ON FRIDAY, the much anticipated Radisson Blu Hotel Durban Umhlanga will open. It marks the launch of the first part of a R4.5 billion development project in Umhlanga Rocks.
The opening will be celebrated with a black-tie event that will be attended by 500 of South Africa’s A-listers and ‘who’s who’.
Businessman Vivian Reddy, who is spearheading the project, said the other two phases were the 36 000 square foot Oceans Mall that would include a diamond walk featuring international brands. Above the mall will be another 500 towers.
The mall is scheduled to open in October, with the towers anticipated to open in December next year.
“It is a project that is quite unique in the way that it is designed. The residents above in the apartments will have full Radisson services. We picked Radisson Blu because we believe the Radisson Group is the ideal and most suitable hotel group in Africa for this kind of project. It's a project that has been through tough times, but at the end of the day, it has become a reality.”
Reddy said the project, which took seven years, was difficult to get off the ground.
“We had to relocate clubhouses, the main stormwater pipe, the Post Office and other units that were based at this location.
"We had to remove 42 000 truckloads. It cost us R180 million just to get the project going. It took many years in the making, but it's a culmination of lots of hard work, and tremendous effort by a very professional team.”
Marius Earle is the general manager of the ocean-themed hotel.
At the entrance of the 27-storey building, guests will be greeted by a laser-cut steel dolphin sculpture created by the team that worked on the Mandela Capture Site sculpture.
The hotel has 207 rooms, a 600-seater conference venue, six meeting rooms, and a pool and entertainment area that can accommodate 200 people - among other highlights.
“Every room has a view of the sea. The quality of the rooms and the size are like nothing that Durban has ever had. This is the first international brand 5-star hotel that has opened since the Hilton Hotel opened in 1998,” said Reddy.
KZN investment is a no-brainer
He said despite the difficulties that had been brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the July riots last year and the recent floods, in hindsight, he would do it again.
“I'm not bothered and I'm not hindered by the pandemic, even the uprisings, and more recently the floods. I'm positive about our country. KZN is my hometown. I have a shopping mall in Stanger. We are spending another R800m expanding that mall. We are building 300 homes around Sibaya Casino. I'm spending another R1.2 billion there. And this Oceans project is (worth) R4.5 billion.
“So I'm investing about R6 billion and this will create something like 40 000 jobs for the people of KZN. And that's what we need to do as developers. We need to create jobs. We have lost so much employment, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. Job creation will help us boost the economy.”
More than 26 000 people will be employed when the project is completed. Thirty-five percent of the project also belongs to more than 23 000 shareholders who are ordinary working-class people, said Reddy.
“I believe the economy will pick up. Coming from the Indian community, I have had lots of people ask me if I have confidence in the country. I know that sometimes we feel marginalised. It's a fact. But we've got to stop feeling like victims. We have to stand up and make this country better.
“Stop complaining. Just roll up your sleeves and make it on your own. Don't wait for the government. Don't wait for anyone else. We as the Indian community have survived everywhere we went. Anywhere in the world. So we've got to look at how we can make it better for ourselves. And I believe that working together with the majority of South Africans, we as businessmen can prosper more.”
Community is key
Reddy does not shy away from sharing the story of his humble beginnings.
The son of a teacher and the youngest of nine children, Reddy said: “I know what it's like growing up in a poor community.”
He was chosen as South Africa's first representative to the Boy Scouts Jamboree in Japan when he was 16 years old. His family could not afford it, but the community of Greenwood Park rallied together, raised funds and sent Reddy to Japan.
“Going to that jamboree marked a turning point in my life and that was made possible by the contributions of the people of Greenwood Park. That experience taught me that people in communities care."
Today, he has given away R250 million to charity and supports 120 organisations.
“It is my belief that my community is my concern. You can not live on an island of prosperity surrounded by a sea of poverty, you've got to reach out.”
Another story that Reddy takes pride in sharing is of how he kicked off his dream to the biggest electrical company in the country with just R500 and a bakkie.
Today he is the founder of Edison Power Group and has created a business empire with interests in energy, casinos, healthcare, financial services and property development.
“My advice to people who are struggling without jobs is, don't give up and don't lose hope. Make samoosas, bhajias, sell tea, have a little corner shop, turn your house into a small spaza shop, buy and sell goods, do gardening, wash people's cars, do ironing or laundry, sell veg door to door. Do anything that you can earn a living.
“You've got to become small entrepreneurs and work for yourself. Don't wait for handouts and and never give up. Businesses have been devastated recently. It's a tough market. It's difficult. Even for us, it's difficult. Some of our businesses lost hundreds of millions of Rands in this time, but we are working differently, we are working cleverly.
“This is not the end of the road. It's just the beginning. We will work with all political parties. We work with whoever is in power, irrespective of who they are because we are here to create jobs. The business of business is business and that's what I'm here to do. I have great hope for this country. I have big dreams for major developments in this country,” said Reddy.