By Ishwar Chugani, an EO U.A.E. member and managing director of Giordano
When I was in university, I wanted to be different. So, I did something unexpected. Right after graduation, in 1979, I left my home in the Philippines and moved to Dubai. Back then, it created quite a stir, as my family has its own business and I was expected to take the helm. But that was not what I wanted to do.
So, I set off on a journey to an unchartered territory. I joined a Dubai-based group of companies, where I was tasked to open and operate the first family entertainment center in Dubai. Failure was not an option, as I could not turn back and go home empty-handed. I had to succeed. But how?
Persistence and patience. I had been given the opportunity, I just needed to make things happen. And that’s exactly what I did.
Dubai was a humbling experience for me, especially in the beginning. But being on my own gave me strength. Operating the business from its inception taught me to be observant and take calculated risks. I took these lessons to heart. Fast forward a couple of years: I noticed a hit fashion brand in Hong Kong, and thought about taking it to Dubai. My persistence, peppered by a few setbacks, paid off.
Giordano opened in Dubai in 1993. Two decades later, we’ve grown to 260 stores across the Middle East, India, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa, and we’re looking to expand still further around the world, using Dubai as our base. Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons about becoming a successful entrepreneur. Here are a few:
- Keep it simple: Eliminate complications and barriers. Simplify your processes to streamline operations in order to create more value. That includes a direct line – people should be able to talk to you directly and not go through a maze of people and levels.
- Empowering people: We work with people, not for people. I have taught my employees the same principle I applied when I set foot in Dubai: Come to work not because it’s your job, but because it’s your personal business. And if you are in retail, remember that people buy from the people they like.
- 3H – Head, Heart and Hand: Simply put, use common sense, love what you do and work hard. When used altogether, nothing can stop you from moving forward.
- Motivation from within, not from out: It may sound somewhat clichéd, but you do need to aim high. If you set your goals high, you succeed even when you fail to reach your target. When your goal is mediocre, you fail even if you achieve your aim.
- Don’t be scared of competition: Sometimes a competitor as big as an elephant seems daunting. So, act like a monkey – be nimble, flexible and quick!
- Knowledge is power: And by this, I mean knowledge in general – from your products to your industry, business, environment and social media. Are you engaged? Are you engaging? Think about it.
- Create a company culture: Your competitors can copy your products or services, but not your company culture, so make sure you instill a great one.
- Define success: Believe me, it is relative. You may be doing well and think you’re successful. Others think success is based on how you compare to competitors. So, think about your own success and continue to reinvent yourself to stay in the game. Most importantly, and I personally discovered this to be true: Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient and the best things happen to those who do not give up. So never give up.
Ishwar Chugani is the managing director of Giordano Middle East (FZE), and is also an executive director of Giordano International, Hong Kong. As managing director of Giordano Middle East, Ishwar heads the group’s business in the Middle East, India, Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe regions.