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Wed 10 Aug 2016 10:33 AM

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Dealing with the challenges of entrepreneurship in the UAE

Four members of the UAE Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, a dynamic, global, non-profit network of more than 10,000 business owners in 48 countries, and their charming wives open up on how they deal with the challenges of entrepreneurship

Dealing with the challenges of entrepreneurship in the UAE

“You have to be patient and supportive.”

Karishma Shah is the wife of Abhishek Ajay Shah, co-founder and managing director of RSA Logistics.

As a preschool teacher who finishes work at 1pm, I spend the rest of my day running errands, doing chores, exercising and cooking. By the time that is done, it is already time for dinner. One would usually imagine being able to kick back and unwind with their better half at this time. But where is my better half? Still at work, of course!

Being a wife is one thing, being an entrepreneur’s wife is another story in itself.

Along with the long hours at work, one of the issues we face are the constant emails, slack messages, and phone calls even back at home. Moreover, having to attend and host dinners with unknown people can often be terrifying for a shy wife who lacks industry knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – rather just explaining.

It is not easy being married to someone who probably spends more time with his professional life than he does with his personal! But what I have learnt is that you have to be patient and supportive. My husband has ambitious dreams and it is his drive that I love so much. So rather than getting frustrated, which I still do at times, I continuously try to understand his dreams and make them a part of my own. Listening to his work stories and asking him about the logistics world helps me learn, realise, and appreciate all the efforts and the struggles. I may not know how to help out just yet, but I know I will get there soon.

“Your companion will support you every step of the way,” says Abhishek Ajay Shah.

The entrepreneurial journey is rife with joy, challenges, disappointment and in most cases a greater purpose to making a positive change in the world. Through these experiences it’s only fitting to have a companion that is not from your professional life that is able to be there with you through the highs and the lows.

Although my slightly ‘shy’ wife may feel uncomfortable with some of the socials we have to attend, she is a natural.

Being a young married couple and having a young business is an interesting predicament to be in. Sometimes you are not sure what is more important family or business at this moment in time, but therein lies the beauty of a companion who believes in you and will support you every step of the way!


“I would like to think of myself as being his support whenever he looks back.”

Shilpa Mahtani is the wife of Vinayak C. Mahtani, CEO at Unique Precise International.

I was 21, just about to graduate from college when I was introduced to Vinayak, and before we knew it, wedding bells were in the air.

At that point, Vinayak was only the son of an entrepreneur, someone who worked with his dad and shared his dream with me of owning an island one day.

A desire to start his own footwear retail project, took us both and our baby to New Delhi. Endless days and hard work went into creating a business plan. We would sit together and try to work out formulae for stock planning, laugh over coffee and create different brands, and dream big. With money received as wedding gifts and successful investment funding, Vinayak finally launched his first footwear retail store.

Over the next few years this slowly rose to 35 and with it came a few hardships and mistakes which we managed to wave through. A three-year-long project became a six-year-long project which finally led to the business being sold to private equity, and us moving to Dubai.

It is not until a year back that I finally comprehended what an entrepreneur is and what it means being married to one.

If I have learnt one thing over the years of being an entrepreneur’s spouse, it would be perseverance. Today, Vinayak and I have learnt to successfully combat each other strengths and weaknesses to add value to his company and scale it up slowly and steadily.

I would like to think of myself as being his support whenever he looks back, and I hope to continue following him in his pursuit. All dreams become goals and our goals will become realities and we will own his island one day.

“You realise the importance family plays in your life,” says Vinayak C. Mahtani.

A question I get asked a lot is: “If you were not an entrepreneur, what would you be?” Honestly, I don’t think I could be anything else.

My upbringing and surroundings during my youth trained me to be an entrepreneur, tagging along with my father for business meetings or selling handicrafts for my mom at Indian bazaars.

As you age and start to have your own family, you realise the importance family plays in your life.

The greatest part of the family’s role is their unconditional love for you no matter whether you have won the big deal or not. The worst day in the office can turn into the best day of your life thanks to your kids and spouse.


“We want our spouse to succeed.”

