x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dads and their girls at work

The Life: Like many fathers and daughters, Ajai and Devayani Dayal don't always see eye-to-eye, which makes working together all the more interesting.

Devayani Dayal, left, and her father Ajai Kumar together run She Moves, which sells dance clothing and footwear. Pawan Singh / The National
Devayani Dayal, left, and her father Ajai Kumar together run She Moves, which sells dance clothing and footwear. Pawan Singh / The National

Like many fathers and daughters, Ajai Kumar Dayal and Devayani Dayal don't always see eye to eye - which can make life at their Dubai office, where the pair sit across from each other all day, interesting, to say the least.

When it comes to criticising each other's work, for instance, "there's no tact", says the daughter, Devayani, who set-up the retail shop She Moves, which sells dance clothing and footwear.

"We keep poking each other: 'Did you do this?'" says her father, Ajai, the general manager.

Whether it's been the seemingly smooth relations between Donald and Ivanka Trump, or the tumultuous public battles between Shari and Sumner Redstone of National Amusements in the US, father and daughter teams have made a strong impact in the world of business.

In recent years, more father and daughter teams have also been springing up in this part of the world, says Hischam El Agamy, the founder and executive director of the Tharawat Family Business Forum, a networking and educational consultancy for family businesses in the Arab region.

Mr El Agamy, for one, works with two of his daughters in thefamily business. One runs Tharawat's forum, while the other manages the production of Tharawat Magazine.

At She Moves, the Dayals are hoping to leave a mark of their own. But they have a long way to go.

Devayani grew up in Dubai, where she spent years learning ballet. She then obtained a dance degree in Canada and spent a couple of years "in her starving-artist phase", says her father. After that, Devayani pursued an MBA before returning to Dubai.

While she helped a local company to set up a chain of beauty shops in parts of the Gulf, Devayani kept looking for a way out of that job so that she could launch her own venture. "Dad and I did some research together, and we started to notice there was a gap in the female fitness section," says Devayani.

"Many dance schools have a tiny shop attached, just to facilitate the needs of their students, but there's nobody who says 'I'm a person who runs the store and will help you in an active lifestyle'," she says.

In March, after careful deliberation with her father, Devayani decided to start a business, She Moves, to sell dance clothing and footwear as well as activewear.

"Devayani was mostly on her own, and in June I decided I would come and help because we could see there's potential in this for it to grow," says Ajai.

So he quit his job, where he had overseen the retail division of a large company and spent years learning about marketing, sales and distribution. And he joined She Moves, which is registered under Devayani's name.

This means "she is my sponsor" in the UAE, says Ajai.

These days, they are working to expand their distribution through their website, SheMovesOnline.com, which delivers to cities across the Gulf and to countries beyond the Gulf, including Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

They've already overhauled the online portal once to introduce better features, although there are still many other things on their to-do list, including talking to potential investors about expansion.

There's also been no shortage of challenges.

After Ajai quit his job and came on board, "it also meant he said goodbye to a really nice paycheck", says Devayani. "Mom decided to get a job to support us while we worked on this. Suddenly there was more pressure to become profitable sooner."

Another test has been trying to keep business talk to a minimum at home, says Ajai.

"We try not to talk too much about business at dinner. At times we switch off and don't talk business at all."