Dubai: Vision and mission statements have a deep meaning for Indian expat businessman Dr Mustafa Taherali Saasa. He swears by them as he talks about his family’s phenomenal success in the UAE.
“Vision is seeing the invisible – this is what I said when I was conferred a doctorate in leadership and business management,” he says, pointing to how the Rulers of this land were able to visualise the “beauty around us today” many years ago.
“But here’s the thing. It wasn’t just them who believed in their vision. The conviction was shared by every inhabitant who worked - and continues to work - in alignment to make the impossible possible. The success of the UAE lies in the fact that its vision and mission are in perfect alignment.”
The Saasa legacy
Drawing from his own family’s experience, he narrates how his father Taherali Abdul Hussain Saasa, founder of the Deira-based Saasa Traders, a global supplier of high-calibre construction equipment and tools, dared to dream when he sailed into Sharjah way back in 1958.
“When he stepped out of Sharjah Airport, he first set foot in the sands. There was nothing except for the vast expanse of the sea and the empty desert at the time. But look where we are today,” he says.
Saasa, who belongs to the distinctive Bohra Muslim community from Ahmedabad in India, takes great pride in how his father’s success in the UAE has taken the name of his family and community to great heights.
“By a special decree from the Rulers, my father was allowed to set up his business without a sponsorship. He was well-versed in Arabic, Persian, English, Hindi and Gujarati and was widely respected for the benchmarks he established for quality tools. Companies in Sheffield and other places in the West, who dealt with him back then, remain loyal customers still after 60 years. Any old-timer in Dubai knew him. And if any of our community members happened to visit a government department, it was not uncommon for them to be asked if they were from ‘Jamaat Saasa’, a euphemism almost for ‘Jamaat Bohra’,” claims Mustafa.
He says the landmark Saasa Traders was housed in a property on Al Sabqa Street that was rented for Rs20 in 1958. “But in 1998, when the family moved from the place to another building in Al Nasr Square – my brother Murtaza who is the sole owner of Saasa Traders now still runs it from here - the rent had gone up to Dh250,000. This gives you an idea of how Dubai and our business grew over the years.”
‘Why I studied criminology, emotional intelligence’
The 1968-born Mustafa, who joined his father’s business in 1990 but has since branched out into diverse fields, says he went on to acquire two Masters degrees in Advance Criminology and Emotional intelligence during those years.
“There was a reason for this. I felt as our business grew, we needed to streamline our processes with robust checks and balances. There could be no room for pilferages, which were often ignored in the past as the margins were high and the balance sheets healthy. A course in criminology helped us have a better hold on the processes, just as the emotional intelligence programme helped us better understand our customers from different backgrounds and parts of the world.”
Mustafa, who has emerged as a business leader in his own right, is not only into trading, but also manufacturing and services. “We have three sustainable manufacturing joint ventures – a vehicle tracking systems unit, a joint venture to make pencils out of waste and a herbal cosmetics unit in India. Besides, we also do dispute resolution for freehold properties in the UAE, succession planning and leadership coaching for creating a strong culture-based performance in organisations.”
A prominent face of the 25,000-strong Bohra community in the UAE, Mustafa, like his father, is well-connected in circles that matter, not only in the UAE and India, but globally too. He says he feels privileged to receive invitations from heads of state and others for a variety of occasions. “Among the highlights on this front are the two times I was invited in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi as a guest of a former President.”
A man of many pursuits
Mustafa, the eldest of four siblings, says, “Carrying on the legacy of my father, who set a tall precedent for us, is more of a privilege than a challenge. He taught us to work hard. I am a strong believer in hard work and the blessings of our elders.”
The 53 year old, who is married and has a daughter and a son, considers his mother Kubra his greatest source of inspiration. “The values she instilled in us have held us in good stead. She taught us never to fight for money and never to forget someone who has been kind to us, even if it meant giving us a glass of water,” he says.
Despite his work commitments, Mustafa, who lives in Sharjah with his family, makes time for a number of pursuits.
Proud to list them, he says, “I love biking and own a Triumph Rocket 3 2300 cc. It’s the world’s biggest commercially produced bike. I ride horses too. I am a mountaineer and have scaled the Himalayan Glaciers in 2017. And yes, I am also a rally driver.”
Making time for these many interests amid the demands of his work can sometimes pose a challenge. But where there’s a vision, there’s a way.