Jasmine Harchandani is the wife of Dhiren Harchandani, CEO at Latitude Systems and Zenboxed.

“Entrepreneurship is more than just a career choice. It’s a way of life.” This quote has stuck with me from the first time I read it. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t just consume your professional life, but it takes over your personal life as well. And being married to one is definitely not an easy task. The endless late nights, continuous checking of emails, ideas constantly being bounced off is just all part of the routine.

We want our spouse to succeed. We want their vision to become a reality. We want to give them our unwavering support. That is the critical role of the spouse of an entrepreneur.

Here are a few traits that I have picked up on being married to an entrepreneur: it takes a great amount of patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight. There have been many times when he has worked nights and weekends.

But the truth of the matter is that most entrepreneurs are extreme workaholics. They enjoy what they do so much they have no idea how to stop. Maintaining that work/life balance is critical. We both know that when it gets hectic, we need to make time to reconnect. We will plan a dinner date night at least once a week to enjoy each other’s company.

We know that in a marriage respect is one of the key ingredients. But when you are married to an entrepreneur it is vital. There is an insurmountable pride to be married to someone who is passionate about his or her work and takes creative risks.  It is equally important to make them feel appreciated and make them feel that you wholeheartedly believe in them.

“Choose your life partner wisely,” says Dhiren Harchandani.

There are an endless number of challenges that an entrepreneur is faced with on a daily basis, one of them being that of managing their own psychology, it is paramount to always focus on the positive.

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. We spend an enormous amount of time working, finding ways to bridge work and life is paramount. A culture that has started to develop in our family is our children’s weekly trip to the office. The time they spend in the office gives them a tangible sense of what I do, the environment, and the people that make up our team. This creates a deeper sense of connection between work and life. My hope is that this in a small way makes them feel that they are part of my entrepreneurial journey.

The most important decision an entrepreneur will make is ironically one that will be made outside of the boardroom. It is the decision of whom you will spend the rest of your life with. The most important sustainable competitive advantage for an entrepreneur is the support provided to you by your family, chose your life partner wisely.


“Being a spouse of an entrepreneur is a complete rollercoaster ride.”

Ekta Mehta is the wife of Saahil Mehta, CEO at Saahil DMCC.

For me, being a spouse of an entrepreneur is a complete rollercoaster ride, with many highs and lows. Every day is a different experience, with a level of uncertainty and unpredictability. The high level of support required is paramount and probably the backbone of an entrepreneur.

The traits that I have picked up from observing my husband start his company and watching it grow are that dedication and passion to the cause are the most important; work and commitment never stop since being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job; many people will discourage you and question your company and personal growth, but you need to stay positive and keep working towards achieving your goal.

Building your own company from scratch is a long and tedious process, but the joy of being an architect of your own destiny is special. Being able to take off with your family whenever you want, coming home early to spend time with the kids, and making it to all their school-related events are a few benefits of being an entrepreneur.

The flipside is that work never stops. Holidays require a few hours of work time and the phone is never 100 percent switched off. I used to get very irritated by this, but I have learned to overlook it and focus on the bigger picture.

Watching your spouse start something and then watching it fail is very difficult. I have seen my husband go through some major lows when starting and growing a company, but it only made him stronger. It has taught us both that sometimes you need to make those mistakes to move forward to bigger and better things.

“I try to leave work behind after coming home,” says Saahil Mehta.

The entrepreneur arena is a world where we need to take care of everyone first financially before taking care of ourselves. This has taught me to become frugal in my expenses both at work and home as we never know what may come around the corner. Bottom line, I keep my fixed expenses low.

This has also taught me to be more focused on the highest priorities, such as rolling up my sleeves as the current times demand more sales so other initiatives have gone down the priority ladder.

One anecdote applied to my routine is to ensure I come home early enough to spend time with my two children and put them to bed, allowing for quality family time. One date night a month to update the Mrs. on the company has also helped keep us aligned. What I also try - I use try as it doesn’t happen every day – is to leave work behind after coming home. That starts with the routine of getting out of work clothes as soon as I greet my family upon arrival.