Life they say is full of uncertainties, so is business. When it comes to challenges and risk exposures of business one name comes to the forefront. A professional in risk management, who moved from the ivory towers of corporate world to establish a start up and grow it into one of the leading brands in his industry in the region. Mr. Mustafa Vazayil is a well recognized name in the middle east insurance sector. The Forbes magazine listed him in the top hundred Indian Business leaders in the Middle East. As the Founder & Managing Director of Gargash Insurance LLC, Mr. Mustafa Vazayil’s views and comments are often sought after and quoted by the press. He is a regular speaker at regional and global insurance conferences. I welcome him in my blog and share with you, my readers, our conversation.
- What kind of personality are you? Tell me more about yourself as an individual and as an entrepreneur?
I consider myself as someone who is creative and out of the box solution seeker. Each of us learn every day, every moment from our surroundings and our environment. The entrepreneur bug was in me from early days. I believe in participative management with the ultimate authority vested in the leaders hands – the buck stops there.
- Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit? Were your parents entrepreneurs?
From my father’s side it is business and trading but my mother’s side is more academic and professional studies.
- If you were to start a business today in the UAE and had a capital of AED 200,000, what industry would you choose and why?
A very interesting question indeed. Many businesses including my own started with a very small capital in relation to the business environment prevailing at that time. In today’s cost of doing business the amount suggested is very low. However as a one man show, I would seek opportunities using technology platforms to sell niche products or services to targeted mass market.
- What qualities would you look for in a business partner?
Good reputation, highest standard of professionalism and integrity are minimum requirements.
- Is there any formula of becoming a successful entrepreneur? Can anyone who apply this formula become successful?
I think focus, passion and thorough understanding of the business and market in totality and complimenting each other are critical for success. Decision making and leading from the front is equally important. An entrepreneur should not be afraid or scared to fail. He must take chances and risks in proportion to his financial capacity. In other words business is not gambling but calculated risk taking.
This formula according to me should work in any business.
- What is the difference in mindset between entrepreneur who built million dollar business and entrepreneur who is struggling to achieve 6 figures in business?
Dream… One is often limited by their own dreams. Dream big and act that is how the million dollar businesses are built.
- How do you market your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing ?
We do both corporate and personal lines business. Both of these products need different approaches. We use various methods including seminars and workshops, risk and capability presentation to clients, corporate communications, press articles and other media communications. We also use radio as an advertising tool. Online marketing is also growing our business. It is worth mentioning that we launched our online portal about 15 years ago giving our customers the option to buy their policies online and get it delivered. We believe we are market leaders in most of the marketing and advertising platforms. Our brand is now the most recognized insurance brand in the UAE. Our exclusive status as CII, London approved Chartered Insurance Broker add immense value to us.
- What are the current challenges of the insurance business and challenges of customers who use insurance services?
Like every business the challenge dynamic is a moving one. As a market, the overall growth in the market is limited except in health insurance sector. However my position is that even if the market shrinks no one has more than 5 or 8 percent of the market share. So a business that is focused strategically for growth can grow even in a declining market.
The insurance consumer is not well versed in his risk exposures or insurance requirements. It is therefore important that proper risk exposure analysis is done and insurance policies are tailored to suit the needs of individual businesses. Many consumers fail to do this and when claim occurs they find inadequate cover. This is where organisations like ours add value to consumers.
- What customer behavior/purchase trends do you expect in the insurance industry in 2018?
We believe customer will focus on cost but will also be careful in using quality providers and consultants to ensure adequate protection. It is our view that personal lines business will see a huge jump in online sales.
- What has been your biggest business lesson you learnt?
One of the first lessons I learned in business was that a person’s ego has no place as an entrepreneur. One need to be humble and flexible to the dynamics of every emerging situations. The second one is that your customer is your master and he pays for your upkeep. So continue to engage with the customer, anticipate their needs and delight them.
- How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
I will often do a pilot launch and test the market with multiple go to market strategies. If it does not show positive response in the customers, even after course correction, within 6 months then I would seriously consider dropping the idea if no new methods are in the vicinity to revive its acceptability to the end customer. I must add that certain products we have launched and later withdrawn was successfully relaunched in different packaging.
- How do you overcome fears which you have in business?
I don’t have fears in business. No business leader should have. He should be able to see the coming challenges and prepare solutions to overcome these challenges.
- What is your social responsibility activities if any as an individual and as a corporate?
There is a saying “charity begins at home”. The first responsibility of a business man is to look after his employees adequately. We have now created a fund where we help our employees in need for the medical expenses of their needy parents and family, higher education expenses for their children etc. We also support Walk for Diabetes and Blood donations. Personally I am heading a 60 bed (this is being extended to 100 beds) PALLATIVE care centre in Malabar where we provide free of cost room and food to the economically marginalized cancer patients.
- What message would you like to pass on to people who want to start the insurance business?
I will say ours is a market with more than adequate number of underwriters and brokers. However if someone is able to find a niche and bring highest level of professionalism and customer focus there is always some opportunity.
- What advice would you give to female small business entrepreneurs who wants to expand their business?
It is not uncommon for banks and potential investors not to take a female entrepreneur as seriously as a male counterpart. However the female entrepreneur should show the results of her successes so far and a detailed business plan to potential investors who could be convinced.
Most important first step is to set up your brand identity and create a brand value beyond your identity as a female entrepreneur. Subject to availability of funds for expansion she should proceed, with one unit first before multiplying it. One need to learn how to manage a branch before managing many. Online options need to be explored if the business can be expanded without brick and mortars physical presence.
- Which places in Dubai people can come across with you except your office?
We are as close as you want us to be. In fact we are with you every moment of your life when you are awake. You can reach us online by using our mobile app. So even without you knowing we are walking along with you and travelling with you wherever you go.
As to me personally I attend as far as possible most industry related events and business social gatherings.