Mohan Valrani, Senior Vice-Chairman of the Al Shirawi Group of Companies, describes his career growth, his views on globalization and the future of Asia
1. How did Dubai become a base for your businesses?
I arrived in Dubai with a few dollars in my pocket and a promise of a job in the textile trade. The good fortune of meeting my partner, Abdulla Al Shirawi, helped me in an easier climb upward. Together we built big business conglomerate, brick by brick, company by company, rode the crests and weathered the storms, always in harmony and with mutual respect. My success in Dubai was more an accident than a design – a serendipity. To sum up, a man finding his right place is fortunate.
2. Do you think a business family background assures success compared to prospects for first-time entrepreneurs?
A child growing up in a business family is more likely to take interest in it, so it would appear to be an advantage. This was alsomy experience. Coupled with one’s inclination to emulate his father, proper guidance is necessary. In addition to this, nature also plays a role, but I cannot tell which one is the more important.
3. Is Globalisation, a good thing?
Globalisation may have had innocent and well-intentioned beginnings, but it has unleashed insidious and destructive social forces, spawned by excessive corporate greed. Though it has some eloquent defenders, for it to play a significant role in the development of the Third World was not the intention and this has certainly not been the result. It has a constant quest for new avenues, where costs, especially labour costs, are low and regulations are not restrictive. It eventually drives up costs, and if the capital meets obstacles in one place it moves on to the next location, leaving behind economic and social disruption. The problems that globalized companies create in their home markets include high unemployment, often causing economic blight in whole communities.
Though it may sound harsh, I have a firm belief that companies have social responsibilities alongside their commitments to their shareholders, and they prosper only when they contribute to the communities where they are established.
4. What will be the new frontiers of global economic growth in the future? Where will India figure in this scenario, according to you?
In my opinion, there is a lot of potential for economic growth in Asia. With peace and good policy making, we can look forward to many decades of rapid growth. The pattern of economic expansion may vary from country to country, and the countries which presently dominate may not always be in the ascendency. For example, China may not be able to sustain its rate of economic expansion far into the future, when its demographic impediments begin to bite, and the same might be the case with Japan, where an aging population threatens productive capacity. But Asia’s population for both production and consumption is definitely growing at rapid pace.
India enjoys several advantages - a stable and a democratic political system, the prevalence of English language which is the “Lingua Franca’ for business and Internet, the relatively better infrastructure and a high standard of education- all these will thrust India forward and increase its presence in the world affairs.
5. How has the Indian community evolved with the times in the UAE?
When I arrived in Dubai more than 45 years ago, the word “community"could hardly be applied to Indians. Though we were large in number, we became organized only when we established the India Club, The Indian High School etc. and when families started to arrive. Then, common interests were established, which extended beyond trade relationships, and the sense of community flowered. I played my part in this social development and I am delighted to observe how far we have come in a short passage of time.
6. What’s the best thing about India- UAE ties.
Ties between these two countries are multi-faceted and are reflected in the large Indian presence in the UAE population. There has been a constant cultural exchange, along with a booming bilateral trade, touching US$ 67 billion last year.
7. How important is money for successes in today’s world?
Money is important, but how you make it and what is done with it, matters. The acquisition of wealth through honest industry, and in the process providing employment and sustenance to others, is laudable goal. Money empowers a person to espouse noble causes and improve the lives of other less fortunate.
8. What’s your greatest achievement?
I had to think hard about this question because ‘greatest achievement ‘isn’t a term that sits comfortably with me. But, on looking back, I feel happy for my family and for my participation in community welfare activities like the Indian High School, India Club, and Rashid Pediatric Center. Etc.
9. What does the Indian High School mean to you?
One of the key contributions in the recent past has been my close association with the IHS,I assumed Its chairman in 2008 and set out with a fine team of associates and ambitious targets. My goal was to make it one among the best educational institutions in Dubai, with wholehearted support and cooperation of all the teaching staff and colleagues on the board, the KHDA gave it an outstanding rating last year. Recently we have also opened a branch of IHS at Dubai Silicon Oasis.
10. If you were an employee, which job would you have preferred?
Good performance deserves respect, no matter the nature of the job. I would be content with any job, provided that I could do it well.