Sharjah: For decades, he taught Indian expats in the UAE and their families back home to save money and avoid debt traps. His phone counselling service brought back hundreds from the brink of suicide.
As he completes 50 years of his life in the UAE, veteran Indian financial guru-cum-social worker K.V. Shamsudheen says the COVID-19 pandemic has taught UAE residents what multiple financial recessions couldn’t.
There have been multiple waves of financial recession in the past few decades globally when Shamsudheen, who is also the director of Barjeel Geojit Financial Services, was actively involved in educating the expat community about financial discipline.
However, none of that has had the economic impact that the once-in-a-century health crisis had in just months after it was declared a global pandemic, the Sharjah-based expert observed.
“COVID-19 has affected the rich and the poor and has brought in lessons of frugality to most people’s lives globally. We have learnt to cut costs and live within our means, as the income has been cut short for millions in the world.”
“During the lockdown, most people did not buy new clothes and controlled food purchases. People who complained that they could never save are saying they did manage to save money during the stay-home period.”
The pandemic and after
He said most people were forced to cut costs and live with salary cuts.
“We learnt we can live with financial discipline during the pandemic. Had people started saving the 30 per cent salary that many companies have now deducted, they wouldn’t have felt the pinch.”
From big fat weddings, families have resorted to simple marriage ceremonies. “Marriages can be a simple affair as per the beliefs in most religions. Still people wanted to hire event management companies and splash money. Now, with the COVID restrictions, they are back to simple ceremonies and are saving so much money.”
Savings is never put in your pocket by your company even if it is paying you in six digits, Shamsudheen reminds people. “It depends on your attitude and will power. You should be determined to keep aside some per cent of your income.”
His winning formula for the expats here is: Save 20 per cent of your salary if you live with your family or save 30 per cent if you are staying alone in the UAE.
As per a systematic retirement investment plan advised by Shamsudheen, if an Indian worker makes a monthly investment of just Rs1,000 (Dh50.45) for 30 years, the expat can get a return of more than Rs3.5 million at the time of retirement.
“Save first and live with the balance,” he said, quoting Warren Buffett who is considered one of the most successful investors of all times.
With a life mission of converting each listener of his awareness classes into a frugal person with an investment that will provide a stable income when they leave the UAE for good, Shamsudheen is now urging his compatriots and other UAE expats to be thrifty during the post-pandemic era also.
“People who haven’t even seen me have called to express gratitude that they are returning home with enough savings as per my guidance they received through my awareness sessions. At the same time, there are others who have called to express their regret that they did not listen to me. My request to them is to start at least now and be frugal post COVID-19 also.”
Dealing with job loss
If expats lose jobs, he said it is better for them to leave the country if they can’t find a new job and their liabilities increase here. “If your salary is cut, I would ask you not to go back home, but learn to live with financial prudence.”
Sharing more tips learnt from COVID, he said everyone should adapt to the new normal to even secure their jobs.
“We cannot predict how the world is going to change. There could be revolutions in many sectors. How we can live with the times depends upon how we tune ourselves into adapting to the new normal now.”
He pointed out that the last World Economic Forum predicted that jobs in 40 trade sectors will become non-existent by 2025 due to the use of artificial intelligence and robots. “We have started using all that in a much more vigorous way due to safety restrictions on human interactions during the pandemic. So many jobs are going to be non-existent at a faster pace.”
Shamsudheen, who landed in the UAE when it was the Trucial States with just two dollars in his pocket said thousands of people who invested as per his advice since 1970 are living happily in India and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
Through his trust registered in India, Pravasi Bandhu Trust, he conducts financial education classes, workshops, programmes in various Indian media.
“I am glad to say that so far, I have conducted 582 classes across the Gulf countries and India. I have done over 1,000 radio programmes, over 800 TV shows to spread awareness about financial discipline, saving and investments and life styles changes for a better and peaceful tomorrow. During the pandemic, I moved online and did awareness sessions through 45 webinars.”
Spearheading many campaigns
The free phone counselling service, Sandhwanam, that he had started in 2006, had received more than 1,000 calls from Indians who were in deep depression and had tendencies to commit suicide.
Back from the brink
Helping bring them back from the brink of suicide is one of the greatest achievements in his life, says Shamsudheen who has also been spearheading many campaigns to champion the causes of the Indian expat community by constantly sending memorandums to Indian authorities.
A recipient of several awards and recognitions for his community service, he is also a member of prominent community groups and business councils.
An online celebration of his 50 years in the UAE recently saw eminent Emirati writer and researcher Sheikh Sultan Bin Sooud Al Qassemi, who is the chairman of Shamsudheen’s company, and prominent Indian community members thanking him for his great services to the community.
Expressing his gratitude to the leaders and people of the UAE, Shamsudheen also thanked his wife Samiyya, sons Sameesh and Shamil and other family members for supporting his mission to change lives.