THE EARLY DAYS
I was born in 1985 in Jumeirah, unlike my father, who was born in the historical Deira side of Dubai. He is a remarkable man. In 1976, he founded the Bin Dasmal Group and, by doing so, shaped my destiny.
The first office of the Group was where the Gold Souq stands today, and from there, my father shifted the office to Airport Road, and from there to where it stands today – Al Quoz, just off Sheikh Zayed Road.
The Group was already a well-established one before I was born. It grew from strength to strength in the 1980s and the 1990s. I can say, because while in high school – I was 15, then – my father made sure my brother and I parallelly familiarised ourselves with the business, which is a conglomeration of 10 companies, each with its own set of departments, and with all the 10 companies tethered to centralised services at the Group headquarters.
He inducted us in each of the departments in all the companies, which was interesting, because each company has its own business model. So, besides attending high school – Emirates International School, to be specific – I was learning about the business, from production to sales and to finance. In production, I learnt as much as I could, working alongside the many technicians, focused on manufacturing air-handling units and the such.
After completing high school, in 2004, I travelled to the Art Institute of San Diego, in the United States, where I pursued digital marketing. And from there, I headed to the University of Greenwich, in the United Kingdom, where I pursued a degree in accounting and finance.
I returned to Dubai in 2010 and, thanks to the years spent familiarising with the family business, found it relatively easy to slip into a senior role. I appreciate my father’s wisdom in inducting my brother and I so early in life, because I can say with a great measure of confidence that I know the whole Group in and out.
It’s been 10 years now with the Group, and I have held a senior position – of Managing Director. My elder brother is Vice Chairman and my father its Chairman. In my role, I have opened a branch of the business in Dammam, in Saudi Arabia. I have also opened a branch in Oman. As for Trosten, it used to be a partnership and used to be called Bin Dasmal Air System Industries; today, it is 100% owned by the group.
The Group has grown quite a bit in the past 10 years. In Saudi Arabia alone, we are achieving a turnover of AED 25 million a year, and in Oman between AED 15 million and AED 20 million
Overall, the Group looks robust and has achieved significant diversity. We have one company specialising in ducting; another specialising in air conditioning equipment; a third specialising in trading of MEP components, materials and consumables; and a fourth focusing on lifting equipment supplies and services. We also have a company that focuses on storage and doors, another that specialises in automation products and yet another that focuses on MEP contracting. We also have a civil contracting company, but overall, we have not focused as much on contracting as we have on manufacturing and trading.
The business profile is different in Saudi Arabia and Oman, when compared to the UAE. In Saudi Arabia, it is more of lifting supplies and services. In Oman, it is more on the air conditioning equipment side, and we are also involved in access and storage. Overall, in Saudi Arabia and Oman, we are doing 60-70% of the activities we are carrying out in the UAE. That said, there is big potential in Saudi, with all these new projects, like the Red Sea development. We are watching them and trying to be part of them, as well.
I believe we should be focused on supporting the development of the region, in a broader sense. All our business activities – be it the supply of air conditioning equipment, lifting equipment or consumables – are related to construction, so our role is to support the developments taking place, including the World Expo in Dubai. We have also been involved in a number of other prestigious projects, so our aim is to support these projects by supplying quality and reliable products, which would ensure the long-term sustainability of the projects.
Energy saving is a prime requirement the world over. In the UAE, the government is aiming to bring in a record number of tourists and, at the same time, is pursuing the goal of being the forerunner in lowering energy consumption. I believe we have to be a part of these endeavours and promote the cause of environmental stewardship through supplying energy-efficient products and, at the same time, contribute to developing projects, keeping in mind the influx of tourists.
Energy efficiency is an important goal. Given that most of our products are related to conditioning the air, I do believe that we can contribute substantially to the cause, because the operating of air conditioning systems accounts for 60% of a building’s total energy consumption. We should be focused on supplying energy-efficient products to meet the high demand for energy saving. That is one of the big visions of the Group – to be a big contributor to energy-saving efforts.
TAKING THE VISION TO THE WORLD
Another vision of the Group is to distribute products all over the world. We are lucky to have the UAE as our base, because we have the most demanding projects here, and they have to meet the highest standards to counter the weather conditions. We have to meet very high standards set by consultants here, and by the government and quasi-government bodies.
The region realises what we have achieved as a country, and that is why they are inviting consultants from this part of the world to be involved with the developments there. And obviously, they need quality products for all their projects. A lot of development is happening in Egypt, using similar consultants. So, obviously they will have to use quality products, for the consultants will not approve cheap products.
We are one of the unique players, because traditionally, most of the local companies are agents – they represent international brands, and we are also one of those, but we decided to get into manufacturing, because we had confidence and capabilities that ‘Yes, we can actually meet the same standards as these international products by manufacturing them locally.’ Today, Trosten, for example, you would think is an international brand, but it is a UAE brand. There is no international presence at all in Trosten – it is completely, 100% UAE-produced, And if you check to see the Eurovent certification, you will see this is better than some of the international brands. Trosten can compete with the best, and that is how Expo 2020 has accepted this brand. They accepted us when they had all the options in the world to choose from.
