He calls himself a dreamer who abandoned “the cosy comforts of a career as a diplomat” to pursue “entrepreneurial ambitions”.
Shahdadpuri, chairman of the Nikai Group, indeed left a career in the Indian Foreign Ministry, where he served in places ranging from Beijing to Washington D.C. and Jeddah, to build his empire in the Middle East.
“It was during my tenure in Libya as a diplomat that I realised that I was cut out for something different in life. I was in my early 40s, and I felt it was an opportune moment to redirect the course of my life path,” he recalls. “Business was an alien field for me. None of my immediate family had dared to foray into this field. There were no siblings I could seek guidance from. But challenge is my adrenaline,” he adds.
Determined to make a mark in business, Shahdadpuri resigned from the diplomatic service in 1986, and, during a stop in Dubai while on a connecting flight to London, decided to settle in the Gulf city.
Initially, he traded in commodities such as soaps, detergents and fertilisers, before branching out to importing and distributing consumer home appliances.
“Then, gradually, I diversified and decided to create my own brand (of consumer durables),” he says.
And in 1995, the concept of Nikai was born. Shahdadpuri noticed a gap in the market for a private brand that could compete against major international European, Korean and Japanese brands. Today, Nikai operates in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and parts of Europe.
The chairman’s initial venture was into general trading and bulk movement of commodities to various international destinations. Later, Nikai Group’s Crescent General Trading tied-up with the Indian FMCG giant, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, to stock, market and distribute the vast portfolio of Unilever products in designated countries. Gradually, the group diversified its commercial activities into the retail food business with Boston Foods, a franchisee of Subway, the second-largest American fast food chain.
The Group has also broadened its horizons to consulting, outsourcing and staffing to a wide range of industries with TASC Outsourcing, a global staffing solutions company based in Dubai and Bengaluru. TASC specialises in outsourcing and staffing services to large companies around the world in various sectors, including banking/finance, call centers, energy, engineering, IT, sales and telecommunications.
Shahdadpuri’s secret to success? Reliability.
“Every organisation and every leader must have core values. These may be different for different people and businesses. For me, the core value is to be reliable. When you are reliable, it means you are honest in delivering quality at a reasonable price, you are dependable and trustworthy. When you are reliable, it means you are a brand that delivers what it promises.”
Looking to the future, Shahdadpuri believes the UAE Cabinet’s recent decision to offer 100 percent foreign ownership across 122 economic activities will be the catalyst for more foreign investment into the country.
“This initiative is extremely well-timed given the challenging business and economic environment prevailing in the region. In fact this has been a long-standing demand of the business community to own their businesses completely. Allowing 100 percent ownership will in fact open up doors of foreign investment in various sectors, thus generating large-scale employment opportunities, fuelling economic growth and GDP,” he believes.