Even after 59 years in the region, Dr. Ram Buxani (Ph.D, D.Litt), Chairman, ITL Cosmos Group, surprises one with his energy and focus. He has witnessed and contributed to the incredible evolution of a dessert hamlet turning into a mega metropolis, inspiring the leading cities globally, today.
Dr. Buxani has consistently sustained the growth and profitability of his company, the first officially incorporated corporate establishment in the UAE. For him today focusing on social responsibility is more satisfying and rewarding than increasing his wealth.
Talking to him was inspiring, as I discovered a fountain of wisdom and knowledge of the region, subtly layered in his humble behavior and sophisticated demeanor.
I welcome Dr. Buxani in my blog and share with you our conversation.
- How do you see the future of distribution business? What are the threats and opportunities?
In my opinion, distribution business has a very limited scope in the future. It survived in the past, as retailors did not have the requisite financial resources to keep large inventory and storage facilities. They lacked the knowledge of procurement and it was easier for them to buy smaller stock from distributors, who subsequently invested heavily into inventory and infrastructure for distribution.
Now as the region developed and Dubai emerged with infrastructure of global standards, it became easier for manufacturers to be established here in the Free Zones and distribute directly. Big brands also want to differentiate themselves from the competition by having their own exclusive shops in malls etc. In effect, the manufacturers take on the role of the distributor also.
One favorable thing for distributors is that the Dubai’s law protects agency distribution rights and to that extent established distributor’s interests are protected.
Having said that, Dubai is full of opportunities. Distributors are becoming traders. For the last several decades distributors have had an excellent run and I would call it a long honeymoon. That is over now and they will have to adapt to the changing environment and become savvy traders. They will also seek new brands and manufacturers that are coming up globally and who may not want to have a physical presence here. It is a continuous struggle to develop and establish new brands, but distributors have the expertise and experience for this.
- How the rising market share of ecommerce consolidators like Amazon will impact the business of exclusive dealerships in UAE?
Exclusive dealers will still be able to compete with e-commerce consolidators and in many cases, even with brand owners who sell directly, because they have lesser overheads to meet. Yes, e-commerce is surely going to be a challenge to face. But buyer category will make the difference. Airline tickets are being sold by the airline themselves and cheaper. But Travel agents still are surviving. Value addition makes the difference.
- What is the one thing that you regret you have not changed?
I don’t have any regrets in my life. I was taking or declining opportunities according to my capabilities and limitations at each particular moment in the past. So there is nothing to regret, but to be grateful for this exciting life journey which I call “my university”.
- How did you overcome fears which you had in business?
I have never had any fear, because business is all about ups and downs. I have been in the UAE for 59 years and witnessed many ups and downs. Anything that goes up, must come down and once it comes down, it will go up again. It is a cycle. It is all about seeing an opportunity in any situation and making the best of it.
- Imagine you are very young and have been in UAE for only 2 years till now, what kind of trading business would you get into in 2018 with limited capital and why?
If I were in Dubai for 2 years and had limited capital, I would not start any trading business these days, because after 1 year I would end up with empty pocket. Instead, under the described circumstances, I would join a big organization as a professional to build up my expertise and save capital. Gain experience, make big capital and then think about venturing into business.
- What repeating mistakes throughout UAE history do you see in people who fail to build successful business?
Greed for more profit, more power and arrogance. In business there will always be someone superior to you. You must be aware of your limitations whether it is capital or expertise. Greed brings discontentment. Discontentment brings competition. Competition without understanding your limitations leads to failure.
- Why in your opinion only few locally established companies were able to scale up and become global leaders?
UAE is still a very young country compared to other countries where international brands were born. For a local company to go globally you need to have a well-established brand locally, solid capital and the expertise to venture overseas. It will take some more time for local companies to mature and build a solid base for that. In the future, the number of local brands which will go international will be much higher.
- What will be the driving economic engine for UAE in the coming decade?
The main driving economic engine for growth and prosperity of the region was, is and will always be the vision, humble attitude and sustaining power of its esteemed rulers.
- Following the recent visit of PM Modi, there have been initiatives for UAE investments in India. According to you, which sectors of India would benefit from this?
India is currently undergoing a major economic development and reforms. This needs foreign participation, especially from our neighborhood partners, UAE in particular, with whom we share years of cultural and trade relationship. In my opinion, the main sector which will benefit the most and will then help to boost other sectors of India – will be infrastructure of the country.
- Who is Ram Buxani now?
As a human being, I think I have remained the same: a humble, down to earth person with a clean heart and mind. In my youth, I was very aggressive and ambitious in terms of my professional goals. However, nowadays for me there is nothing better in life and in my business than CSR activities. Increasing business profit gives me short term satisfaction but helping people and giving back to society are what truly brings me long term happiness.