Dubai: Indian expatriate Deepak Arora, 67, won the tender to construct the Indian and Emirates Airline pavilions for Dubai Expo 2020. He is the managing director of DRA Group of companies.
Turn back the clock and it was a different story altogether.
His struggles were plentiful to get to where he is today. Yet, Arora says he never thought about it as a struggle.
“The dips in my life were never a struggle. I just took it in my stride and did what I needed to do,” Arora told Gulf News at his plush mansion -- a 60,000 square feet built-up area in Emirates Hills.
Turn back the clock
Arora came to the UAE in 1976. He had just completed his bachelor’s degree in architecture.
“While I was studying, there were some people from the UAE looking to employ people on an hourly basis. I applied for the job. I was young and rearing to start my career.”
Three days into the job, Arora was keen on more. “I saw people were coming only to make quick money. They were not contributing anything. On the third day of my job, I told my employer that I was not coming for the job anymore. I told them that I did not want money for free. I wanted to do something constructive and contribute towards something bigger,” Arora recalled.
“On a parting note, I told them, however, that if they wanted to reach out to me for something more permanent and serious, they could do so.” In two weeks, Arora got a call from the UAE employer. The company – based in Ras Al Khaimah – asked him to come and work in the country. “I still had three months left for college, so I could not commit.”
“I know there are no second opportunities. But back then, I thought if the job was meant for me it will still come to me, no matter what. Three months later, in November 1976, I landed in UAE,” said Arora, who was 24 then and wa ready to face anything out of his comfort zone.
Life in UAE in 1976
“The Union had been formed in 1971 and the country was progressing. I would not say infrastructure was in place, but from the stories I heard at the time from people who had come before, it was much better than what it was in the 1940s, '50s, '60s.” He said a common sight used to be cars getting stuck in the sand.
In 1977, there was a huge recession. The company where he worked was firing its employees and Arora was one of them. “Luckil,y I found another job – and a better one at that. The company was involved in building the township in Ras Al Khaimah and I got involved with the project,” recalled Arora.
His job involved a lot of town planning work – something that he was not taught in college as an architecture student.
To his bad luck, the company closed down six months later. This was the second time his career saw a shake-up of sorts.
“I was working on a pipeline project. And that came to a standstill. From the network I had built, I got the opportunity to work on another project. This time it was a poultry farm project. It was the first poultry farm project coming up in the UAE and I was appointed to do the supervision.”
Arora said he found a lot of flaws in how the construction was being planned out. “I challenged all that was being planned. By that time, I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to have my own company,” he said.
So, in 1980, he registered his first company and named it Deep Construction. The company was based in Ras Al Khaimah and the poultry farm project was the first job he received under his new company. Around that time, Arora was also looking to getting married. “My parents had seen a girl and I planned a visit to India to see her and get married.”
“Three months later, we were engaged on February 14.” He was set to get married in May the same year. However, when he returned to Ras Al Khaimah after his engagement, Arora found that the poultry project was going nowhere and it was shelved. He was back to square one.
“I was engaged. I had told my fiancé that I was the owner of the company. So I had to tell her that I no longer had a job. Of course I was honest with her and her family. I told them exactly what had happened. And they still agreed to go ahead with the wedding. In June, I got married. Until then, I was leading a bachelor’s life in a sharing accommodation. But now I had a wife. So the day my wife arrived in UAE that was the first day I leased an apartment in Sharjah. It was a one-bedroom apartment,” recalled an emotional Arora, who could not control his tears while talking about the past.
Today Arora, his wife, two sons, daughters–in–law and a grandchild live together in their 60,000 square feet Emirates Hills mansion.
Talk about rags to riches -- this is it! An example of how hard work, determination and a burning desire to be a successful entrepreneur can bring you the success you need.
Arora said moving to Sharjah seemed like a massive progress. “It felt that I was inching closer to my dreams of doing bigger things and taking on bigger projects.” He joined a private construction group and started working on different projects.
Today, Arora is managing director of D.R.A. International Group. The company was established in 1983 and consists of three sister concerns, namely City Diamond Contracting L.L.C. , Giant Star Trading L.L.C., and Meptech Electro Mechanical Contracting L.L.C. The companies have diversified their jobs from residential complexes to construction of offices, warehouses, logistics and industrial buildings dealing in steel and concrete structures. The company has further specialised in the field of Turnkey Services to its clients by providing most economical and functional designs with special care for aesthetics.
The turning point in Arora’s life, however, came when Jebel Ali Freezone (Jafza) started functioning. There was nothing much happening in Jebel Ali until 1990. Arora was contracted to build the Swarovski project. It was a special façade and the installation was done by Arora and his team of staff. The design includes several thousands of real Swarovski crystals in elevation. It is a stand-out building in Jafza.
The rest is history, as they say
“One project led to another. Till today, I have not marketed any of my projects. Work has come to me by word of mouth.” For example, in 2002, when Emaar launched Emirates Hills, there were four sample villas they had built. “I built my villa according to my design. Soon it became the fifth sample villa in Emirates Hills. Trust me, every Friday morning, we would have people from all over the UAE coming to see our house. Every Friday, we would have people popping into our villa to see how it was done up.”
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Till today Arora has built more than 150 villas in Emirates Hills.
“Hard work is the key. Stick to your principles and do honest work. Have a dream and stick to it, there is nothing and nobody who can stop you from succeeding. I never viewed the dips in my career path as failures. I just kept at what I wanted. I never chased money. I did my work with due diligence and money came.”