If they need anything, we are just next door, and they can chase us up. And now, we also have the certification – Eurovent certification – for these products, which reaches the high standard available. That way, these products are on par with any international brand. And the price is better, because it is locally manufactured. The delivery time is also better, because it is locally manufactured. The quality is there, because we have over 40 years of experience, and that’s the way it works.
I can say the same thing for our local ducting brand, KAD. It meets the same international standards as international brands, but is locally manufactured, so we can by all means export it to the regional countries.
Besides the region, we are looking at some countries in the CIS countries, and at some places in southern Europe and south-eastern Europe. We have to keep in mind that if the delivery is too far, it doesn’t really make sense. If it’s too far, the pricing would be too high. It has to be within reason, otherwise we would have to set up our own factory somewhere there, which is also something we might look into. There are plans for us to look into setting up some kind of factory in the United States or Europe in the long term. We have the capabilities, but we just have to tread lightly and have the right partner.
My father is a mentor. He started the business from nothing. It was an office with one engineer and one accountant, and now, we are a group of 10 companies with 850 personnel. A significant reason of the success the business has tasted is the way he has dealt with people – that is the main aspect I appreciate and respect about him. I’ve learnt from him how to deal with people, and how the right approach fosters team spirit. We have people in the company who have been with us for 30 years, and we have people whose sons are here, as well. These go to show the trust, respect and loyalty they have for the company, and that can come only if they are treated with respect. The loyalty and commitment we have of the people is the biggest asset, and I believe my father’s fair and just way of dealing with the people has a lot to do with that.
My father appreciates air conditioning from the heart – of what it means in the context of the oppressive heat of the summer months. As a boy growing up, his daily set of tasks included wetting the brackets with water for wind towers to receive air and go down and cool the indoor environment. He appreciated wind towers as being very effective in keeping the indoors cool, but also spoke of the considerable effort required in keeping them operational, so in that sense air conditioning was the right business to get into.
Strangely, though, he didn’t start with air conditioning. His first focus as a businessman was general contracting, and from there, he went to trading. It was backward integration, really. He had projects in hand, and he needed materials and equipment to execute them. He was already buying all the products, so he started his own trading company so he could directly bring all the equipment he required from the principals instead of going to traders. Air conditioning picked up. He was able to get air conditioning products for a better price, which prompted other contractors to buy from his trading company. And that’s how trading eventually overtook the contracting side of the business, and from there, he got into manufacturing as a further integration. And now I can proudly say that we have traders and distributors in many parts of the world, including Egypt and Algeria, for our Trosten and KAD brands.
I regard my father as my mentor also because he taught me focus. I had many hobbies, but he always wanted me to get involved with the business. To that effect, he would always take me to different meetings and show me the different factories and products he was getting involved in.
I naturally developed an appreciation for the business and wanted to get involved and follow in my father’s footsteps.
I also admire my father – and my brother – for the courage of his convictions. As a company, we have never done an acquisition. Our growth has been completely organic. My father once told me: “If you want to be strong and sustainable, you have to stay within your capabilities. Be patient, and things will naturally grow. If you try to do things outside your capabilities that’s where it can backfire.”
I also admire His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. I have seen Dubai transform from a desert to a cosmopolitan city in record-breaking time. The vision that Sheikh Mohammad has for the country and Dubai is a major factor for success. The Expo is going to be huge in that it is going to integrate all nationalities. Now, that is a big vision. We are a small country, but we have a bold vision at a global scale, and that is an inspiration for me.
I also regard some of the members of the senior management as my mentors. They have been involved in the company for a very long time, and today they are advisors to the company.
WHAT I DO IN MY FREE TIME
I have been quite the adventurous type. I hike a lot and also love moto-cross, scuba-diving and horse riding. I have done mixed martial arts, which involves wrestling, grappling, kickboxing… everything. I am also fond of mountaineering and did the Everest Base Camp.
These activities have helped me appreciate the environment better, because when you see scenic beauty, you get additional motivation to do your bit for it. I have been to Iceland, and I can say that we have a responsibility. Air conditioning is a big consumer of energy, so it is important to focus on energy efficiency. The better the insulation, the less energy that is needed to keep the place cool. The better the material, the more energy efficient the material, the less is the energy that is consumed to keep the place cool.
Some materials are good enough to prevent heat from escaping and to prevent the coolness from escaping. That way, you don’t have to use the equipment throughout the day. With that in mind, we are focusing a lot on energy-efficient materials.
On the contracting side, we are ESCO-certified, which gives us the scope to refurbish projects to bring energy consumption down. You know, everything is connected – the further you bring down the energy consumption, the less is the power used and, broadly speaking, that way, you can prevent glaciers from melting.
As told to Surendar Balakrishnan