Expats lacked financial discipline back then – news

KV Shamsudheen, director of Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC, has started providing financial education to the expatriate community since landing in the UAE.

I was 24 when I arrived here on July 20, 1970 with a Trucial State Council visa on a ship called the MV Sardana. The ship anchored far from the port of Dubai and the passengers were brought to shore by boat. On the same day, I drove to Sharjah in my friend’s car. You won’t believe it, the sea water laps on the left side of the now busy Al Ittihad Road, which was a single carriageway.

He took me to an old Arab traditional house where my relative lived. There was no air conditioning like today. At night everyone slept in the parapet of the house. There weren’t a lot of social and cultural activities back then. What we had were open air cinema theaters showing Hindi, Pakistani and occasionally old English films. Even if a person had a financial problem, people were willing to give out a loan before they even looked for one.

Coming from a family of non-resident Indians (NRIs), I always had a special interest in questions from expatriates – my father and paternal uncles were in Ceylon and most of my maternal uncles in Malaysia.

I met two Malayalis who had their luggage ready for the trip to Bombay, but their trip was delayed because they did not have the money to buy a boat ticket to Bombay. When I inquired about this, I learned that there was a lack of financial discipline. They sent home everything they deserved, the family completely spends it. This made me curious and I also learned that most Malayali expats were in a similar situation. I tried to educate them about the importance of financial planning, saving and investing.

After joining a company where one of my relatives worked as an accountant, I began my passionate business of financial management. When I saw people sending money illegally, I started advising them to send money through banks. My strong point was advice from my father who told me to never send money via hawala and when I send it he would not touch it, no matter what the amount. These days India faced an acute shortage of foreign exchange. In two years I found a lot of people opening bank accounts and sending money through banks. They started asking me what to do with their balance.

My vision was to set up a fully fledged brokerage house in the United Arab Emirates, I made three attempts, but all of them in vain. However, my determination and consistent effort gave me the chance to meet Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi through one of his friends, Saud Mazroi. Sheikh Sultan was only 24 years old when we decided to create Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC, the joint venture for financial services in the United Arab Emirates. I am delighted that I was involved in starting this joint venture involving the government of Kerala. I am also a shareholder in this company.

In the 1990s, when the repatriation crisis hit the Gulf, I felt that organized efforts should be made to change the situation. I set up a non-profit trust called Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust in India in 2001 with the aim of creating financial discipline, financial planning, savings and investment habits.

After that I had the opportunity to conduct more than 400 courses for expatriates in all GCC countries and more than 750 interactive live radio programs, more than 500 TV programs. Now I am training others to continue my activities in all GCC countries. I always feel blessed to live in this country, especially during the reign of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai

What has struck me is that if the people of this country do business within their means, they can be successful in business. As far as I’m concerned, my passion became a job that later became a company and a company, both developing side by side.

Sandhya D’Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are business, finance and information technology. Before joining the Khaleej Times, I worked with some of the leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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