments in areas such as regulations, fintech, sustainability, and others. We have several ongoing events; for example, we organize a quarterly KAFD dialogue that delves into subjects that are of interest to the audience. We also introduced the KAFD Spotlight, where we focus on a particular subject such as smart cities. We also have a large-format leadership conference, which we last held in 2023 and saw guests such as Deepak Chopra and Mo Gawdat. KAFD aims to bring together key local and international leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the events we organize play a pivotal role into achieving this goal.

What are the key priorities and targets on your agenda?

First, we aim to deliver all the legacy stock and activate it. Next, we aim to make greater progress on our projects on the remaining plots in the leaf. We have moved from legacy into new greenfield projects and currently have nine projects that are either in the design or construction phases. We are building for the future—that is where our focus lies. Third, we want to continue to build up and develop KAFD’s infrastructure while ensuring that the construction does not impact the livability of the city. There are also other initiatives underway in terms of sustainability. KAFD already has platinum LEED neighborhood certification stage two, while 43 of our buildings have LEED Gold or Silver already. However, we are not resting on our laurels and continue to look at other sustainable solutions such as water recycling and more greenification. In 2022, we planted about 4,500 trees and 4,000sqm of grass. We are making KAFD greener and more sustainable, while harnessing water flows. All these makes it the most sustainable district ever anywhere in the world. One of our biggest challenges today is not about simply bringing life to the district—it is about keeping the city livable and sustainable as we head toward the future.

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