x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

The Ali Column: Who wants to be a millionaire?

Why money continues to motivate our youth as the benchmark of success.

When I speak to undergraduates about choosing their university majors, I begin by asking which of them wants to be a millionaire. Of course, everyone raises their hands.Then I ask them how they plan to make their millions. Some of the answers are predictable: stockbroking, advertising, real estate etc. Recently, a curious thing happened; a young Emirati woman said she wanted to make her million in an advertising agency. I asked her if she would still want to work if I gave her the million tomorrow. She replied: "No. If I already have it, I don't have to work."

Just as it is in any other country, money motivates our youth and is a benchmark for success. It's a limited view, I grant, but one that's universal. Yet, there are many among us who have a fire in our belly and want to achieve something substantial to create a lasting legacy. We take pride in doing just that, never mind the money. I am optimistic that, given the right mentors, our young country can achieve amazing success.

I quit a good government job to start my own business, and I received tremendous financial support and mentoring for this venture from our government. My business plan was approved by the Sheikh Rashid Centre for Young Entrepreneurs. Once I had put in my 10 per cent investment they lent me the start-up money. I am expected to repay every dirham, but I have been given adequate time to do it. The centre monitors my progress and ensures I have a regular cash flow. In addition, it nominated a mentor to guide me.

Setting up my own enterprise was a "wow" experience, one I would highly recommend. I found office space, modified the interiors to suit my requirements and began recruiting. First, I advertised in the newspapers, and when the candidates came for the interview, I posed as the HR consultant. When the shortlisted candidates came in for the second round of interviews, I played the CEO. Eventually, for the final interviews I posed as the owner of Maestro Enterprises, the name I gave my group of companies. The whole process was fun because I got an idea of how it feels to wear each of these hats. I got a real kick watching the surprised expressions on the candidates' faces that said: "This Emirati, who I first thought was an HR consultant - then a CEO - actually owns the company. Wow!"

If we were a population of two or three million we would have a million good apples. But we are a population of only 800,000 so we have 150,000 good apples. Mashallah, at almost 41 years of age, there's always a better harvest for the country to look forward to. Amen!