Maryam Al Nuaimi, President and founder of Tafaseel Group, believes in self-sufficiency. The formula is simple, she says – give people responsibility and hold them accountable. In time, this breeds efficiency and self-confidence. The mantra is something she’s employed at work and at home. In the long run, Al Nuaimi believes, it’s beneficial.
Al Nuaimi knows what she’s talking about – she’s been a serial entrepreneur ever since her first gig back in 2010.
It all began with a vision. “I always had a dream to start my own business,” she tells Gulf News in an interview. She explains that, in the early years, while she did not know what she was going to do – she was mulling interior design or something to do with event management - but she already knew what she was going to call the endeavor: Tafaseel, which in Arabic means ‘details’. When she spoke to her father about it, he insisted that she gets some experience from the actual market.
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Learning on the job
Taking her father’s valuable advice in account, Al Nuaimi landed and took on a position at Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA). Little did she know that this job would change everything, and she would take this call centre experience and use it to create a business of her own. “My time at FEWA gave me a lot of experience - managing 12 agents, dealing with complaints, KPIs, operation details, negotiations…it gave me a lot of knowledge and know-how of the business” she explains.
“In 2011, it was unusual for a woman to be in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) space. I started with a small office, with 2 stations, basic features. In parallel I had to visit corporates and government departments myself to introduce the services” she says.
Still, she persisted. Al Nuaimi is quick to point out that her hurdles were those any start-up owner would face – trying to organise capital, creating a client base, a strong profile, working out logistics – but there was a bigger challenge too. It was the mindset of people, she says, that she needed to change. “I remember multiple suppliers and even clients, they were surprised to see a local woman in a meeting talking about outsourcing a call centre as a business,” she says.
UAE makes business easy
“Honestly, being a woman in the field of call centre enterprises wasn’t difficult. In my country, they have provided us with all empowerment opportunities [in all spheres]. There are chances for both genders,” she adds.
It’s about belief in what you are doing. And commitment, she explains. “I remember saying, ‘yes I will be the first woman in the field.’ It was challenging. Especially the comments, questions [that came my way]. But I believed in Tafaseel, so I was patient and consistent.
The gamble on herself paid off, today the company engages in different industry sectors. Tafaseel’s key subsidiaries include Tafaseel BPO, a leading UAE call centre outsourcing firm; Tafaseel IT Solutions; Salama Healthcare, a specialised home nursing and medical equipment provider; Technologia.ae; and Namaa Agricultural Investments.
Family offers motivation
By the time Al Nuaimi headed into 2013 and marriage, her lifestyle essentially revolved around her firm and the government job that she had kept and grown in. A year later, when she gave birth to her first child “I remember in 2014, I was signing a contract one day after giving birth to my baby. Tafaseel was like a lifestyle to me and my family,” she explains, adding that instead of diverting her attention, being a mum actually pushed her to achieve more.
“My family inspired me, because their existence was encouraging me to push myself more. Because I had this vision – that I wanted my kids to be proud of me. And to show them a successful model, that being a mum is not an obstacle, it is a real chance to build and create and innovate. Because when you are regarded like that, when you have so many responsibilities, it opens the door to creativity and efficiency,” she explains.
And so she'd always take her daughter, Salama, to meetings when she was a child. "I was attending meetings and she had to be silent, but she absorbed a lot," says Al Nuaimi.
As a mum, a person is always multi-tasking, she says. She also wanted to teach her children to give back, to be “valuable to the nation and society”. She did this through modelling the behaviour she wanted them to emulate; by getting involved in projects by non-government organizations and other humanitarian endeavors.
A fine balance
“I believe that [in] balancing two things – business and family – time management is an essential thing. And I had to learn to delegate to the right people at the right time,” she says.
“Giving the team this opportunity to have more responsibility has also helped them to implement a lot and plan a lot efficiently, it gave them a sense of loyalty, because I always tell everyone who comes and works with me, you are working in your own business. You are not just an employee, my business is a family where everyone contributes and shares responsibility,” she adds.
She also teaches her children in the same way – by having them take the onus of their schoolwork.
“I stay with her [ daughter Salama], but I want her to take more responsibility to study by herself. Society keeps saying, ‘no, you need to be with her, you need to teach her, like the normal typical way’. To that I say, no my daughter needs to explore and learn some things on her own. It’s difficult sometimes to watch your child struggle, but I want to prepare her for society. She needs to learn,” Maryam explains.
It helps with the mum guilt too. It’s something every mother must experience, a right of passage if you will, and Al Nuaimi is no different. “I try my best. I know I won’t be the best, but I try my best. Sometimes, I take advice from stay-at-home mums and I learn from them. I read a lot about motherhood,” she explains.
When asked what advice she would give other mum entrepreneurs, Al Nuaimi says focus on balance. Which, she is quick to add, does not mean 50:50 time sharing. It’s about giving something (business/family), the quality of time needed, when it needs it. “Time management was very important to me,” she explains. And of course, there’s the blocking of white noise. “Positivity also plays a very big role. I always stay away from negativity,” she says. “But more than anything else, it’s about self-sufficiency which nurtures self-belief and confidence.”
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