The globalization of business models and dramatic changes in the way that businesses operate and compete has resulted in a shift in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) strategy and execution. M&A or organic growth is not always feasible, nor is it always the fastest route to achieving desired objectives in a very competitive marketplace. Increasingly, corporations and investors are moving beyond the traditional acquisition/disposal model and using joint ventures (JVs) and strategic business alliances to achieve their business development objectives.
In an interview with Insights Success, Amit Marwah, CFA, Head of Strategy & Investments/Chief Investment Officer of Dayim Holdings gave some insightful answers highlighting the influences made by his company to take Business assets to a new level.
- How did your company’s journey as a distinguished brand arise in UAE? What was the underlying bedrock impression behind incorporating the company?
The vision behind Dayim was to act as an incubator of international brands in the Gulf Region and create businesses in the B2B services domain. The businesses in the Gulf region have often been criticized for not being able to offer service of international standards; our endeavor has been to change the same, in partnership with some of the top global organizations. We are now a regional company present in UAE, Saudi, Qatar & Kuwait with a goal to elevate the service level and redefine the market standards in every sector we enter.
- Tell us about yourself as an entrepreneur. How do you use your skills to run your company above and beyond your competitors?
The mindset of an entrepreneur is completely different from a consultant or an employee. This has been my biggest learning in this journey, on how to look at the situation as an opportunity and not a roadblock. It’s all about getting the basics right- spotting a gap in the market, following it up with meticulously planned research and execution plans, hiring driven & dynamic people and offering your customers an absolute delightful level of service. Businesses which consider customers as long term stakeholders and brand ambassadors of business always thrive above the competition.
- How do you see your entrepreneurial journey till date? Could you name a person/mentor/book/ who has had a tremendous impact on your entrepreneurial journey?
It’s constantly evolving. Everyday there is something to learn and something to improve upon.
I think the Co-Founder of Dayim, Rida Hassan Saïd has been my mentor and has been instrumental in inculcating the essence of entrepreneurship in me. I was a Strategy consultant, before I joined the business 10 years ago. As a consultant you approach situations very differently. An entrepreneur looks at every roadblock as a challenge and sometimes feign ignorance in believing that “there is a way out” and trust me when you think a there is a way out, more often than not there is. That’s how the universe operates.
Secondly, it’s essential for every successful business personnel to be a great salesman. That’s one skill which I have emulated from Rida. One is always selling/convincing somebody whether it’s to the employees, stakeholders, customers or even to himself/herself. In the times of adversity, one needs to sell himself/herself the idea that this is an opportunity and not a calamity. That’s the first quality which we look in every employee, even if his/her role is not sales driven. The basic sales skills should be there in each and every employee.
You might not realize it yet, but success in any field or any endeavor hinges on your ability to get people to say “yes.
- What are risks when you have ever taken? What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
As they say, nothing great is achieved without taking some sort of risk. I left a conventional career with Mckinsey to join a kind of start-up organization in the Gulf. A lot of my ex-colleagues raised eyebrows and termed the move as inherently “risky”. Today, I feel it was a wonderful decision.
I have been able to gain the experience of building four successful regional businesses under the Group and have been able to fast track my professional evolution. Today, we are in UAE, Saudi, Qatar and Kuwait. It has been one amazing journey.
- How would you describe your entrepreneurial skills? What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The best part is that one is not categorized functionally. You see a problem across different functions; you roll up your sleeves and get down to taking it head on. In the whole process you learn about the entire value chain of creating and operating businesses, be it feasibility, structuring, marketing, financing, operations or even HR and Organizational development issues.
- What are the business opportunities in UAE?
There are massive possibilities for the UAE and in fact in the whole region especially in the service sector inc. entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, security, transportation, rental, logistics to name a few.
For many years Middle East was seemed as an unlikely locale for flourishing entrepreneurialism but off late there is a growing startup and entrepreneurial culture. There are many promising unicorns looming on the horizon. Souq.com has been a great story, which got acquired by Amazon last year. This was actually unusual as when Amazon enters a new geographic market, it generally does by growing organically. In this case, Amazon apparently impressed by Souq.com’s management team, its technology, and its ability to navigate a complicated region, decided on a different strategy.
