A Quarterly Newsletter from the UAE and Oman member firms of the PKF International Ltd. network

VOL 19, Issue 1 January 2017

Interview

Adeeb Ahamed is an Indian entrepreneur, philanthropist and a multifaceted professional spearheading several companies across various sectors. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Lulu Financial Group (financial services), Managing Director of Twenty14 Holdings (hospitality) and Managing Director of Tablez Food Company LLC (F & B & brand retail).

His able leadership has successfully helped establish more than 130 branches of Lulu Financial Group across nine countries within 7 years. He has also initiated many other divisions of the Group such as Twenty14 Holdings, a hospitality investment firm, which owns prestigious properties like Great Scotland Yard in London, Steigenberger Business Bay Hotel in Dubai and the Sheraton Oman Hotel in Muscat.

Q. Can you tell our readers a bit about your journey to the UAE?

A. I had moved to Switzerland in 1999 to pursue Bachelor of Business Administration from Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. Following my education, I decided to move to the UK and pursue my dream in the field of hospitality, during which I also pursued my MBA from Royal Holloway at the University of London. I worked at Grosvenor House and Marriott before become director of sales for the Italian firm Baglioni. My wife and I then headed to the UAE in 2008.

Q. What made you take up business and how has the experience been till now?

A. After moving to the UAE in 2008, I found myself thrust into the world of finance. I was asked to set up Lulu Exchange, a foreign exchange and remittance company. It was a risky move, since my previous experience lay in hospitality. But with a fantastic team behind me, we were able to get the company running and the risk paid off, as is evident from the growth of the company. In a span of seven years, we have grown to 130+ branches spread across nine countries, with more than 1,500 employees. Assisting the remittance industry, presently Lulu Exchange’s annual remittance transactions aggregate to $4.2 billion, with India receiving a major share thereof.

We have also ventured into F&B retailing through Tablez. We have introduced a number of homegrown concepts along with partnering with leading franchise concepts in GCC and India. Today, the company operates more than 30 outlets, including international brands like Sugar Factory, Famous Dave’s, Genghis Grill, Cold Stone Creamery and Galito’s. We are now diversified as a full-fledged retail company in India, signing master-franchise agreements with renowned brands like Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Springfield and Women’s secret.

Furthermore, in 2014, we set up Twenty14 Holdings, a hospitality investment firm, which now owns some prestigious properties around the world.

The experience of managing all these companies has been nothing short of enriching but I believe that there is so much more to learn and attain.

Q. Where do you see Lulu Exchange in 2020?

A. We have plans chalked up for our entities over the next 4 years. For its next milestone, Lulu Exchange is looking towards the Asia-Pacific region. With a number of initiatives already taken up for moving towards a digital tomorrow, we also believe that our businesses should keep pace with the technological innovations of the time. With this in mind, we aim to move 30% of our exchange and remittance business on to the digital platform by 2020.

Q. Why do you believe that the GCC and UAE in particular is a place where many Indians are finding success?

A. The GCC and UAE in particular is a great place to do business. The vision of the great leaders of the UAE has always been pro-investment and pro-business. The foresight of these visionary leaders has diversified the UAE economy in the past few decades and continues to do so with a number of reforms that are emulated by others in the region.
Q. We understand you have a deep and abiding interest in the hospitality sector. Would you please elaborate on the subject and what you have done to translate your interest into reality?

My passion for hospitality has been life-long. The setting-up of Twenty14 Holdings, our hospitality investment arm, allowed me to revisit the world of hotels, from where I had initially begun. The company has already acquired an admirable clutch of prestigious properties spread across the UK, GCC and India and currently holds assets valued at over $650 million.

We opened our first five-star hotel in 2015 at Business Bay in Dubai, which is being managed by Steigenberger Hotel Group, a leading German-based hospitality firm. We also co-own the Sheraton Oman Hotel in Muscat with National Hotels Co. Ltd. LLC. We have also made a £110 million agreement with property developer Galliard Homes to create a luxurious five-star hotel at Scotland Yard, the former headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police Services in London, UK. The custom-built 92,000 sq ft hotel is to be called Great Scotland Yard Hotel.

Q. What advice would you give to youngsters looking to start a company?

A. The most important advice that can be given to youngsters looking to start up a company would be to follow their dreams. Taking those dreams and converting them to reality should be the cornerstone of their aim. Also, while working towards your goal, do not take shortcuts and always be honest.

Q. Your work and foresight has made you the recipient of numerous awards. What is it that truly inspires you?

A. I have always been of the firm belief that one should respect every human being and support those who are in need. Integrity is another value that I hold in high regard. My philosophy is that incredible possibilities can be created if we stay true to our duty. All these values have held me in good stead in my professional life as well. The recognitions that have come my way are humbling and motivate me to work harder

Q. What would you define as your motto in this competitive world?

A. You begin your first step towards failure when you feel that you are just a few steps away from success. So never stop your march towards success, since it is a constantly moving target.