Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 June 2020

Integrity and simplicity core values Desert Group chief executive

"New thinking comes from asking questions"

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUG 1 – 2017 :- Michael Mascarenhas , CEO of Desert Group at the Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) Story by Shereen El Gazzar
DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUG 1 – 2017 :- Michael Mascarenhas , CEO of Desert Group at the Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) Story by Shereen El Gazzar

If you are expecting a traditional office-bound CEO, who likes his office on the top floor, with a structured day, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Michael Mascarenhas, chief executive of Desert Group, is anything but that. With a strong belief in “humanism” he works with a philosophy of creating value, and enhancing lives without all the frills and trappings that could go with his office.

Born in India, Mr Mascarenhas, 57, has spent his growing years learning that one must work hard to achieve anything and to keep things simple. With deep rooted values, he believes integrity is one quality necessary at all times.

His professional success is not by chance, but a result of a strong mix of both the academic and the practical. He is an Alumnus of the Said Business School, a FCA, MBA, CIA and a Certified Member of Hawkamah. Married to Audrey, he has two children Clive (27) and Karen (25).

Mr Mascarenhas has held numerous job positions at various sectors including –Private Equity, Investments, Financial Services, Construction, Manufacturing Aerospace, Trading and Distribution. At Desert Group, one of the largest concentrically diversified conglomerates with 11 Strategic Business Units and 3500 employees, Mr Mascarenhas has been the chief executive since 2013.

A Week in the life of Michael Mascarenhas


Sunday mornings start at around 6am. I wake up depending on my body clock. After a spell of meditation and the morning chores, I get to my laptop with a cup of black tea which must be “piping hot” along with a breakfast bordering on healthy.

At around 7:30 am, I am in car and dial my mom (who at present is Dubai with my sister). This call is what I love most and thrills my mom. After a five-minute chat, I turn on the music. Angus and Julia Stone it is at the moment. Try them.

I am in my office premises by 7.45 am and after a few “Howdy’s” with some eager and excited team members, it’s coffee time with Julian Lee (Managing Partner). Time for some heady buzz I think. We discuss topics that include opportunities, strategies, policies and anything that could impact the Group.

Between 8.15 am and 9.30 am, I am on my desk closing out urgent issues and/or walk to meet my team members stopping over at their desks to engage with them. I find that new thinking comes from asking questions. This also removes barriers between us. I am always surprised at how much you can learn in this particular hour.

Then, around 9.30 am I begin my meetings. These could be both structured and unstructured in their format. This Sunday it was about a review of the Turfcare and Construction Division and two other meetings with some strategic partners.

12PM – A quick 20- minute lunch. After that I am off to two sites for my visits which takes me close to 5:30pm. I am home at 6.00 pm and head to the gym. After working out, I am home at 7:30pm. Its dinner time with my wife and our time when we talk about our day.

At around 8:30 we put out a quick call to the kids, as we like to stay connected.

An hour later. I would start to read. I love this reading hour. I am presently reading a book on Waterloo. Somewhere between 10.30 pm and 11 pm I end my day sliding to sleep.


As soon as I hit my office I have a team waiting. An urgent meeting is called for to review our plans for the Plant Nursery as new opportunities have presented themselves. There’s never a dull moment I conclude post that meeting.


I meet with our partners from Europe and Canada at 9.30 am. Then, we start a review of our retail arm. We would have a quick on-site bite with our auditors—we made sure this time it was all about greens-- and I am off to our Plant Nursery at Khawaneej. Back in the office it’s a review of the Golf Course Division. The work day ends at 7.15 pm. No time for the gym I conclude given the pace of an exciting day.


The day starts with a review of HR, IT and Financial Plans. I leave at noon to meet with the Chairman of Emirates Investment. That’s a meeting I really look forward to. Back again and it’s a review of our plans around innovation. This ends at 4 pm and it’s a walk to meet team members. I see great energy and enthusiasm. The day ends at 6.30 pm. I decide to change the music whilst driving back home and it’s a collection of Southern Rock.


It’s a floor talk at 8.15 am at the Dubai Garden Center on the importance of customers. I get a bunch of questions and engage with the team. It’s a string of meetings between then and 12 noon. It's back on the desk at 3 pm, and after a few sign offs, I am off to meet an important customer. Its 6.15 pm and its winding down time. Today, one of my old buddies feels like a bite outside. We are happy to be with our family friends. I must admit, here comes 11 pm and its yawn time.


I just love the mornings on a Friday. Oddly I wake up earlier than usual and with a pot full of tea, I indulge in my favorite pass time - Reading.

Around 8 am it’s time for a South Indian breakfast. At around 11 am, we head out to the market. Down to some Goan style of cooking, it is. It is lunch at 2 pm. We skip the movie part this week and spend the evening with family.


Saturday is more relaxed. The coffee with Julian is laced with a few laughs and it's 9 am already. I leave to meet with my senior leadership team on the plans for the week.

It is noon when I head home and we decide to play it by ear. We spend time with family this evening. My brother-in-law loves country music and we have plenty of that. It reminds me of my time in Gruene , Texas.


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Updated: August 22, 2017 02:31 PM



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