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Yunib Siddiqui, the chief executive and owner of Jones the Grocer in the UAE, says it is best to follow one's instinct. Pawan Singh / The National
Yunib Siddiqui, the chief executive and owner of Jones the Grocer in the UAE, says it is best to follow one's instinct. Pawan Singh / The National

The myth-busting entrepreneur at Jones the Grocer

There is a degree of myth attached to entrepreneurship. Yunib Siddiqui, the chief executive and owner of Jones the Grocer in the UAE, gets to the truth.

There is a degree of myth attached to entrepreneurship.

It is often portrayed as a secret formula a lucky few are born with, or something you can plan, document and build for yourself.

The truth is more basic and lies somewhere in between the two.

One of the questions I am most often asked is about how I got into business. Here is what I have learnt and how others who are interested in building a venture can get started.

Generate a business idea

The first and arguably most important element is a business idea. The simplest ideas are often the most successful. Ideas stem out of a passion, hobbies, casual observation or careful research. But remember having an idea is not exclusive to an entrepreneur. We've all had business ideas at some point but very few of us become entrepreneurs.

I discovered Jones the Grocer on a gloomy Saturday morning in London in April 2008 while reading a magazine and watching a show called Saturday Kitchen on television. A feature article in the magazine on the opening of a branch of the Australian gourmet food store in Singapore caught my eye. I picked up the phone and called the Singapore store and left a message. Two days later, I was on a plane to Singapore to meet with the owners. I set out unsure as to where to locate Jones but after a stop-off in Dubai, on my way to Singapore, I decided on the UAE. We agreed terms just a few weeks after.

Follow your instinct

The next most important thing is your gut instinct. Chances are high your first instinct is the correct one.

After spending weeks on a business plan I began looking for sites in Dubai. The market was at its peak and developers and landlords were leasing sites at rates that were far ahead of what I had budgeted in my business plan. Most did not return my calls as the market was dominated by big players who always had the pick of the best sites.

Something also told me Jones would be better suited outside a mall. I persisted and stumbled upon a site in Abu Dhabi where the numbers made sense and the landlord (Aldar) was supportive. I broached the idea with my two initial fellow shareholders and both baulked at the idea of the first site not being in Dubai.

Furthermore, the site had been turned down by some big name brands. My instincts told me otherwise. I persisted despite the two initial shareholders pulling out of the project at the last minute.

Act on the idea

Once you have settled on an idea you must put it into action. This involves broadly assessing the risks and opportunities. Try to convert the risks you see into opportunities and evolve your idea while maintaining momentum.

Perhaps bounce your idea off a few close friends or family but remember not to lose sight of your instinct.

I made a list of the risks and opportunities and began thinking of how to handle them one by one. As the site was not in a mall, not fully occupied and not completely built, I really needed to get comfortable with the layout.

The only way to do this was to spend as much time there as possible. I remember spending a week just watching cars come into the development in the morning and leaving at the end of the working day. I discovered more than 80 per cent were top-of-the-line models.

I also stumbled across a small travel agent only open to tenants of the building. After talking with the staff, I discovered that while business was brisk, there were hardly any economy-class tickets being issued. First class and business were the norm.

I crossed off two key risks - footfall and average spend. Finally, trust your business idea. This will help your attain your dream and become an entrepreneur.

Yunib Siddiqui is the chief executive and owner of Jones the Grocer in the UAE

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