Dubai: From being a seasoned diplomat, Paras Shahdadpuri - chairman, Nikai Group of Companies - decided to change the course of his career at 42, something many may not have the courage to do.
Shahdadpuri, now 75, last served in the Indian mission as an Economic and Commercial Head in Libya before he decided to give it all up for his entrepreneurial dreams.
Getting 'stuck' in Dubai
1986 is the year Shahdadpuri considers perhaps one of the most defining years of his lifetime as it was when he took bold decisions, treaded new paths and discovered new beginnings.
It was also the year Shahdadpuri started a business dealing with garments in London and ended up in Dubai - which would ultimately become his home and business center.
Towards the end of the year, in 1986, he was on a flight to India from London via Dubai. As luck would have it, Shahdadpuri missed his connecting flight to India from Dubai.
Shahdadpuri approached a immigration officer at the airport and spoke to him in broken Arabic.
He recalled, “I had picked up basic conversation [skills] in Arabic during my foreign service postings in Saudi Arabia and Libya. I asked the officer if I could get a day’s visa to see the city before catching my flight back to the India. To my utter surprise the gentleman spoke Hindi. He asked me, 'Bolo baba kya chahiye?'"
A translation in English means, “Tell me, what do you want.”
That night Shahdadpuri found himself in the middle of a bustling happening city. He was put up in a hotel right in the heart of the city – in Deira.
“It felt like mini-India. Besides, the city had latest technology, infrastructure, mix of cultures. The city had everything. I fell in love with the city. I went home to London and told my wife I wanted to relocate to Dubai. The decision had been taken," he added.
Starting up in Dubai, however, needed him to be brave and face the risks of entrepreneurship.
Shahdadpuri said, “I maybe a Sindhi and as you know Sindhis are famous business people. But nobody in my family has treaded the path into entrepreneurship. My father and brother are both service professional[s]. So when I told my parents I was quitting my job to start a business, all eyes were on me. Of course I had their support through and through.”
He recalled how he started the initial set up in Dubai inside a 5,000 square feet space of warehouse.
“It was in Zabeel Road. I could not afford to rent an office space. So I started leasing a space inside a warehouse. It is from here I started the import-export business. I built a small room inside the warehouse. I sub-leased half of the area which fetched me a rent of Dh42,000 per annum.” he said.
Starting from scratch
He added: “I used to buy in Deira and sell in Bur Dubai and make some good profit. The first year my profit was Dh250,000. Remember everything was new to me. Running an office, a business or the product which I was dealing with. It was all new to me. But I used my common sense and I treaded the path slowly and surely.
"I did not borrow even when I started the business. I used the capital I had saved. The only assurance I had was a cousin who gave me some funds as a back-up. It was psychologically great for me. But I did not touch his money at all.”
Today, Shahdadpuri’s company, ‘The Nikai Group’ enjoys an annual turnover close to two billion dirhams, according to its chairman.
He started with trading in commodities in 1988 and chose Dubai to be the headquarters of his business activity and this laid the foundation of the NIKAI Group of Companies – a diversified business group that has forayed into Electronics, Home Appliances, IT, FMCG and Retail Food Chain.
Shahdadpuri, also affectionately known in business circles as a ‘gentleman and a statesman’, has won a number of prestigious awards including the Bharat Shiromani Award; owner of a Superbrand. He has earned the reputation of a philanthropist, taking deep pride in serving the community.is a global conglomerate built on the promise of ‘Reliability’. Under the leadership of the diplomat-turned entrepreneur, the group of companies has grown into an international operation from a humble trading enterprise in a time span of two decades.
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Shahdadpuri has been honored with many accolades and titles for serving the business community. He received the ‘CEO International Achievement Award for 2012’ at power brands hall of fame and was hailed for his contribution to the Global Electronic Sector during the Middle East Business Leaders’ Summit in 2013. Forbes listed him as one of the top Indian leaders in UAE and he has been featured as 100 Most Influential Global Indians.
Indian man, Japanese brand?
Nikai's name has reached global consumers due to Shahdadpuri.
He said, “Nikai was a brand in Japan not dealing in electronics but some small instrumentation and watches. That company was not active. We approached them and we told them we want to buy this brand. We gave them a compensation and we took the name.
"The brand today [under the leadership of Shahdadpuri] is registered in more than 100 countries. We supply to around 60 countries in the world. We have our own offices and distribution network in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt."
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Shahdadpuri added, "Today Nikai is a name bigger than other brands. I am proud that which has been nurtured by me, we have reached a level that we are counted among the top three four brands in the world. It is a huge satisfaction that I have been able to create a legacy."
Was it a struggle?
Shahdadpuri said, “Sure was. But I could not have come through it all without the support of my wife. She is a pillar of strength. When I told her I was giving up my job – which was rather sought after – to start a business, she did not bat an eyelid."
"She simply asked me to go for it. We had two school going children aged 15 and 12. There was little saving to fall back on. But I knew there was more to life than moving files. There was a gut feeling I would do well. I felt an urge and I felt I would succeed. Rest, time would tell," he added.
Shahdadpuri attributes his success to his base, the United Arab Emirates, and said, "When I came to [the] UAE, I did not have money, a property to fall back on, nor did I know this place well enough. I did not have good banking relationship or understood the product I was dealing with. We were able to do it all thanks to the UAE, the government."