NAT 200813 Rizwan Sajan5-1597931494985
Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman, Danube Image Credit: Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Patience, resilience, compassion and persistence — these are the lessons that Danube Chairman Rizwan Sajan has learnt during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Dubai-based businessman says that despite the odds, he has resisted from firing his staff, though some salary cuts were necessary for the survival of his business.

See more

Once a street vendor in the western Indian metropolis of Mumbai, he says his tough childhood taught him to stay equipped for the worst and stand tall amid negativity. But COVID-19 has fired qualities in him that were never tapped into before.

“I always thought grit, determination and dollops of luck transformed my life. While that must still be intact, COVID-19 has rounded my personality and left me wiser.”

Sajan says he knows the importance of having a job, salary and regular income. “This is one of the reasons I did my best not to lay off my employees during the pandemic. I did have to cut salaries of employees by 20 to 30 per cent. But I have promised them that I will reverse it if they work hard to get my profit margins back to pre-COVID times. This way, I have not disrupted their lives. That is the least I can do for the people who helped build my empire.” he explained.

Running a business is not a one-man show, says Sajan. “It is a team effort where a think tank comes together and puts their best foot forward. I am just a motivator, a leader, the face of the company. The hard work is all by my employees.”

Other lessons

Sajan says he made the best use of this time to bond with his family during the national sterilisation drive which forced everyone to stay indoors.

“Every day felt like a weekend. We played indoor sports, swam, sang, danced, had so much of fun together. The family bonding was at its peak for me during the sterilisation drive. When it was over, my wife said she wished it had continued. At that moment, I realised how important it is being around a family. We felt safe, secure with each other and this set me thinking how important this must be for my staff as well. They too want the love and security of their families. Disrupting that system was not an option,” he says.

Sajan and his staff, along with help from some friends, have helped 15,000 distressed families with food and groceries during the pandemic.

“We all know that desperate times call for desperate measures and every organisation is putting in its best efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19. I have learnt from the pandemic that it can never be about you. There are people in worse situations and you have to stop thinking about yourself and your situation. Reach out to the one who is worse off than you.”

As a company, the Danube Group followed guidelines laid down by the government to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Ninety per cent of employees were allowed to work from home. “I feel lucky to be living in the UAE where the government is doing so much to help businesses limp back to normality. As a resident and investor, I have to do my bit as well to help and the government and its people,” he adds.