Money & Me: Danube Group founder got an early start in financial responsibility
Rizwan Sajan is the founder and chairman of Danube Group, a global trader of building supplies, that he launched in Dubai 23 years ago. The 53-year-old from India has lived in Dubai for 25 years with his wife and 27-year-old son. Mr Sajan moved to Kuwait from India at the age of 16 and worked with his uncle in a building materials company. However, he was forced to return back to Mumbai because of the 1991 Gulf War. He later moved to Dubai, launching Danube with his wife, Sameera, as his first employee.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I come from a middle-class family in Mumbai, where resources were limited as my father was the only earning member of the family. This played an important role in shaping my perception and attitude towards money. We always had to work for what we wanted; when I needed extra money, my father would often ask me to help my mother clean the bathroom or the kitchen for which I was paid 15 rupees (95 fils).
How much did you get paid for your first job?
During my college days, I worked for my father’s company as a part-time store keeper and was paid 250 rupees per month. My college day started at 9am and then I would head to the store by 5pm and work until 8pm. I always found means to earn extra pocket money, for instance, selling firecrackers and books to my friends.
Are you a spender or saver?
I save when it is needed and spend on things that matter to me. I don’t fancy expensive clothes or splurging on branded goods. However, I love travelling and when I do I prefer travelling business or first class.
What is your most cherished purchase?
My villa on the Palm. I moved in approximately three years ago and even today, I enjoy every moment living there with the view of the beach. Every morning when I wake up I spend an hour swimming and eating my breakfast by the beach.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?
I was very young when my father passed away and since I am the eldest son in the family, I was required to take charge immediately. During the first month, I found it difficult paying all the bills as the responsibility was overwhelming. But I dived quickly into a new job to make money and support my family.
Where do you save?
Most of my money is invested in property. I own properties in Dubai as well as in India, which accounts for most of my wealth. The rest is saved in my wife’s bank account.
What has been your best investment?
Most definitely my properties in Dubai. I made a lot of money investing at the right time, which resulted in my portfolio being valued three to four times more today. Also, I consider educating and bringing up my son another great investment.
What do you most regret spending money on and how much was it?
I invested Dh75 million in an Emirates Hills villa, which is currently under construction. I personally think I should have avoided buying it because I love living in my current house on the Palm. However, my wife Sameera insists on moving there and has left me no choice.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
I think I’ve done well in my life so I would not like to change anything.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
I would donate to charity and buy my wife a diamond necklace. Also, I started the Danube Welfare Centre in Dubai, a place where we teach blue-collar workers to speak English and polish their skills. I plan to open centres in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi and would direct part of the Dh1m to that.
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