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05 March 2024

Turning adversity to their advantage

Ahmed, right, and Ana Nensey have started their own venture. (XAVIER WILSON)

By Reena Amos Dyes

Millions of people around the world lost their jobs during the financial tsunami that the world experienced in 2008 and 2009. A lot more will lose their jobs in the aftermath of this crisis as businesses continue their struggle to survive and are forced to lay off staff.

However, not everything about this downturn was bad as some good came out of it too. It taught people to be mentally stronger and learn to take the bad with the good. It also brought out the fighter among some who refused to give in to despair and decided to take control of their own destiny. Emirates Business spoke to four such people who lost their jobs during the recession or who refused to be exploited by unscrupulous bosses who were using the crisis to their advantage, and instead came out fighting by opening their own businesses.

Ahmed and Ana Nensey

Nationality: Indian

Business: Office and home furniture and accessories

Ana and Ahmed Nensey were working as general managers for different interior design firms in Dubai when the trouble began.

Ana said: "My employers began exploiting me, using the recession as an excuse. They started retrenching staff at the lower levels and increasing the workload at the top levels. They wanted us to bring in more and more business despite the recession. My husband and I have been in this industry for many years so we had the contacts to bring in more business. And we did. However, then they started using the recession as an excuse to hold back our salary."

For both Ahmed and Ana that was the last straw as they have a family to raise. They hung around for a few more months hoping that the company would give them their dues, but to no avail.

Ahmed piped in: "My company owed me three months' salary, while Ana's company owed her two months salary. As you can imagine, a general manager's salary is not a pittance and so we kept on hoping that they would give us our money, but they did not. In fact, my company asked me to take a 50 per cent cut in my salary."

Then Ana lost her job and in May 2009 she set up a company called Nikita Home Designs in Hamriya Free Zone, while Ahmed continued in his job. As both Ana and Ahmed had 20 and 12 years of experience in the business respectively, they were not concerned about getting clients. Ahmed said: "When we opened our own company, the clients responded immediately. We did not have much of a struggle because we knew the market, the ropes and the clients very well."

After a few months of their business taking off, Ahmed also quit his job and today both Ana and Ahmed are working hard to run their family venture. They have catalogues from different interior design and furniture stores outside the UAE and their clients can choose what they like and the Nenseys get it sourced for them.

Ana said: "We prefer to work this way as we have just started out on our own and opening a showroom means a huge investment. This is because we will not only have to pay rent for a showroom, we will also have to have a warehouse to store the stuff in. During a recession this is a huge investment to make. So sourcing stuff for clients is what suits us best at this point."

Michelle Silva

Nationality: Indian

Business: Public Relations

"I had been working with this public relations company in Dubai for two years when the recession hit the UAE. Within months the accounts started drying up and the company had no option left but to let go of people," Silva said. Silva lost her job as senior account manager in January 2009. But instead of worrying about it, she decided to become her own boss.

Silva, who hails from the western state of Goa, said: "To be honest, when I lost my job, I did not feel like the world had come to an end. I immediately decided that I was going to be my own boss.

"A lot of people around me were very sympathetic and told me that I should send my CV over to them and that they would help me to find a job but I told them 'no thank you' and that I would now strike out on my own."

The reason for Silva's confidence in her abilities was the fact that she had dabbled in business earlier too. Before coming to Dubai, she was running her own public relations company in Mumbai.

Silva said: "I had my own public relations firm in Mumbai and I was my own boss for six years. However, as I had been in Mumbai for 20 years, I decided that I wanted a change as I had got fed up of living in the same place for so long. Also, the pollution in Mumbai was playing havoc with my health. So I decided to move out of there."

Being single, it was easy for her to make the change. Silva came to Dubai as she already had a lot of friends and relatives here and it was so close to home. "So two years ago, I landed in Dubai to work for this great public relations firm which unfortunately fell on bad times during the recession," she said.

Once Silva was told her services were no longer required she decided to join her long-time friend as partner in her public relations firm. She thought it was better to invest her time and money in an established business instead of starting from a scratch as a lot of initial investment is required to set up a new business anywhere in the world.

She also thinks that the job loss was a blessing in disguise as it pushed her once again to do something that she had always wanted to do, even in Dubai, and that is be her own boss. "The job loss sort of accelerated the process for me and I am happy it did," she said.

Tarun Kriplani

Nationality: Indian

Sector: Advertising

Kriplani was working with an advertising company as a brand associate since 2007, but he lost his job in January 2009, due to the recession.

Kriplani said: "I never thought that I would lose my job. I was very confident about my performance and did not think I would be asked to go. However, in January 2009 I was asked to leave.

"My initial reaction was calm, which gave way to surprise and shock. In the first few days after getting laid off, I woke up early and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my day."

Kriplani, who hails from Mumbai, spent his growing years in Kuwait, until his father went back to India in 1983 to set up his business of power transmission line towers. However, once Kriplani grew up he decided he did not want to be part of the family business and wanted to learn from his own experience and do his own thing. "I had the option of joining my dad's business but I wanted to carve my own destiny so I joined the advertising industry. I came to Dubai in 2007 when I was offered a job by an advertising firm. However, the recession closed that door for me."

After Kriplani lost his job, he spent a few months looking for a job. He got many job offers but they were not good enough for him to consider. "I did not want to take a cut in my salary and designation so I decided to stay at home till something good came along," he said.

All the while, Kriplani was at home he had the option of going back home to join his family business but he chose not to do so. Also he did not let his family know that he had lost his job, as he did not want to be pressurised into joining the family business. "While waiting for an opening I began thinking of setting up my own business and the thought became more alluring as the days passed by. The excitement of running my own set up began motivating me and I decided that it was wrong to be in a vibrant place like Dubai and be in a job, when there are so many avenues and opportunities to explore here," he said.

Today Kriplani is the CEO of an advertising company called Orchid Insite, which he set up in August 2009.

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