“I lay great value on human relationships. This is more so when they are built on mutual trust, regard, and appreciation. These relationships can take you a long way towards achieving your goals.”
As a young man, Mr. Abdulrahman Bukhatir was an unlikely candidate for a businessman. The son of a highly reputed judge, he joined a British bank after completing his education.
“But I guess my aspirations were unlimited,” he reminisces. “I began to look for other opportunities, and I realized the potential of life from the other side of the banker’s counter. Before long, my frame of mind had changed, and I quit my job to get into the business.”
By the mid-1970s, the United Arab Emirates had come into existence and was facing the beneficial fallout of the oil boom. With the advent of prosperity, Mr. Bukhatir rightly foresaw the onset of huge nation-wide construction activity and created his business strategies accordingly. He began trading in timber, cement, and steel.
With his aspirations self-confessedly “unlimited,” Mr. Bukhatir always sought new business opportunities – a trait that has, today, no doubt helped him transform the Bukhatir Group into one of the UAE’s most diversified business houses.
Yet he recalls being a bit cautious about expanding: “Before I started a business, I would ask myself this question: Do I have the management skills myself and, if not, can I acquire them? I didn’t get into businesses I didn’t know.”
But did he mind taking big risks? “As far as risk-taking goes, I don’t think I’m a gambler. But I do take calculated risks that may or may not work,” he says. “I use my own intelligence to evaluate the chances of success. It should be a minimum of 50:50. I think I’d be very cautious in approaching a very high risk and high-profit proposition.”
He also seeks innovation: “I always try to be innovative. I try not to compete with Tom, Dick, and Harry’s of the world! If nothing else, this reduces the chances of clashing with them.”
And he says it has worked: “I could give you many examples of how my approach of being innovative has worked. Many of my companies have been pioneers.
Emitac was the first to introduce information technology in the UAE. Conmix was the first to produce concrete and plaster mixes. Nitco was the first to offer prefabricated houses. ULO was the first to deliver underwater grouting for oil installations. Of course, bringing cricket was a huge innovation in itself!” The last-named innovation i.e. cricket, has made Mr. Bukhatir a household name in the Indian subcontinent.
So, what motivates Mr. Bukhatir? “More important than the bottom line in business is the fact that your businesses are providing livelihood to so many families. This aspect gives me a lot of satisfaction,” he says. “Two other factors that attract me most are success and achievement, especially in doing something new.''
Mr. Bukhatir is also very much a ‘pro-people’ man. “I lay great value on human relationships. This is more so when they are built on mutual trust, regard, and appreciation. These relationships can take you a long way towards achieving your goals,” he says, adding that “Personally, I have always looked at success as the reward of hard work by people, men and women ─ regardless of gender, color, or ethnic background”.
Finally, a key to Mr. Bukhatir’s success in business is that he is not a man in a hurry for results. His philosophy: “I am not an impatient man. I am quite happy to build a small business and wait for it to grow. The important thing is to lay the right foundation securely and properly. Give it time, and the small business will grow exponentially.”