What makes Dubai stand apart from other metropolitan cities in the world?
Dubai is a very easy city. Right from the airport, to the ease of moving around the city is great. I'm staying at the Armani Hotel in Downtown Dubai, I can move around the whole day, go to the mall and the club, without using a car. Dubai gives a great lifestyle, one of the best in the world. To me, it is the number one city in many areas. Dubai has new business scopes after the signing of the Abraham Accord agreement with Israel. I believe that this will leverage a new connection between India, Israel and Dubai.
Just like Singapore has an advantage being between India and China, Dubai has an advantage being in the centre and a global hub of connection between India and the rest of the world. The quality of life and the ease of doing business is very good in Dubai. I was able to establish three more companies in the city in 2020. The way that the nation has handled the Covid-19 situation so well, I'm looking to acquire few more businesses here.
Tell us about your penchant for diversified interests - from sustainability to telecom investments.
I have been in technology sector my whole life. From being a part of the digital revolution in India - right from office automation. I was instrumental in bringing the first copier, the first fax and the first computer to India. The first digital exchanges, such as the first mobile call was made on my system at my company. I started the first chain of mobile phones in India, Malaysia and Singapore. In the future, I see that digitisation is the field to be invest in and that cryptocurrency is also going to be very big. With regards to Dubai, the way you can do banking and invest in various areas as well as raise money in the form of equity or loan, the city is a fantastic place. It has always been a frontrunner in many fields and is easily connected through technology.
How important is digitalisation for business sustainability?
Sustainability is not something you can control because when technology advances and businesses don't advance along with them, they shut down and wealth is created into new businesses. So today, if you are not in a digital business or your business does not have a mobile app or mobile payments, then that business will sink. Countries that do not adopt changing technologies will be left behind. Even in media, with apps like Netflix, the TV industry is virtually dying because people are seeing shows on over the top (OTT) platforms. Digitalisation is entering into every sector, including education and healthcare.
You wear a number of caps - an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and changemaker - what is the inspiration behind all of it?
I am a global citizen and have been living in different parts of the world. I was in New York for around six years, in Beverly Hills for eight years, then moved to London. Now I'm in Dubai. I've seen a lot of things around the world that need to be changed.
I'm a very technologically-oriented person. Whenever I come across a new technology, I try to adopt it into my business and within my life. As mentioned before, I have been part of the telecom revolution and office automation in India. I was part of the digital revolution and several other revolutions in India. Singapore and Dubai are two major cities that have developed into global cities. These new powerhouses require a new strategy and new thinking. Now with the onslaught of a digital era, the world is going through an exponential technological revolution. My inspiration is technology and the perks that come with it.
You were awarded the ambassador for peace in 2018. Does it give you an edge to do things differently on a global platform?
I can talk to anyone because I am beyond religion and nationality. Peace comes by understanding, and understanding comes by talking and relating. Peace is just about connecting with people, understanding what they do and appreciate those acts. I think being a global citizen allows me to do this. It gives me an authenticity to be accepted by everyone because I am not aligned to one culture or one nation. I think that flexibility helps a lot in terms of relating to people, working with them, joining forces together for peace. Having an open mind is important.
Are there any particular investment sectors you are looking at? What drives you to those?
Wellness and hospitality sectors are the areas of interest to me.
The talented, intelligent and highly accomplished people I met during my travels were my inspiration to invest in the wellness sector. That has led to creating and launching my new business, High Life, a wellness start-up to encourage people to live their best lives. Most people don't live beyond 65. You work so hard and achieve so much, then you retire and none of it matters. What if you can use your knowledge and continue to add to society even in your old age? High Life is not about living a rich life, it is about living a life of wellness beyond 100 years, in a happy, healthy and wealthy manner. It allows you to live in places with an environment that promotes good health, connecting with people and creating new wealth. High Life will also invest in building homes with the right type of air conditioning, water, and sunlight all aimed at residents' wellness.
I have undergone stem cell therapy to achieve high level of energy and do things that nobody my age can. I am living my life comfortably and starting new businesses, even at the age of 72.
As a co-producer with two films to your name (No Problem in 2010 and OMG! in 2012), what are you excited about for the future of entertainment?
I am fascinated by OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime being an integral part of digitalisation. Now my goal is to produce a series that is inspired by the Middle East and India for the Western audience to do away with the misconception about how we are portrayed in the Western media. For example, the movie Crazy Rich Asians was a revelation for many Westerners as they did not see the East as a wealthy region. I want to produce a lot of content from this part of the world because not many understand how the lifestyle here is changing tremendously as the infrastructure develops.
Looking back, what are the highlights ofÂ your life?
Surely my travels. Because I have visited and lived in various countries, met many talented and highly accomplished people and understood how they live. Now, I see a home in Dubai because it is so well-connected to the world.