Samrat Amarnani is the managing director of Collars & Cuffs, a high-end tailor that has recently opened in Sunset Mall in Jumeirah, Dubai. After finishing his studies in the US 18 months ago, Mr Amarnani returned to the UAE to join the family business in textiles and tailoring, where he also manages other retail stores.
When did you first learn about the value of money?
Until the age of 12, I always flew first and business class, but then my dad said: "This is the point where you turn into a man, there are no luxuries for you anymore." It was economy from then on and that teaches you the value of money. Another early experience was when I went to college. I had a business scholarship, so my father gave me the budget to buy a BMW. I spoke to my sister about it and she said: "You always want to move up in life, so don't buy a BMW, go for a more economical car." So I bought a Nissan Altima. That definitely helped me when I moved back and drove one of the family's spare cars - a Toyota Camry. I didn't think twice about driving that whereas if I'd driven a BMW, maybe I would have. Now I drive a Porsche Cayenne.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I'm a bit of both. I know how much I have to spend every month and I always go under it. At college, I always had excess money from my budget. Indiana is a cheaper city to study in than London or Boston - they are way too expensive compared to what I used to pay.
What has been your biggest financial challenge?
Managing the budget for Collars & Cuffs. When you start a project like this, you have a budget of how much you can spend on inventory, fit out and rent and there are unexpected costs. It's the first project I've started from scratch, so it's a learning experience.
Why launch a high-end tailor?
My family has been in textiles and tailoring for the last 40 years and I have worked in the stores every summer since I was 14. Tailoring was always more of a sideline for the company until a couple of years ago, when I was back in the summer and started it off. We had a manager until I came back and then I expanded and moved to a new factory to take the workload for Collars & Cuffs and my other stores. As you delve deeper into it, you realise there is a big difference between good tailoring and just tailoring. There are customers who don't know much about suits - you could practically sell them a rubbish suit and tell them it's good and when they see a tear within a year, they won't know why. We want people to be assured that even if they don't know what they are doing, we know what we're doing.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?
In college I did, but I didn't want to involve my parents. Sometimes I'd overspend on a (holiday) break and come back and have to eat noodles for the rest of the term. I have no problems with that because I value money - I know where my base is. You should always be prepared for the worst because you never know when that day will come.
What has been your biggest financial lesson?
I learn financial lessons everyday. I manage 50-plus guys, so everyday you learn different aspects of the business and how to manage your finances. When I first moved back to the UAE when I finished college, I had the help of my managers and my father and then I learnt and grew from other people's mistakes, as well as my own.
What do you invest in?
Suits. A classic suit is timeless; it will last forever and never lose value if you go to the right tailor. If you pay Dh600 by going to some dingy shop in Bur Dubai, you're not going to get a long-lasting suit. You will get a suit that lasts only a year and then you'll see bubbles coming up on the lapel, shredding (of the fabric) and loose stitches. You literally pay for what you get. The most I've ever spent (on a suit) is Dh7,000. I have seven suits now, but it's just the start of the collection.
Why it is important to have a custom-made suit?
Because it says a lot about image and when you go into a business meeting feeling like your image is perfect, it gives you extra confidence and that helps you achieve success. Anyone who knows anything about suits will not be able to wear a ready-to-wear suit because they know what a right fit is. Nothing fits you as well as when a master tailor makes it to your body shape.
Do you plan for the future?
Definitely. When I came back, it was all about making some money, but that doesn't work. If you love what you are doing and you do it right, money will come. This is my own venture and expansion is just the start.