It is not everyday that one is told a story about inspiration and mega-success, yet at the same time, is still able to appreciate the simple and humble beginnings of the storyteller, who is also the protagonist.
Dr Ram Buxani shared with Khaleej Times his journey on how he arrived to UAE almost 60 years ago, with merely five rupees in his pocket and how it grew into the multi-million dollar empire of today.
He highlighted on the notion that his faith, trust and friendship with the once-upon-a-time small community of Dubai helped him lead his current company, a business that is now estimated at $250 million. Moreover, he is ranked among the top Indian leaders in the Arab World on Forbes.
Taking the high road
On the sidelines of the release of the Arabic edition of his autobiography, Taking the High Road, which was held at the majlis of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Dr Buxani spoke on how different life was in the UAE almost six decades ago, and how it dynamically developed into the central business hub of the world.
“If we told people in the 1950s that UAE will be what it is today, they would have probably laughed at us,” he said. With a swift spirit and an essence of utter positivity, the 75-year-old Chairman of ITL Group, seems to very much still resemble the 18-year-old Buxani, who arrived on the shores of Dubai on a cool November in 1959.
“I arrived from a five-day boat trip on November 18, 1959. I said to myself: this is the place I will fall in love with,” he recalled.
“No electricity existed in UAE,” he said, adding that, “there were no airports, no telephones and the town was so small that everyone knew each other. Water was usually carried on buckets by donkeys and often contained cockroaches, ants, flies and other insects, so we boiled it before drinking it.”Nevertheless, it was the genuine hearts of UAE’s leaders and its people that captured and motivated young Buxani’s business mind.”I didn’t hold an important position at the company, I just wanted to take care of my family and I knew that I had an opportunity to develop myself.
First salary: Rs 125 per month
He noted his salary during the early days was 125 rupees per month. “Back then it wasn’t considered very small, so I was still making a living,” he added. In his autobiography, the author recalls stories that capture the embodiment of a young entrepreneurial spirit, who has helped flourish trading as a frontline engine of growth for the local economy.
Shaikh Nahyan described Buxani’s experience as “rich on all humanitarian levels,” noting that he played a key cultural and educational role, as well as a prominent business figure.In fact, during the 1950s ITL became the very first trading company to receive a licence through a “two-sentence decree”.
“Individually and together, the traders and merchants contributed towards turning the long-established art of business into a science, whose results you can see all around us here,” Dr Buxani added.
Initially, textiles were the principal trade of the company. With the oil boom and the socio-economic prosperity that accompanied, ITL Group moved into consumer electronics – one of the first companies in the region to do so. Thus, was born the Cosmos era, a new chapter in the retail sector of Dubai.
One of the oldest businesses in the country is now representing a variety of global brands, including Siemens, Sharp, Fujitsu and Rhythm. Dr Buxani believes it is crucial for all young entrepreneurs and future business leaders to not strive for greed, but for passion.”My advice would be, don’t look for the highest salary. People who are greedy will fail miserably. Aim for something that you can enjoy.”
“The UAE is not only taking care of its people, but it’s also taking care of its foreigners. The nation gave me so much opportunity to grow. It was like my university, and if one can pass university, then he can lead a successful life.”
Source: Khaleej Times article by Jasmine Al Kuttab