Dhananjay Datar
Dhananjay Datar at the launching ceremony of his autobiography in Dubai on Thursday Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Perseverance, hard work, integrity, etiquette and patience are the five principles of success, according to Dhananjay Datar, managing director and chairman of Al Adil Trading. Datar, a household name today.

Datar, who once struggled to meet the basic necessities of life, has openly spoken about his modest beginnings in his autobiography to be released in Dubai today amid the company’s 38th anniversary celebrations.

He said his childhood made him frugal, self-reliant and prepared him for challenges. Datar, who lived in a small village called Shirkhed in India before moving here, said: “My lunch box contained roti and chutney. My uniform was patched and generally worn out. I wore the same uniform every day through the year.”

However, at the age of 16, Datar secured a passport. “My father, who came to Dubai, sent me an air ticket, along with detailed travel instructions in a letter. Back in those days, phone calls were very expensive,” Datar said.

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First trip to Dubai

On February 26, 1984, he took a plane for the first time in his life for his trip to Dubai. “There was another young boy travelling with me on the same flight. The lady at the check-in counter was full of admiration for us and she decided to upgrade us from Economy to Business Class. So, on my first flight ever, I travelled Business Class! For a poor boy, you can imagine how big this was.”

Datar’s autobiography, titled ‘Masala King — a journey of Memoirs’, is said to be an ode to everyone who contributed to the success of Al Adil Trading that marks 38 years of its presence in the UAE and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“I have shared my five principles of success in the book which also highlights my tips to budding entrepreneurs on how to face financial challenges in a volatile market and come out of it successfully. There is also an emphasis on the importance of fitness and keeping good health. There is no point in all the money you make if your health is not good,” Datar said.

Al Adil, which has 50 outlets across GCC and India, also has its own manufacturing unit in the Al Quoz, where it produces masalas, spices, pickles, flours, pulses and other Indian foodstuff items under the Peacock brand name. It also has an Indian arm, Masala King Exports in Mumbai (India), which exports Indian pulses.

Datar said: “The secret of our success is that we know the pulse of the expatriate Indian community. Also, success is a journey, not a destination.”

Business lessons

“Customer is king,” continued Datar. “We have listened to our customers and delivered good-quality products to the best of our ability. Next is profit. Every business must be done with the aim of earning profit — but, in an ethical manner. A profitable business fetches success.”

Datar also believes that entrepreneurship should be taught at an early age. “Even if it is your own children, teach them to be independent.”

“Our shops at first were managed in a traditional way. There was no system in place to arrange the products properly. But we changed all that for the benefit of our customers. We did not want them to queue up for their items,” Datar added.

Datar said that post-pandemic, it became clear that one of the most successful businesses to be in is the food industry. “No one stopped eating. We took the benefit from the economy of scale and passed it on to our customers. Since we buy food items in bulk, we passed the benefits of pricing to our customers. Our prices are reasonable,” Datar explained.

Battling depression

Datar, who has also fought depression, shares his experience in his autobiography. He has written about how he resorted to yoga and meditation to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. “Mental illness is a big issue. Yet, it is one that is not openly talked about. When you deal with it and face it, you get great benefits. There is no shame in saying you suffered a mental illness. What is key in overcoming it is to let the world know. This is why I wrote about it in my autobiography,” he said.