x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Mum can't say 'no' when spending on her toddler

Money and me: Ambareen Musa is the founder and chief executive of Souqalmal.com, the region's leading price comparison website.

Ambareen Musa, centre, is chief executive of Souqalmal.com, which she launched last year. Sarah Dea / The National
Ambareen Musa, centre, is chief executive of Souqalmal.com, which she launched last year. Sarah Dea / The National

Ambareen Musa is the founder and chief executive of Souqalmal.com, the region's leading price comparison website. The Mauritian, who has lived in the UAE since 2008, launched the site - which now supplies the Money pages of The National with financial data for its weekly rates report - in 2012 because she felt there was a real need for transparency and aggregators in the region. Ms Musa has always had an entrepreneurial spirit; she started her first business, an online portal for international students in Australia, when she was 21 and studying at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Can you describe your financial journey so far?

I founded my first company during my final year of my degree and did not earn very much at all. After selling the company I moved to London for my first job in 2004 working in marketing, financial literacy and e-commerce for GE Money and was finally, for the first time, completely independent financially. Saving has been a big part of my life growing up and seeing my father build his medical business from scratch and, at the same time, manage to support a family of five including overseas education, was extraordinary. That taught me a couple of lessons on the importance of managing your finances properly. Now that I have founded my own company, it is more of a bet on the future versus immediate cash in hand today.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a practical spender rather than an impulsive one. I would normally shop only when I need something but this is mainly due to the fact that I do not have much time (although I wish I did) to window shop.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Use it wisely. First of all, invest in yourself and you will have the ability to make money. Do not be greedy. Sometimes, it is better to take in less now for a brighter future.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes of course. I bought a property in Abu Dhabi just before the crash - I am lucky, however, it has not turned out so badly considering I am able to rent it. But if I had to sell it I would definitely be losing out.

Is money important to you?

It plays an important role in allowing you to live comfortably. It allows me to put a roof over my family and enjoy experiences such as travelling. It is definitely an important component of anyone's happiness but is not the only thing that brings happiness. I think family ties and bonds can, unfortunately, often be broken because of money so there is a need for careful consideration as to how important money is.

Do you believe in planning for the future?

Absolutely. The general ageing population trend confirms the lack of future pensions and government support. I think it is more important than ever to consider how to fund your retirement. But the future is not just about your retirement but also about unexpected events.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

My finances have improved over time. However, things took a complete reverse when I ventured into Souqalmal.com. As a founder, instead of earning, you invest in your business at the beginning. Starting up my own company meant giving up my salary and instead investing my savings into business operations.

What do you like spending your money on?

I am one of those soft parents who cannot say no in a toy store for my little girl, who is two. I have to say that this is one place I do not budget but whatever puts a big smile on her face and makes her eyes glow and shine with excitement, I give in.