A Quarterly Newsletter from UAE and Oman

VOL 21 ISSUE 1 January 2019

Interview

Mr. Ramesh KhanchandaniUnder the visionary leadership of its founder Chairman, Mr. Ramesh Khanchandani, who has been actively managing and leading the group since inception, Al Tara Group (Tara Impex Holdings) has transformed itself over the last 40 years to become one of the leading corporate entities in the Gulf and wider Middle East and Africa regions.
Established in Dubai in 1978, the Group has ventured into diverse business sectors with major interests in textiles trading, hospitality, real estate development, logistics, manufacture and trade in consumer electronics, etc. The Group has played a leading role in the development of Dubai’s wholesale fashion textiles trading segment since 1978.

Q. Over the course of 1976 to 2002, Al Tara Group achieved the remarkable position of being Dubai’s top textile trading company? Take us through this remarkable journey.
A.
It has been a remarkable journey indeed. I came to Dubai in 1976 and interned with my brother-in-law, who had already been well established in Dubai. In those days, Dubai was booming in textile trade in terms of volume and high profitability. By 1977, I started off on my own by renting our first store in the Meena Bazaar area of Bur Dubai and by 1978, I established my first license as a textile merchant. Around the same time, my brothers also joined me in Dubai and we grew the business from there on. We were one of the first textile companies during the late 70s to start direct sales into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

By 1991, right after the Gulf War and with the Soviet Union opening up, we were one of the few pioneers into eastern Europe with our first base in Warsaw, Poland.

Q. Very little is known about the man behind the success of Al Tara Group. Tell us your story?
A.
After pursuing a degree in law in Mumbai, from National College, I was keen to practice law in Mumbai so after a short stint at D.M. Haresh law firm in Mumbai, my late father Tara Chand Khanchandani encouraged me to visit Dubai to see my sister and brother-in-law. Thus, without a clear plan, I arrived into the dynamic trading hub of Dubai. As a matte of fact, I was meant to return shortly thereafter to Mumbai as I was in Dubai on a tourist visa and I had arrived with the thought of spending some time with my sister here and then heading back.

However, actually, my brother-in-law was following my father’s directives and had other plans in mind for me.

My father had already arranged capital for me in Dubai to ensure that I would not return but rather intern here with the family and eventually start my own business.

The first store I set up was located in the Meena Bazaar where I booked a profit of few thousand dirhams merely by reselling the place to another trader. With the profit from the realty deal, I repaid my father and reinvested the remaining funds into a new place on the banks of the Dubai Corniche.

Q. Your Group’s motto is “A Family company”. What was done by the Group to achieve this motto over the years?
A.
The motto was developed with the values and culture we conduct within our business today regardless of which business we are in. The same motto applies for the team that works for us and to the customers we cater to, who find a USP in dealing with us after years of change and fierce competition. We implement and maintain our strong values and philosophy in our systems in order to sustain our group culture.

Q. You head one of the largest expat-owned family businesses from India. What management principles have helped keep your Group at the top?
A.
Thank you for your appreciation and kind words. I would not say the largest expat-owned as there are others, perhaps older and larger than us in terms of employee size. Our business principles definitely make us unique among other family businesses. These include keeping our costs under control and always in check, minimal leverage and always monitoring as much as possible in spite of task delegation. These few principles along with the values we were raised with still remain the guiding principles of management for our company.

Q. The core businesses of the group i.e., textiles and fabrics, real estate, consumer durables are facing a challenging time in regional markets. How is the Group coping with the current challenges?
A.
The general consensus of opinion is that many sectors are going through challenging times although there still are several sectors which are doing well. We are well-diversified and we believe in never keeping all our eggs in one basket. If one sector gets affected, we focus on the other, which has helped in maintaining stability overall. There definitely are challenges in the region but we are optimistic that time will strengthen the recovery of all sectors eventually.

In the meantime, as a group we are managing our expansion and investments conservatively till the temporary corrective environment we are facing gets stabilized.

Q. How will the current economic challenges and the World Expo 2020 influence the future of your Group and its business?
A.
Expo 2020 should position Dubai and the UAE as a stronger country in the GCC region under the leadership and directives of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. The UAE is developing opportunities and shall continue to develop new opportunities post Expo 2020 for service based industries. We believe a lot of people will be drawn from all over the world which will increase the visibility of Dubai and the UAE. This will hopefully create business diversifications into new lines such as in F&B, services, logistics, tourism, etc. As a group, we have started to invest in fourth party logistics as Expo 2020 has created a demand for niche storage and logistics services.

Q. What do you foresee is the way forward for your Group in particular and your industry in general?
A.
We are prepared for a new era of change which should diversify the UAE economy into a full-fledged service economy from the traditional trading-based import and export economy. Trading out of UAE will continue but with a new way of conducting it. There will be a new style in which shipment from port manufacturing will become stronger and Dubai, in particular, will play a greater role being a financial hub for these trades. The role of the inventory-based model of import and export will be reduced and we will see more of service-based trading such as what we see in Singapore, Hong Kong and London today with JIT (just in time direct) billing. Along with that, as a group, we have started to invest in 4 PL logistics as we foresee cross-trade shipment will rise. We believe our buyers will want to ship the goods from the point of manufacturing and utilize the trade finance from Dubai. Global brands who move volumes will require transit points out of Dubai which will be able to handle their logistics promptly and with great efficiency by using digital platforms.

Q. What would you like to convey to young businessmen in the field of textiles, or for doing business in the region generally?
A.
From my experience, I would like emphasize the importance of being patient and staying focused on planned execution. It is very important to not be impatient to achieve success within a timeframe as it used to be easily done in the 80s, 90s and early mid-2000s. Globally, the style and method of doing trade has changed. We have entered the digital and artificial intelligence era, but whichever era it may be- business, trade, manufacturing will go on as usual but with a different style.

I believe young businessmen need to be alert to these opportunities and till then they must be wise with their expenses in the UAE.