Dubai: When she landed in the UAE in 2008, following her marriage soon after her graduation, Indian expatriate Haseena Nishad was all set for the perfect life of a homemaker just like her three sisters back home. Little did she know then that she would eventually be stepping into the world of business, supporting her entrepreneur husband Nishad Hussain, eventually becoming the managing director of a company with thousands of employees.
Today, the 32-year-old woman hailing from a conventional community in rural Kerala is at the helm of World Star Holdings that has diversified verticals in manpower, contracting, facilities management and real estate.
“Ever since I landed here, I used to hear about the company’s activities from my husband on a daily basis,” Haseena told Gulf News. So she knew how things worked in the business field. Her understanding of the tricks of the trade and the issues that one had to face grew day by day, even though she was focused on raising her three children.
'Business was out of question'
She said it was when all their children started going to school in 2014 that the couple decided that Haseena would join Hussain in running the business.
“When my youngest child started going to play school, I felt I had a lot of time that I could use productively. While I was studying, I always wanted to work in the future. But doing business was out of the question as nobody from my parents’ families was into business — let alone women. Though my husband’s family is into business, the other daughters-in-law in the family have been stay-at-home mums,” she added.
Haseena said it was Hussain who encouraged her to try her hands at business. “Anyway, my graduation was in commerce and it stood me in good stead,” she said.
Soon, she took charge of the company’s main office in Sharjah, while her husband focused on expanding the business in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Haseena said she soon got used to the life of a businesswoman, dealing with the day-to-day activities of the group, while also focusing on workers’ welfare and finding timely solutions for issues. All these without making any change in her conventional dressing style or family traditions.
“We have always given utmost importance to the wellbeing of our workers. Their wellbeing and satisfaction is the mantra behind our success and I take personal interest in ensuring that it is implemented. We feel blessed to be supporting more than 5,000 families while we offer the best possible facilities to all our employees in labour accommodations.”
Dealing with the pandemic
World Star has been part of the construction of many prestigious projects in the UAE. Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, Dubai Mall, Palm Jumeirah, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum to name a few. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Haseena said the company continued to work with various projects, including Expo 2020 Dubai and Etihad Rail.
Dealing with the pandemic has helped them learn many lessons also, she said. “We learned many things, which would have otherwise taken years. Especially, we made drastic improvements technologically when we had to find new online solutions during the pandemic.”
While several companies in many sectors faced major setbacks and closures, Haseena said her company continued to prosper by following the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols.
“Since construction work was not impacted during the lockdown, we were very much active in business. We reduced the number of employees on company buses and at the sites, conducted frequent PCR tests and also allocated a separate labour accommodation to quarantine the infected workers. Since our staff made sure they followed the guidelines strictly, we did not get impacted much by the pandemic. We did not sack anyone or reduce the salaries of our employees and we got all of them vaccinated also.”
Juggling family and business
Haseena also gave birth to her fourth child during the pandemic. She said she was determined never to make any compromises with her dream of running a happy family. “I never failed in spending time with my children. I have always attended all their school programmes and always helped them with their studies and took care of them. At the same time, I did not want the business to suffer when I concentrated on them. So, I have been juggling business and home, like many others.”
Haseena said she used to feel stressed only during her children’s exams. Prior to the pandemic, she used to have only a part-time housemaid for help. “Then online schooling became a big headache. I really struggled with all three of them taking online classes. I was forced to keep a fulltime maid. When I became pregnant again, my parents also came over to support me. Now, I leave my six-month-old baby with my mother when I go to office.”
Haseena said sending the children to school from day one of resumption of physical classes turned out to be a right decision. “I had never faced any adverse comments for entering into business, though it is not too common among women from my place. There were people who criticised me when I sent the children to school when physical classes began. Yet, I think it was the right decision as my children have adapted very well to the ‘new normal’ and are not missing out on the important aspects of school life.”
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Golden Visa holder
It was also Haseena’s wish that all her children should be sponsored by her when she gets a UAE Golden Visa. One of the latest recipients of the UAE Golden Visa, Haseena said she did not prefer to be under the Golden Visa of her husband, who is the chairman of the group. “I wanted to get my own Golden Visa as an entrepreneur and I wanted to sponsor my children. My husband happily agreed as he always supports me working independently.”
Hussain, 36, said his wife has been his right hand in expanding his business empire. “She gives her personal touch to everything she does. She is super smart in business and finds quick solutions to every problem. I’m sure all these happened because we were here in the UAE.”
The young entrepreneurs thanked the UAE for their massive growth and said they planned to expand the business even further.