Also, one needs to see the response at the Step Conference in Dubai, one of the most popular startup gatherings in the region, which was truly phenomenal.
Just to play a devil’s advocate here – the need of the hour is to create globally scalable enterprises as many of the region’s start-ups appear to be focused locally. Also, there are challenges facing budding entrepreneurs in the region especially when it comes to financing. Regional banks have shown no appetite to fund start-up businesses even with a ring fenced business model. However, things are changing for good as more and more start-up funds and VC funds are surfacing to address this.
Another opportunity is to bring international brands and service prepositions to sectors which are dominated historically by local companies. There lies an opportunity to change the rules of the game and redefine the relevant sector.
- How do you encourage creative thinking in your organization?
We do not structure our organizations based on hierarchies and have an open door policy. Everyone is encouraged to bounce off ideas and suggest solutions. As mentioned above, we look for sales and service driven people. Idea is to make employees see themselves as stakeholders and condition them to believe that their success in life/career will be driven by the overall success of the business they are a part of
- To what do you attribute your success? What motivates you at difficult/down times?
Honestly, I would not call it a success yet. I think it’s just the start and my best years are ahead of me. All the great experiences I have had over the last 10 years in the Arab world is definitely attributable to leadership in my organization and the international partners we have worked with. Our business model allows continuous learning, since we are working with a new international partner from a different sector and geography and get exposed to their best practices, cultural nuances and a proven business model.
I want to constantly go to the next level because I dread being average and that is what motivates me in difficult times. I believe that while you can’t always control what happens to you, you can always control how you respond to it. I firmly believe in the science behind the 1% rule. Keep on adding 1% to your last performance and you will keep moving forward.
- What are the crucial aspects that exhibit uniqueness of the company?
With the volume of competition that businesses face in most industries, it’s very important to stand out and develop a unique identity and value proposition. We at Dayim strive to provide the best possible service in each sector we operate in. This is a common thread across all our businesses.
Another important aspect is the employees. Every employee is the spokesperson for the brand. His/her knowledge of the business and passion for the brand gets rubbed onto the customers as well as other stakeholders.
Lastly, maintaining an effective culture is of paramount importance, so much so that it even trumps strategy.
I will quote here something which I read in Harvard Business Review and it has stayed with me since then: “Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off.
Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”
- Is there any book or movie you would like to recommend to the budding entrepreneurs? What advice would you like to give them?
A book which I will highly recommend is “Autobiography of a Yogi” and I strictly recommend it to everyone. It has the power to change your whole perspective and life. The book will help you understand the importance of self-realization, the hidden human powers and possibilities. It might sound philosophical but it is a great ability to look inwards and realize how we can take charge of our lives by controlling our brain and thoughts. For someone who is interested in spirituality or have a different way of looking at life, this book is incredibly illuminating.
People like Steve Jobs and more recently Indian Cricket Team Captain Virat Kohli have endorsed this book. Steve Jobs used to read this book every year and also mentioned many times that his keys to success were the spiritual qualities, he had developed and he had this incredible realization that his intuition was his greatest gift, and that he needed to look at the world from the inside out.
Majority of people today live on what I call an Auto Pilot mode. This book really makes a big difference to make a switch from Auto pilot mode to self-realization mode.
- What measures do you take to ensure to grow and develop as an entrepreneur every day? How do you see yourself growing in the next five years?
Our brain gets inclined towards thoughts and ideas you feed it every day. So I ensure that I feed mine with positive, inspirational and successful ideas and stories every day.
Another initiative of mine has been to follow strict work ethics and plan on a daily basis. This helps in controlling one’s thoughts and channelizes the energy in a productive manner.
In five years as our business portfolio expands and gains further size, it will be an altogether different opportunity with its own set of challenges. I am looking forward to that phase as well. Once we see our businesses are close to achieving their full potential in the Gulf States, we will look towards other geographies to expand especially the African continent