March 1, 2019 |
In this week’s edition of Five Question Friday, we interview UAE-based angel investor Fahim Al Qasimi. A few well-known brands he has invested in include Hapi, Surfhouse Dubai (and Single Fin Cafe), Parkour DXB and Taqarabu Hybrid Communications (THC). Al Qasimi is also the managing partner of AQ&P, a corporate governance advisory based in Dubai. The advisory’s philosophy is that corporate governance is just as important for startups and SMEs as it is for large corporates. The investment arm of the business is fundamentally rooted in ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment principles.
What led to your decision to invest in these businesses?
Honestly, I wanted to support the establishment of concepts and businesses that I felt had a great opportunity to succeed in the UAE. While I was first approached to act as a silent partner (sponsor) for some of the companies, I felt that it was important to invest, support and share common interests as a shareholder with my partners. That was the start of an interesting few years of investing in companies.
What were the three biggest obstacles along the way and how did you overcome each one?
Timelines. Timelines. Timelines. All of our projects underestimated the time it took to open, primarily due to construction and fit-out delays. When your financial projections have initial revenue estimated in February, and you open in June, financial challenges arise. The ability to navigate the early stages were overcome by ensuring that we had enough working capital in the bank. Another point of note is that we started each business with the bare bones of what we needed.
What were the three most rewarding moments?
Seeing a growing team. Knowing that your investment into the business created job opportunities for people to make a living, put their kids through school and live a good life. Nothing beats that.
What one piece of advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs regarding seeking investment?
Think hard about your budget. If you think you need US$ 1 million to start a business, see what you can do with half of that. Most of our businesses were started with less than US$ 500,000. In addition, whatever your working capital number is, triple it.
What are your thoughts on the future of F&B and the industry from an investor’s standpoint?
As a hobby chef, my investment into F&B has revolved around one thing and one thing only: the food (and the price you charge). That is what you sell and that is what people remember. No one sees an ad for a restaurant and becomes a loyal customer. Interiors win design awards. Good looking plates on Instagram are a picture in a crowded space. Most people, i.e. your market, want good, wholesome food at a decent price. US$ 45 breakfasts do not win loyal customers (I can have breakfast in a five-star hotel in Mayfair for that money). Think about an average cheque of US$ 15 and serve people something that will bring them back.
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