By Thomas Shambler
Lessons from leaders: Mahmood Shaikhani, managing director of Shaikhani Group
How did the business get started?
Shaikhani Group was founded four decades ago by my father, the late Abu Baker Shaikhani in Pakistan – from where it all started.
After the initial years of trading, he ventured into real estate and expanded the business as much as he could. The multi-billion dollar international business conglomerate has diversified interests in real estate development, trading, manufacturing and information technology.
Shaikhani Group, which is comprised of 12 business entities, employs more than 350 people with an annual turnover exceeding Dh220 million (US$70 million).
The group is credited to have delivered more than 30,000 residential units in Pakistan and UAE, making it one of the largest property developers in Pakistan. The company has come a long way in planning, development, construction and delivery of the projects – amid two economic slowdowns that wiped out most property developers forcing many projects to stall.
But the key was ethical business enriched with moral values. It is the moral and ethical fabric that is still driving our business, more than anything else. That’s why, we managed to navigate out of every crisis that came in our ways, including the 2008-09 global financial crisis that halted all our development activities in the UAE. But we managed to steer out of the crisis fair and square.
If all goes well, where do you see it going in the next five years? The next decade?
We have an ambitious business target that we announced last year. We have 11 real estate projects with a collective value exceeding Dh3.5 billion (US$ 950 million) that are in various stages of development.
These projects will deliver 2,100 residential and commercial units in Dubai Sports City, Jumeirah Village Circle and Dubai Silicon Oasis. The projects are being financed by our resources that include the cash flow being generated from the handing over of the existing projects.
We will hand over four projects this year and one next year – that will complete our existing six projects that are being completed and handed over to property buyers.
So, we expect to become a mid-sized property developer in the next few years, before we embark on larger projects. Dubai will remain the base of our global operations spanning across the GCC, Pakistan, United Kingdom and Canada.
What is the most important decision you’ve ever had to make for your company?
A few years ago, we were running short of cash and could not make payments for some of the ongoing projects, as the market remained bleak. I had to pull money from Pakistan – a large sum, to fix the problem in the UAE. It was tough, but I wanted to be fair to those who needed to be paid.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today?
Investor confidence – or lack of it. With a weak global economic growth, lower oil price, people are holding on to their money and not investing it. So, the industry is suffering due to lack of confidence.
When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
The one who needs the job most.
What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should have?
Integrity, dynamic, visionary.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
It’s okay to make mistakes. But it’s not okay not to learn from the mistakes.