Masala! talks to the industrialist and Masala! awards judge Mahesh Menda
“Positive attitude, high energy levels, vision and hard work!” says industrialist Mahesh Menda listing the reasons behind his achievements. His incredible success story is proof enough!
Mahesh Menda is a typical example of a Dubai success story. A management graduate from India, he came to Dubai way back in 1976. From then on, his hard work, astute business sense and foresight saw him grow step by step to become an eminent name in the business circles of the city. He first started a company under the sponsorship of none other than HH Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum (first cousin to the Ruler of Dubai) who believed in his vision. And over the years, Mahesh has played an active role in forging closer ties between the UAE and India through his various projects, companies and associations. His counsel has also been sought and implemented at the highest level of governance in India. What’s more, he has used his position and influence to make a difference to people’s lives by supporting several charities and causes. Indeed, Mahesh Menda, who serves as a judge for the Masala! Awards this year, is a man of many talents and interests...
You have been in the city for over 30 years now. What are your early memories of the UAE?
When I came here in 1976, Dubai was a small place and everyone knew each other. Or if they didn’t, they definitely knew of the other! Members of the Indian community loved to meet at the Indian Sports Club. There was no traffic and Sheikh Zayed Road didn’t exist! Walking into the Majlis of any ruling family member, including HH Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, was not unheard of. People would ask him why he wanted to build the Jebel Ali Port. He had a simple answer: ‘As you think of your family’s future, I am thinking of the future of Dubai’. In hindsight, his vision was the stepping stone to the growth we are all experiencing today. As far as my personal life was concerned, I remember waking up at 6am, having a four-finger Kit Kat and glass of tang for breakfast and running out of the door and driving to Jebel Ali. At the time, the first power station, Dubai Aluminium’s first plant, Jebel Ali Hotel and the Jebel Ali Port were being built.
What are you looking forward to as a member of the judges’ panel?
I am looking forward to nominating deserving candidates, the new faces in different categories, and of course, the awards night which will bring together the entire Indian community.
What are the qualities you look for in a Masala! Awards winner?
An independent thinker with passion for what he/she does. I’m not going to focus my energy on financial achievements, but rather a person who has been able to achieve as much as possible within the resources they have available.
You have attained great success in your field of work. What do you attribute this to?
A positive attitude, high energy levels, vision, my supportive wife and a lot of hard work! Also, plenty of helpful people along the way.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while setting up your company, World of Electricals?
Finding a good team, training them and convincing my first principals and customers to work with me were huge challenges initially. I overcame these with a lot of dedication and persistence. Another major challenge was arranging the financing. It seemed like an impossible task but I built up the courage to make an appointment with Peter Mason, the regional head (for the Gulf) of the British Bank of the Middle East. I guess he must have believed in me because he gave me an hour and a half of his time, for what was supposed to be just a 15-minute meeting. In that time, he agreed to give my company all the facilities I requested for; it set me on the road to growth.
How do you devote time to your varied business interests?
I try to devote my time towards all of my business interests as equally as possible.
What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
Dream for something and then work hard with a dedicated focus. If you are passionate about something, this shouldn’t be difficult. Persist, and never give up but be reasonable as well. Ask questions from every resource you have available. Constructive criticism is better than blind praise, so listen to negative feedback and make an educated decision.
You are involved in quite a few charities, can you tell us more about your activities in this regard?
It’s not a lot of charities, there are just a few! My charitable activities are primarily through ongoing sponsorships and financial donations towards causes that I find are genuine and will make a difference to the needy. I made my company an annual corporate donor to the ICWC (Indian Community Welfare Committee) in Dubai.
The cause of education is dear to me and I also sponsor education of many individuals at the primary school level and of even eligible candidates for a master’s degree, from the UAE and India. This is done on an ad hoc basis – I choose people who I feel are most worthy. I also sponsor free hospital beds in India where at any given time patients can receive free medical attention, including surgery. I have donated a ward to a hospital in Mumbai as well as a cardiac floor (which is named after my mother). In Dubai, I support my son with his charitable organisation Care for Labourers, and guide him on his efforts to improve the quality of life of low income workers.
You have a beautiful home. What has been your contribution to its décor and look?
Thank you! My wife and I were fully involved in the décor of our home. We have considered every detail ourselves, with some minor help from others but the essential ideas are ours. We enjoy doing this and have gone through a lot of trial and error. It was a constant work in progress for five years! Also, our home would not be half as beautiful without my wife’s passions for flowers. She indeed puts her heart and soul into the flower arrangements. Our home is always decorated with beautiful flowers.
Do you go on holidays often or do you mainly travel for work?
I go on a family holiday every year and travel every now and then for social engagements. However, most of my travels are work-related.
Aside from work, what else interests you?
I have quite a few interests. Spending time with my family, golf, bridge, food, grape and art top the list! I am a foodie and whatever part of the world I am at, I make it a point to visit the best restaurants there. I also collect and constantly educate myself about grape and art.