Dr Joy Antony says opening his third dental practice in Jumeirah was a difficult decision after the economic downturn.
Money & Me: Some fiscal scepticism can be healthy
Dr Joy Antony is an orthodontist and the managing director of Dr Joy Dental Clinic. The Indian, who moved to the Emirates in 2002, has three clinics. He launched his second clinic at the height of the global economic crisis and his third directly after it.
Describe your financial journey so far.
I was always brought up with an understanding of the value of money. It was something my parents stressed upon. We had pocket money, but were not allowed to throw it away. My father was very strict when it came to spending money on the children. Even though they could afford it, we were not given luxuries unless they felt we needed them. Even small things like wanting us to take the school bus were part of those early lessons. At the time, we resented it, but later on we knew it was a good thing because we understood the value of money. As a teenager, I always had small businesses trying different things. In college, I used to make handicrafts and have exhibitions, so I had a flair for selling things and marketing.
Why did you decide to become a dentist?
It's a family tradition. My father was a dentist and my grandfather was a dentist and I thought it would be a good profession. I worked with my father and used to come to Dubai as a consultant in a clinic, going back and forth between India and the UAE. But Dubai hooked me and I thought, 'Why not start my own business here?'
Are you a spender or a saver?
It's hard to strictly label yourself as a spender or a saver, but I don't overspend on luxury items or splurge on unnecessary things. I do spend quite a bit putting money back into the business by spending on fancy new technology - this is something I have a passion for.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?
For sure. After the crisis in Dubai, we had a tough time because we weren't expecting it. I had speculated on the property market here with a group of close friends, so we went through a rough patch. It was partly because of the investments and because the downturn hit the business, too.
What did you learn from that?
That any investment scheme that seems too good to be true probably is. It's always a disaster. The second thing is that you can't trust these so-called experts that advise you; you always need to be a little sceptical. And you always need to assess the worst-case scenario. This is something my father used to tell me: that when you leverage yourself too much, you have to be aware of how that can affect you. Nobody expected Dubai to crash the way it did - it was totally unexpected.
What is your biggest financial challenge?
Opening my third practice in Jumeirah in 2010. I opened my first practice in Karama in 2004 and Mirdif was in 2008, right in the middle of the crisis. After the downturn, when we were very badly hit, we had a tough time deciding whether to go ahead with Jumeirah, but a lot of patients were finding it difficult to come to Karama and Mirdif and I felt it was time to expand. It was a brave decision and one that paid off.
Why should people invest in their teeth?
The smile is the greatest accessory a person can have. A beautiful smile can always open opportunities in life; it takes you up the social ladder and it gets you a better job - that's an accepted fact. Apart from the cosmetic aspect, teeth are also important for your health. If you take good care of them, they will last you a lifetime, so have a check-up every six months. And if you maintain them, then you pay less at the end. If you ignore them, you're going to end up with a much larger problem and spend far more sorting them out.
What do you invest in?
Property in Dubai and India and a little bit of gold. But I've reinvested a lot of my earnings back into my business because it helps me expand the operations. I spend on new equipment and products to serve the patients better. The latest thing is a Waterlase iPlus. It cuts a patient's tooth with a laser rather than a drill so there is no sound or vibrations and most patients don't need an anaesthetic. It launched in the US last year and we were the first practice in the UAE to get this.
What financial advice do you give your children?
My son is 12 and my daughter is seven and I tell them that money doesn't come easily; you need to work for it. It's something that you need to earn by yourself, so I always tell them that just because I make money doesn't mean they'll have the same. They'll have to work for it themselves.