Pushkar Thakkar, 39, was a young engineering graduate from India when he came to Dubai in 2006. Earning a monthly salary of Dh2,500 at his first job, Thakkar achieved his dream to be an entrepreneur in 10 years after starting a firefighting business in the UAE in 2016.
Entrepreneurial beginnings of a fire and safety business owner
Hailing from a middle-class family, Thakkar’s entrepreneurial journey began by learning a few critical lessons from his father – a small business owner – and his mother, who taught him how to use and invest money wisely.
“In my growing years, whenever I asked for money, I would only get it if it was well within reason. I don't think the term ‘pocket money’ ever existed with any middle-class family back then,” said Thakkar.
"My dad owned his own business, we have seen both the ups and downs, and so somewhere we were well prepared to deal with the success and challenges of business.
“My mother was very strict since I was an extremely naughty kid and would keep demanding new things all the time. But, she would give me Rs5 (25fils) every week to buy my favourite snack at my school canteen in Mumbai, India. What I learned from this was when you wait for something you love, the value only increases multifold."
From a very young age, Thakkar’s vision was always to be a successful entrepreneur, someday.
“My first job in Dubai was at a swimming pool construction and maintenance company, had nothing to do with my educational background, but it suited my desperate job-related needs at the time.
“Soon after, I joined a fire fighting company in its sales division and learnt the challenges of the market and the knack to deal with those. This laid a solid foundation to realising my goal of being an entrepreneur,” Thakkar added.
“This opportunity helped me set my foot in this city and understand the market. It also helped me develop many contacts, many of whom I am still working with today. I was confident that this industry will always have the potential to flourish since it falls under necessity and not luxury.”
In about four years, Thakkar decided to venture out on his own. “It was always my dream to become an entrepreneur, and once I was confident about my market knowledge in this city, I decided to take the leap of faith.”
Thakkar’s colleague, a technical expert in the same field, decided to join hands and together, they started Delmont Fire & Safety in Ras Al Khor Industrial area in 2016.
How did you manage funding for initial expenses to set up a business in Dubai?
The business was self-funded by Thakkar and his partner Murugan Rajaraman; they invested Dh140,000 to launch the company.
"The money we put in the business was from our respective career savings, amassed while working at our previous jobs. Since I already had a plan of starting my business someday, I was anyway saving 40 per cent of my income in various verticals. My partner, too, was of the same ideology when it came to savings and investments. So this helped us when we decided to start our own business.
“When we started, we knew we had to be very mindful about our expenses as we were putting almost all of our savings into this. We had decided to have a small office set up, visa expenses for our first five technicians, investing in some machines to thread the fire-fighting pipes and so on.”
Besides that, there were also expenses for obtaining the trade licence. These include trade licence and office set up cost (Dh30,000 for the first year), visa expenses for the team (Dh40,000), machinery expenses (Dh20,000), and other requirements such as office van for transportation etc., which came to Dh50,000, Thakkar revealed.
Here are a couple of critical money lessons Thakkar shares from his entrepreneurial journey:
Lesson #1: Don’t pocket profits in the starting years of business; instead, invest the money you earned back in your business.
Thakkar stated that one should not expect profits for at least the first three years from a new business.
"The rule I learnt from my father was to keep investing the money you earn for the first few years in your business itself. Set aside money for taxes and other unforeseen expenses. And keep your overheads as minimal as possible."
• Always make wise investments and do not invest all your saving in the same place. Scatter your investments and never invest the money you cannot afford to lose.
• Always be honest. Be honest with your money, and it will only bring you luck. Earning cash by stepping on someone else's feet will never get you profit or happiness. You should be able to go to bed with a clean heart and mind.
• Climb up the ladder slowly and steadily. Just because your business is flourishing right now does not guarantee it will never see a downtime. Always be prepared for tough times and keep aside enough to help you fight the challenges and bounce back.
Lesson #2: Do not splurge if it's not necessary.
From his first job in Dubai at a swimming pool contracting and maintenance company, Thakkar earned merely Dh2,500 monthly salary back in 2006. He stated that the "greatest lesson learned at that time was to spend wisely and still manage to save whatever you can".
Thakkar said he practises the same norm in his business today, adding that "even if you can, do not splurge if it's not necessary. My mantra has always been spend and save wisely. We give in our temptations once in a while but are also very mindful of our expenses and liabilities".
What has been your go-to savings and investment strategy?
Thakkar always believed in diversified savings plan; as follows the norm to not put all eggs in one basket.
"I believe having some savings here in Dubai and to have an equal amount of savings in your home country. We have invested in real estate back in our country, so there is a certain kind of security at the back of our minds. Apart from real estate, I have saved in mutual funds, stocks with a small portion in cryptocurrencies.”
Retirement is still far, far away for him for now, but he is ultimately keen to retire in Dubai. "As per the laws, whatever investments are required to make my retirement in this country smooth, I will go for it," he said.