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Video: From a secure job to half-a-million-dirham debt

Expat who held a job and ended up with huge debt warns others against launching a business while working

Image Credit: Binsal Abdul Kader/Gulf News
Bangladeshi expatriate Khandoker Maznu Hussain, 51, has lived in Abu Dhabi for 21 years.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A Bangladeshi expatriate living in Abu Dhabi for 21 years has ended up with over half-a-million dirham debt while trying to start his own businesses even as he was employed in a company. He now wishes to caution others from doing the same and shares his story which he hopes will be an eye-opener.

“Starting one’s own business cannot be a solution to job insecurity,” says Khandoker Maznu Hussain, 51.

“I have learnt many lessons from my failures, which cannot be reversed. My wife is mentally ill and my two children’s higher education is stuck,” he said.

He is fully appreciative of the success stories of people who built businesses from scratch but he believes it is important not to blindly follow success stories. “I did not know that I was not being realistic about the requirements of my ‘dream business’,” Hussain explains.

A civil engineer by profession, he came to Abu Dhabi in 1996, worked as a supervisor in the construction industry for over a year and joined a public sector company in a technical job with Dh2,800 monthly salary. He climbed the ranks to the post of supervisor of pipeline operations and in 2016, he was earning a salary of Dh10,663. His wife and two children had a comfortable life in a spacious apartment in the city, provided by the company.

But it was sometime in the early 2000s, that life threw him a curve ball. One day, his brother-in-law brought home an acquaintance. The man was from a nearby village back home and had an inspiring story to share. He said he had come to Abu Dhabi as an ordinary worker in the construction industry but later started his own small contracting firm in the same field and as a result, he became a rich man.

Subsequently, Hussain’s company underwent restructuring and a few of his colleagues lost their jobs, Hussain shared the insecurity of his own job with his wife who reminded him about the rich compatriot and his success story.

So while he kept his job, Hussain too decided to start his own small contracting firm in 2007. He thought his professional degree in civil engineering and local experience in the sector would help. He established a second firm in 2008 to recruit more employees. His relatives owned the firms on paper and differences with them hampered the growth of his enterprises. He ended up with a debt of Dh70,000.

In 2008, as he experienced more turmoil, he decided to start a third contracting firm. He had to close it down with losses running into Dh150,000.

“Only then did I realise that my time after my working hours of 7am-3pm was not enough to manage business. I did not have an able and trustworthy manager. There were many other requirements which I was not aware of.”

In 2012, he had to sell his ancestral property back home and divert around Dh97,000 into his collapsing businesses but it did not help as interests on personal loan and payments to maxed-out credit cards (around ten) accumulated beyond control. Also, around 75 per cent of his monthly salary was cut towards repayment of a debt of over Dh500,000.

What came as the final straw, amid the flurry of legal notices being issued by banks, was a letter of termination from his company on March 16 this year. “If I don’t get a job, I will end up in jail. I am ready to take up any job. My wife back home needs money for her treatment. My son who passed grade 12 is waiting to join a bachelor’s degree course. I don’t know what to do.” Hussain said.

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