UAE national Tahany Taher on her rise to success
This country has made me who I am today, says Tahany
Raised in Mumbai in the 1990s, when the city changed and grew majorly, Tahany Taher says whilst she loved her time during those years, it was in the 2000s that she came back home to the UAE, “The country I was born in and meant to live in.”
An Emirati national with a Master’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Missouri, USA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting & Economics from Mumbai University, India, during working hours she is the senior vice president at a multinational bank and in the evenings, she wears the hat of the co-founder, HAYAWIIA (derived from the Arabic term for health, vitality and vigour), a premium destination for food and natural beauty care range, designed to cater to a healthy lifestyle.
Tahany, along with her husband Akram Oomer, launched the brand in May 2021 for she believes that everyone deserves to lead a healthy lifestyle.
So how is it to share the workspace with a spouse, we ask her. “It is the highs of the clouds coupled with the lows of the Mariana Trench! We constantly challenge each other’s comfort zones and we complement each other. I am purely numbers-driven and he is very empathetic. My one advice to all couples working together is, don’t take things personally and realise that empathy and understanding are more powerful than ego or anger,” she shares.
We learn more about her journey in the world of entrepreneurship, as she shares how she was an outcast in school and how she owes her success to a grade 7 teacher, who encouraged her to excel, and how her motto in life is that nothing can hold her back.
She adds, “This country has given me everything that makes me who I am today, from my husband and kids to an amazing career and now a thriving business. The leaders of this nation had a vision, which nobody would have believed and yet today, it is a reality. From empty lands to the tallest skyscrapers, I am extremely proud to call this place my home knowing that I, among others have contributed towards the present and future of this beautiful country.”
Whilst she works round-the-clock, she makes sure that her family has dinners together every night without any gadgets or devices.
Tell us a little about your early inspirations when you were starting in the corporate world.
My childhood played a huge part in who I am as a person. I had a slightly rough childhood, as I moved to India at a young age, couldn’t speak any English and was generally the outcast in school. I had two choices, either to accept it or to fight against it. I learnt at a very young age that the key to successful leadership is by the choices you make and I chose to believe in myself. ‘Nothing will ever hold me down’ that’s my motto. I went on to become the Head Girl at school, elected by the same kids who at one time did not accept me for being different (non-Indian) but today are some of my closest friends.
You humbly remember your teacher and credit her for your success, tell us more.
I spent most of my years of early development in Mumbai, a place which taught me about courage, empathy and ambition. The one teacher I owe a great deal to is Miss Peters, who pushed me out of my shell as I was reserved and introverted. She not only pushed me to participate in public speaking but also taught me to voice my opinions as it matters. From then on, everyone noticed a positive change in my attitude.
You are passionate about the environment. Do you recall a moment when you knew this is a field you’d be working in?
I never really had a light bulb moment. It was more like an orchestra, starting mellow before it hit the high notes. This was how my passion for the environment developed initially. It wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts but after having kids, I now realise the importance of it. Protecting the environment is the best legacy I can leave behind for my kids. This positive change and attitude in my kids would make me super happy. HAYAWIIA follows a zero plastic and zero waste policy, and even the customer “thank you” notes are made with eco-friendly seed paper embedded with flower, herb or vegetable seeds, which can be planted, promoting a greener future for the country.
How did the brand happen?
Before HAYAWIIA came to life, it was just an idea that was rattling around my head. I always wanted to venture into something that I enjoyed, believed in and something that would make a positive change in the world. I would have these recurring thoughts while enjoying meals or snacking – ironic? That’s when it hit me and I realised what I wanted to do – make healthier options accessible and affordable to all. After much thought, long nights, looking for the right vendors who shared the same vision and surveying people to understand what the market needs, it all fell into place. The concept also very quickly took shape thanks to two special ladies, Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei from 1115 Inc, who have been instrumental in helping me set up and putting the framework of the business in place.
Under a pandemic lens, what are the positives and negatives you’ve witnessed as an entrepreneur?
The positives would include the fact that the people are open to new things, e-commerce space is now the go-to arena, and the individuals are price-conscious. The negatives would be that the shipments can be difficult in these times and the people are constantly looking for offers. Of course, the fear of infection spreading is a paramount concern.
How are you working towards shattering glass ceilings in the corporate world?
The one thing that I can categorically state is that my organisation is already empowering women. I truly believe that women can accomplish anything and make a bigger impact and therefore, the majority of our products are sourced from women-owned brands in developing international countries. In a bid to also support the entrepreneurial drive in the UAE and ensure business continuity of SMEs, we also source products from emerging local vendors. I’m also very proud to say that the UAE is already doing an immense amount to empower women.
Who in the UAE amongst the female leadership do you idolise the most?
Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi. She belongs to the royal family of Sharjah and was one of the first women to gain a high-ranking position in the UAE government.