All fired up
Entrepreneur Atinirmal Pagarani on his foray into fashion from real estate
Atinirmal Pagarani is your typical man about town. He parties and socialises with the cream of Dubai with as much aplomb as he manages his multi-million dirham ventures in Dubai and beyond. The managing director of the Yogi Group might know all about the rather dry world of real estate and construction but that hasn’t stopped him from exploring his passions and venturing into new exciting though untested territories, like fashion and retailing! And the reason he is comfortable with both extremes is because of his willingness to push the envelope and become a student all over again before pursuing a new business.
Ati also has mastered the art of maintaining a delicate balance in life – at work and at home! As he believes, “It’s tough but what’s got to be done, has to be done!” The young entrepreneur shares his success formulas in a chat with Masala!
What were your childhood and formative years like?
My parents are originally from Mumbai but I was born and raised in Dubai. I completed my schooling from The Indian High School and lived for four years in the UK for my graduate and post-graduate studies. My childhood was like that of any other kid whose family had migrated from India. Dad came to this city almost five decades ago. He started his life as a janitor in Yamaha Motors but gradually he worked his way up and became very successful.
I was the youngest of five kids and very pampered! My parents believed in showing their love for me through food. The result was that at one point I weighed nearly 140 kgs! Even today, my friends and family members are curious to know how I lost all that weight (laughs)!
My formative years were a lot of fun – travelling all over the world, indulging in crazy adventures and killing myself in the gym to get into shape!
Can you tell us a little about your work?
Well, I am the MD of Yogi Group (dad being the Chairman and my elder brother, the Deputy Chairman). Our group basically does anything and everything to a property except perhaps demolish it (laughs)!
Jokes apart, we are involved in all aspects of real estate – from buying, selling or leasing properties and constructing and maintaining them to facilities management, buying and selling of building materials, interior works and more. The group has now branched into the fashion and food industry. My work is very diverse and also demands a lot of travelling as we are currently active in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Mumbai, Riyadh and Jubail.
Yogi Group has had a remarkable success story. How did it start and grow to such an extent?
The group was started by my dad, Ghanshyam J Pagarani almost five decades ago. Our first venture was real estate. Dad was a very social person and he had close ties with several local families in the city. These families would often seek his help in leasing properties to Indians who had migrated to Dubai. Initially, he did it to merely help his friends but later thought of turning it a business. He always believed it was better to be your own boss than work for someone else! Thus Yogi Real Estate and Hassan Abdulla Darwesh Real Estate came into being.
In a few years he decided to broaden his horizons and start constructing buildings instead of just leasing or selling existing ones. It was simply a case of backward integration and soon we branched into companies dealing with trading and construction of building materials, leasing of equipment and so on. That’s how the ball began to roll!
What challenges did you face when you were setting up all these companies?
Since each company dealt with different activities, it was quite challenging to strike a balance. But it was also interesting as each division of the Yogi Group demanded a different approach thereby making life fresh and adventurous. We Pagaranis don’t know what monotony and boredom with one style of work is (laughs)! It does get tricky at times but we need to maintain a balance. If we have been successful in doing so, it’s largely due to our very efficient staff.
You recently tied up with Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor. What is it like working in the fashion industry after making a mark in the real estate and construction sector?
Fashion has always interested me but more from a buyer or shopper’s point of view. Styling family and close friends came naturally. I guess I have an eye for good fashion! I think I was almost destined to get into this industry.
Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor have been good friends and they always wanted to have a presence in the Middle Eastern market. They kept visiting Dubai to check out potential retail spaces with me. Gradually we decided to get into this together. I had to train myself and learn a lot about the retail business for I didn’t want to promise and not deliver. So I worked really hard to pick up the nuances of the business and fortunately things fell into place. I would not call it a shift as everything is running smoothly. I would say it was simply meant to be.
Working in the fashion industry has been fun but it’s also challenging and extremely competitive. The figures are way different when you compare it to construction or real estate but then again fashion is a passion and you cannot think about figures and numbers all the time!
I found it easier to get into this sector as I am a social person and the industry suited me. Being out there, being available, observant, critical, selective and open to changes with time has made it more exciting to be in this field.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would just advise them to do lots and lots of homework before stepping into anything new. Blindly getting into any venture because everyone else is doing it, is simply not worth it.
Prayers and hard work equals success. Whenever you are starting something new, put in all that you have and some day it will show positive results. Another important quality is patience, especially while working in competitive markets like the Middle East.
I must re-emphasise the importance of having good staff. Be extremely selective about who you recruit, it makes all the difference between the success and failure of your venture. Finally, start a business because you want to, not because you have to.
How do you handle the stress that comes with a role at your level?
Stress is a part and parcel of life, whatever sector you are in. I try to deal with problems by maintaining a disciplined diet, getting regular exercises and ensuring I have a peaceful, drama-free personal life! I make sure to be there for my family whenever they need me. I also have a good social circle and believe in taking holidays from time to time!
I feel it’s very important to take care of your health if you want to be truly stress-free. Everything else follows if you are physically and mentally fit. What is the point of earning all that money if you end up using it on medicines or hospital bills?
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
God willing, I hope to see myself equally happy five years from now as I am today. The future is a mystery and I would rather wait for it than worry about it and ruin my present! I am quite spiritual and feel God has something in mind for me and it’s for the best. Whatever has to happen five years from now will be better or as good!
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