The National about his venture.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I grew up in a mansion in Jumeirah with four siblings. We lived on the beach. In the early ‘60s my late father established a construction company that employed 5,500 at one point. My parents split when I was seven. Although financially sound, dad raised us to be humble, only providing us with what we needed. We were brought up with the mentality that his money was his, and we had to work for our own. I never had disposable income. My father taught us to work and study hard. Every summer, while my friends were on vacation, dad would take us along to his construction company where we had to do rotations in the carpentry section, steel etc. We all received minimum pocket money until university; after that I had to earn my money. Being a self-made man, it was important to my father to instill the values of hard work and a modest lifestyle in our home.
How much were you paid in your first job?
In my second year of a business degree at the American University of Sharjah, I took a part-time job as a call centre agent in HSBC that paid Dh2,800 a month. I then took a loan out to buy my first car, a Nissan Altima.
What prompted you to move into the restaurant business from corporate banking?
I grew up with a love for numbers. I had always studied finance and enjoyed working in the banking sector. However, I was never satisfied with the promotions I got; I always felt I could contribute more. It became evident that my growth was hindered, and the only way was to branch out and start my own business. The F&B industry seemed attractive because it was customer focused, dynamic and challenging. I was always a firm believer that for one to grow, one must innovate, learn, listen and adapt to change. Now every day is a challenge; you learn something new which makes it exciting and thrilling to come to work.