Dubai as I once knew the place…

I lived in Dubai from 1982 to 1985 and during the first year, I worked 12 hours a day


Anwer Mooraj April 16, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

Some of The Express Tribune readers might have heard of the Galadari Brothers. They were one of the five big families of Dubai. Of Irani stock, they had settled in the United Arab Emirates. They set up various businesses. As so often happens among brothers, there was a split. Abdul Rahim the eldest and Abdul Latif the youngest acted in tandem when the one in the middle, Abdul Wahab, decided to quit the family business. Abdul Rahim and Abdul Latif owned a hotel, two car dealerships, a bank and the Khaleej Times which was started by Mahmoud Haroon. Abdul Wahab owned a hotel, a bank, a car dealership, a widespread construction company and the Gulf News, of which by sheer chance, I became the dejure general manager and the defacto chief executive. The three brothers spoke Arabic, Persian, English and Urdu. The last named was no surprise because all three had studied in St Patrick’s School in Karachi.

Abdul Wahab had hired Abdul Sami, a retired Pakistani banker, to look after his various business interests. All but one of his 31 enterprises was losing money. The Gulf News was losing six million dirhams a year, which amounted to one million pounds — a lot of money in those days. Abdul Wahab asked Abdul Sami if he knew anybody who could fix his newspaper. Abdul Sami said he did. I was sent a ticket and interviewed by the boss and the chief executive. Two days later, I was ensconced in a three-bedroom apartment in Hyatt Hotel which had a swimming pool on the top floor.

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I lived in Dubai from 1982 to 1985 and during the first year, I worked 12 hours a day, spending my time equally between the marketing office in the DNATA building and the head office located in Aboulhoul Press on Abu Dhabi Road. Aziz Siddiqui was the editor and a finer and more erudite gentleman I have yet to come across. Two days after taking charge, I thought it would be nice if I called on the head of the Pakistan mission in Dubai who was a retired air force officer. So I gave the consulate a ring. I was given a royal brush off. The consul general ought to have been included in the Guiness Book of Records for holding the longest meetings since the Pharaohs.

When I looked at the salary register I discovered that 95 per cent of the employees came from India and the rest were from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Editorial also had a Canadian who asked me if I was a Hungarian. Calling one of the two Indian marketing executives, Sita Srinivasan, I asked her if she could possibly connect me to the Indian Consul General, Pravin Goyal. “Please make sure I am on the line when he picks up the telephone.” Pravin Goyal said he would call on me and I insisted I would be the one who would come over. Over a cup of coffee Goyal said “Anything the consulate can do for you in the way of advertising, circulation, contacts with Indian companies, I am at your service.”

72 hours in Dubai

A year later, I called on Abdul Wahab and said that in 12 months I had turned a six million dirham loss into a 350,000 profit. The boss was flabbergasted. “How did you do it?” I said it was pretty simple. Within a week of my arrival I took four decisions. The glossy paper that was being used was stopped and I asked for quotations of standard newsprint directly from manufactures in Norway, Sweden and Finland. An edition was being separately printed in Abu Dhabi which was stopped and a van took the paper every morning at 4.00 am to the capital. In October, by pushing and prodding the marketing staff, we earned a million dirhams in advertising.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2016.

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COMMENTS (10)

observer | 5 years ago | Reply A. Over a cup of coffee Goyal said “Anything the consulate can do for you in the way of advertising, circulation, contacts with Indian companies, I am at your service.” B. In October, by pushing and prodding the marketing staff, we earned a million dirhams in advertising. If we put A and B together, obviously much of this money came from the Indians. That is how you build 'Soft Power'.
TBS | 5 years ago | Reply Mr. Mooraj, you remind me of wonderful times. In 1982, I too, worked for Abdul Wahab Galadari being stationed in Abu Dhabi. At the time a Pakistani by the name of Saeed Ahmed (ex Saudi Monetary Fund) was the Managing Director of A.W. Galadari Holdings. His son Adeeb Ahmed was also working as a General Manager in one of A.W. Galadari's companies. Abdullah Zubair, a South Indian used to be his Director Finance. Abdul Wahab was perhaps one of the kindest and finest gentleman I have ever come across in my life. He keenly participated in bringing car racing to Dubai in 1981 and set up the A.W. Galadari 'Saloon Car Race Trophy' and the Hyatt Regency Trophy as he then owned the Hyatt Regency Dubai. During this race for the first time in history Formula1 cars were paraded in the Middle East. The man was much ahead of his times. He was considered, in the business circle, as the uncrowned king of Dubai and there are so many stories I can recount to prove he deserved to be called as such. Sadly, too many Pakistanis working for him in senior capacity cheated him of millions, Yet, he never took one single Pakistani to court or had him arrested for their misdeeds.
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