From an accountant to a tycoon

ABU DHABI — It was a hot summer day in 1974 when Sajid Mahmood, then a 20-year-old young commerce graduate, arrived in Dubai from Islamabad, with dreams of a new future in his eyes.

By Haseeb Haider

Published: Sat 6 Aug 2005, 10:29 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:11 PM

He had started his career as a junior officer with a bank in Pakistan, but his ambition for a growth-oriented career brought him to Dubai, where a great miracle was about to happen, as work on expanding the infrastructure had just begun. The entrepreneurs from subcontinent had started arriving to set up businesses to organise a supply chain of different things necessary for the expansion of the city, and to expanding population with high purchasing power.

“A city where industrial and commercial enterprises had started taking their roots deep, which had created a multiplier effect in the economy and everybody was taking advantage of it, like today,” says Sajid Mehmood, 51, a corporate executive-turned businessmen.

Sajid is a major distributors dealing in the top-notch global consumer brands, whose business interests are diverse and spread to Hong Kong, Pakistan and Oman.

Sajid started his career as an accountant with a construction firm. But after its closure he worked for some other companies in different capacities to finally join Al Sayegh Brothers, one of the top distributors of consumers goods. From an accountant 14 years ago, he quit the job as a managing director, only to start his own business.

Sajid is happy and content. About the life in mid-70s, he said that it was very simple, slow and difficult in the absence of modern day facilities like automatic cars, air-conditioners, mobile phones and other gadgets.

Since Dubai had already embarked on a journey of economic development, there was abundance of business and jobs opportunities, and employers were desperate to hire anybody — even those knowing little. There always was a demand for right people, who were difficult to find.

The small city of Dubai was welcoming expatriates with open arms coming from all over the world. The UAE nationals were appreciative of the work done by the expatriate workers, who were transforming their country by constructing big buildings and roads and planting trees during sizzling summer days.

Dubai had not expanded then. There was no structure after the Sheraton Hotel and Kuwait embassy — the last milestone of the city limit. When, I came here in 1974, the work on the Maktoum Bridge had just started. There were only a couple of buildings, apart from the famous Clock Tower and not a single skyscraper, for which the modern Dubai is known across the world today.

The composition of society was the same as of today. People were ambitious and enthusiastic about their work. The life was simple as people were friendly, cooperative and supportive. There was no bias for other communities, since materialism of today had not yet crept into society.

“But it is all leadership with a dedication and a clear mission, which turned a desert into an oasis,” says Sajid, who said the founding father of Dubai, Shaikh Rashid Al Maktoum, created a splash when he launched his plans to make his emirate into the business capital of Asia. To this end he offered a policy of openess; laws governing businesses were flexible remaining in clearly laid out parameters; there was a level playing field for everybody. That is the reason why Dubai has expanded so rapidly within 35 years and has emerged as the business epicentre of Asia.

Dubai and its people will always grow and expand as ever as its leadership is pro-business, open-minded, liberal, and has laid down the foundations in a way that the development and expansion will never come to a halt.

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