One of the important lessons has learnt from the pandemic is that with adversities come opportunities, and one has to learn to make the most of it Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

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Azhar Sajan, 23, Director, Casa Milano

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from AUS.

When not in in your business suit...

I enjoy going out with friends and finding new places to eat. My go-to place is the street next to my university in Sharjah and Satwa chai, where my friends and I meet up.

What’s a regular day in your life like?

I hit the gym for an hour’s work out at 7 am. Then have a quick breakfast with my family before leaving for office where I am until I finish my work. I unwind in the evenings by trying new cafes with family, friends or watching my favourite TV shows.

What defines you as a person and as a business head?

As a business head, I believe I am ambitious and driven and not comfortable with settling but rather looking for opportunities to do better. As a person I feel I’m a people’s person. I love meeting new people and learning about their lives.

Growing up, did your parents give you business responsibilities to handle?

Yes, I was interning with Danube Properties at the age of 16 to learn the property business.

Any memorable incidents you can share?

Since I started Casa Milano at young age a lot of people were taken aback, when they figured that I was the face of Casa Milano. I vividly recall one such incident, at the opening of the showroom a publication house was there to take my interview. It so happened that we were all there in the same room but the journalist wasn’t aware that I was Azhar Sajan, so after a while I asked my PR person as to what are we waiting for, to which the journalist said we are waiting for Mr. Azhar Sajan. It was funny.

Growing up were you interested in pursuing the business?

Initially I wasn’t keen on pursuing as I never had a specific path in mind. However gradually I came around contemplating about my career choice.

When did you realise you were ready to handle the responsibility given to you?

In 2018 summer when I thought of starting Casa Milano.

What are the three important business-related lessons that you picked up from your parents?

My dad has taught me that it’s really important to have a healthy relationship with all the stakeholders of my business. The other quality I want to learn from my dad is the passion he has for everything he does, be it business or cricket. My mom’s honesty is her best quality and that’s what I want to follow.

Tell us one difficult issue/problem you faced after assuming your role in the company and how you tackled it.

We opened our doors in October 2019 and were just taking baby steps in the first year when the pandemic struck the world and our sales too took a hit. Even during the lockdown, construction activity had not halted in the UAE and we decided to redirect our focus towards the construction sector. While the world was laying off its employees, we built our B2B team from scratch and established key relations with luxury developers across the country.

Along with this we also reached out to retail customers who are our main target, as the lockdown had given them ample time to refurbish their homes, which had now become their offices, classrooms etc. We distributed catalogues in high-net-worth areas like Emirates Hills, Dubai Hills, Meydan, Meadows to raise brand awareness. Some of our team’s first meetings with the clients happened on the Zoom platform during this period which helped us to understand the client’s needs. We also started providing complimentary design services to our customers which made them visualize their bathrooms in a different light.

How would you like to be known – as a person and as a business head?

In most of the companies, the business heads are respected out of fear, but I want my people to respect me for who I am.

What do you think is your strength?

My entrepreneurial spirit and time management as I juggle many commitments.

And your weakness?

Not being able to say no.

What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

So far it is completing my graduation and managing/running Casa Milano simultaneously that too in the midst of the global pandemic.

What keeps you awake at night?

My active brain.

My phone.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Covid has taught me that with adversities come opportunities, and one has to learn to make the most of it.

Inheriting a business comes with a baggage of expectations. How do you deal with that?

People feel that we are enjoying the privilege of being born in this family, but with that also comes the responsibility of maintaining the family’s legacy and taking it further. And trust me, it’s not an easy task as all our actions are constantly under scrutiny. Also there’s a constant fear of failure.

In case you don’t know me

1. My 3am friend is… Abdullah Raza.

2. My garage has… my first car which is Lexus 570.

3. On my bedside you’ll find… headphones, car keys, eye drops, water, wallet (anything that can get me out of the house quickly).

4. I can’t live without… my phone.

5. After office, I love to… chill with friends, play cricket, go for a swim, spend time with family.

6. My idea of a dream holiday is… San Diego Comic Con in the US.

7. On a Friday morning I love to… sleep or go out for brunch with my family.

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