Dubai trading company boss goes with the flow
Ibrahim bin Shaheen, the chief executive of Dubai-based DGT, a general trading company, always tries to visit the local supermarkets when he travels overseas. The 40-year-old Emirati entrepreneur says he looks for opportunities to expand the product line he brings to the UAE. He currently imports bottled water from Turkey besides trading in other beverages, as well as running a luxury car rental service. But the long hours at work have paid off. Having set up business in 2003, he won in the Emirati Business of the Year category of the Gulf Capital SME Awards this year.
What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?
Throughout the week I work long hours and do not give enough time to my family. But over the weekends I do not work. I am with my four children, two boys and two girls, aged between 10 and four. In the winter we go camping and biking in the desert near Al Badayer [Hatta] or Al Madam areas. In the summer, we mostly go to malls or stay in a different hotel each weekend. We also go travelling, to Europe, for instance.
What is your favourite hobby?
I love to swim, I love to bike and I love to introduce new ideas and create new opportunities. When I travel abroad I go to the supermarket and see what people are putting in their trolleys. I look at the new products there and check which are the fast-moving products. And then I analyse how much a product can sell for in the UAE, or whether it is acceptable in our country.
What can’t you live without?
My family, including my 70-year-old mother, my wife and children. And also my friends. They tell me off for not meeting up enough and I am trying to be more organised to get back my social life.
What do you consider the secret to your success?
My family. They allow me to give time to my business and they are patient. I can read it in their eyes that they want me to spend more time with them but they want me to succeed. Also, I respect my competitors.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
I am an entrepreneur. We should not confuse emotions and business. I have an IT background and when I started doing business, it was in IT. But I soon realised competition is high in the sector and I wanted to find other opportunities and moved to food and beverage. In 2009, I moved to importing the bottled water brand Sirma from Turkey. Now I sell it across 4,000 sales points in the UAE, including supermarkets and gas stations. So it’s all about finding opportunities. I would also advise young Emirati entrepreneurs to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them now. I received immense help from the Dubai Government, the Khalifa Fund in Abu Dhabi and Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development. With their support, I am constructing my own warehouse in Dubai. By having your own assets, you reduce expenses. Moreover, some Emirati businesses are a one-man show, this is wrong. They need to respect the corporate governance structure.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
There is no such balance, I am workaholic. I should have balance in my life, I know. I wake up at 4:30am and take the children to school. They love to talk to me during the drive, though it is only for 25 minutes.
How do you relax after the working day?
I arrive back home from work around 7 or 8pm, sometimes 9pm. My office is half an hour from home. I talk with my wife and share my ideas with her. She is a housewife and I like to listen to her ideas and to others as well.
If you weren’t running your business what else would you be doing?
I love competition and challenges. If I was not importing bottled water, I would have started some other business.
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Updated: November 27, 2014 04:00 AM