Please share a profile on your field of business and how you came into your current role.
I have been an oil man almost all through my professional career, starting with Indian Oil Corporation in 1993, at the company’s eastern Indian headquarters in Kolkata. I also worked briefly with MRF Tyres in India after completing my MBA, before my association with Indian Oil. However, the real and critical insights into my current business is something I got almost wholly from Indian Oil. I was also doubly lucky to get a foreign posting in Sri Lanka, joining Lanka IOC, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Indian Oil.
After a four-year stint there, I later joined Sky Tanking, Indian Oil’s aviation arm, which handles hydrant fuel services at Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. I also did a brief stint at Chemoil Adani at their offices in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, before moving to the UAE in 2015, joining a petroleum bunkering business in Fujairah.
Four years later, in 2019 we took a monumental leap by starting Axiom Global, hoping to capitalise on the experience I had gained in the sector till then. I found able support among a few colleagues who decided to join the company. The year Axiom Global was launched was also a transformative one, with lots of regulatory revisions expected to be initiated in 2020 and an industry waiting in anticipation to welcome change.
It is true that Covid struck around the time we started operations. However, again thanks to the line of business we were in, it was the shipping industry that kept things moving as the world went into lockdown, and we are thankful to the steps taken by the UAE Government to ensure sectoral stakeholders could get things accomplished even in this time of strife.
What challenges do you perceive in your business?
One of the biggest running challenges the oil industry faces is price volatility. Of course, tools and instruments exist to protect against it. That said, oil being a costly commodity also makes the sector a high turnover industry. Hence, maintaining a consistent flow of working capital is also a challenge for stakeholders. And the nature of the industry is such that its players need to be in a constant state of movement, you cannot stagnate.
I personally believe that our firm has been able to tackle these challenges efficiently, and I credit my team for having kept the company buoyant and profitable despite the challenges we faced.
State three things you could offer to incentivise your team in their quest for excellence.
I have said this before and will say it again — at Axiom Global we don’t treat anyone as staff — we are like family, and in essence are all co-owners of the company. This gives everyone a sense of achievement and ownership towards the brand. Hence, firstly empowering manpower is critical to allow individual staff members as well as the team to succeed.
Secondly, I have also had people within the company who have been with me for more than 20 years, and this has helped us bond well, know each other’s weaknesses and strengths and play towards them. The synergy we enjoy as a team also helped us win several accolades in this relatively short period of time, culminating in the Great Place to Work award that Axiom Global won this year. Attaining the Superbrands status is also a testament to the goodwill and trust we enjoy with our valued patrons and loyal customers.
Thirdly, it is my constant goal that the business should follow ethical practices and be conducted following the laws of the land. It is my constant endeavour, therefore, to train my fellow colleagues and ensure they abide by the laws that bind our organisation and the sector it functions within. This is the correct way, and the only way the trust of consumers and goodwill of value partners can be gained.
Thirdly, one should make mistakes in life and in business to succeed. I have personally made mistakes and seen my business take a hit. However, one needs to learn from one’s mistakes too, and this is a creed that I try and instill in my colleagues as well.
How primed is the UAE as a hub for business and entrepreneurship?
The one thing I find attractive about the UAE as a business owner is the fact that the UAE leadership is extremely adaptive to change. A recent example was the UAE Government’s decision to move the regular weekend in keeping with global market requirements, considering the huge 3-day gap (Friday-Sunday) in trading for local businessmen amounted to substantial losses. The weekend revision changed all that and businesses will be ever grateful to the UAE leadership for this. In fact, the UAE has always afforded entrepreneurs ease of business, be it setting up a new company or running it with minimal bureaucratic red tape.
The second is the lifestyle factor. If you are earning a decent salary in the UAE, a good life is ensured for your family, with excellent housing and schooling and great roads and infrastructure. It’s the complete package. Again, with the introduction of corporate tax, I believe it is a basic corporate responsibility for UAE businesses to contribute towards and pay back to the country one conducts business in. I saw several business community members showing apprehension about paying the 9 per cent corporate tax. My argument is to tell them not to focus on the 9 per cent but look at creating the other 91 per cent.
Running a business ethically is the best way to move forward, and I feel the UAE is doing what it takes to corporatise UAE Inc. through such initiatives.
What are your expansion plans?
Last year was crucial for Axiom Global, considering we decided to expand our operations in the UAE by opening an office in Khor Fakkan Port. Besides, Axiom Global is also launching its renewables division in 2023-end, allowing our brand to conform to the UAE’s sustainable goals while supporting the nation’s shipping and logistics industry. The long-term plan for us though is more elaborate.
There is a Sanskrit word called tattva, which means element, and our plan at Axiom Global is to set up five verticals catering to sustainable energy sources, each aligning to the five tattvas – ether (renewable energy sources), air (aviation fuels), fire (LPG), water (marine segment) and earth (petroleum products). We only hope our offerings will be interesting and useful to our patrons and the UAE economy in the months and years to come.
As a UAE corporate icon, what is the legacy you wish to leave for future managers and team heads at your firm?
From the perspective of a business manager and now entrepreneur, I believe one should never forget the contributions of one’s fellow colleagues. They essentially run and manage a business – the manager just needs to ensure fellow members are aligned to the company’s requirements and they do not lose sight of the growth trajectory envisioned by company management. I personally believe my success as a manager is that one and each member of the team thinks and acts like an entrepreneur.
Secondly, be it a product or service-related business, the company should commit itself towards delivering on promises made to the customer. This ensures the relationship shared between the company and its valued patrons is for the long term and that is how we believe and practice our company’s motto — Our Word is Our Bond.