My Story

my story

“Goals come true if you work towards them, but first you
have to learn to set goals”

is what I would say if someone asked me for my two-cents. My life in Dubai has been a series of goals I set and achieved, and each time I come closer to a goal, I set a new goal. But life before I come to Dubai was not like this, and to know my story you will have to travel back with me to Shivaji Park, Mumbai where I grew up.

I am Chirantan Joshi, born on 8 September 1974 and the second child of Arvind and Sheetal. My sister Asavari was already 5 years old when I opened my eyes. My dad ran a small engineering workshop producing precision products for BARC, ISRO and L&T. He was a mechanical engineer by education and my future was already decided when a son was born. I would also be an engineer and run his business. I went to the best school not just in Dadar, but also in Mumbai. My school, Balmohan Vidyamandir, had the annual honour of producing the toppers in the state’s matriculation board which was also known as the Secondary School Certificate (SSC), equivalent to Grade 10. I remember not being too attentive in class and making it up with self-study at home under the watchful eye of my mother. School was uneventful and I trudged along studying enough to retain my position in the top 10 percentile of the class.

Actually, school was uneventful if I discount the fact that I took fancy to my schoolmate Anagha Dharap. I first laid eyes upon her at the school picnic to the Hanging Gardens when I was in Grade 1. I can still recall her prancing around the Big Boot in the garden. Today she is prancing around our home, keeping a watchful eye on the time I spend on watching television and social media. But more about her later in the story.

Another school event I clearly remember was the trip to Mahabaleshwar where we tried hard not squeal on a classmate who stole a ‘khanjer’ (iron dagger) from the shop. He had to own up when the shopkeeper turned up at the hotel we were staying. That incident left me with the resolve never to soil my family name.

Clearing the SSC was a breeze and the 90% score was sufficient to gain entry in the science stream of Ruparel College. Two years later I entered MIT Pune to pursue Mechanical Engineering as destined. Being away from home opened up a whole new world and the freedom afforded by my two-wheeler meant I was discovering Pune and what it had to offer to a young man who had just left a mothered nest. Eating out, staying up late, badminton, quality friendships, and flirtations with the fairer sex gave life a whole new thrill.

Engineering was not as easy as I thought and my academic rust met with fatal results. The shock of flunking the Engineering Drawing paper meant that my 2D mindset was not good enough to understand the 3D landscape of engineering. But I recovered fast enough to pass with a first class and became an Engineering Graduate with a BE (Mech) title affixed to my name forever.

Engineering was never my passion so after graduation I did what non-engineering types did in my batch, an MBA. I enrolled at the Symbiosis Institute for a post-graduate degree in Business Administration, popularly known as PGDM. I took to business studies like fish takes to water and for the first time in life enjoyed studying. The classes and the assignments touched a chord in me and I knew that I wanted to be in Sales & Marketing, which also happens to be my elective. I completed my post-graduation and returned to Mumbai with stars in my eyes for a glorious career in a highly-paid MNC job. Though my dad’s brother and maternal uncle were political stalwarts in Maharashtra, it never occurred to me to apply for a government job or seek their favour to land a cushy job.

Mumbai was not waiting for me, and nor were any jobs. I kept applying and kept getting rejected for almost six months during which I watched over 100 movies on Cable TV, which was then the latest past-time of idle youngsters. Endless rounds of cycling around Shivaji Park became another favourite pastime, and what interested me was not the exercise, but the aimless drifting and watching people going about their daily routines in the park. When I was younger I was not so hooked on sports. I did spend time playing cricket, football, hockey but never as a serious sport, and even today when we sponsor cricket tournaments, I am in the stadium stands watching, not playing.

At the cusp of my youth, I often reflected upon my childhood. My mother was always busy in the kitchen making my favorite Suralichi Vadi or Mango and Awla pickle that people came from far to take-away for free. My elder sister was always fawning over me with her protective shield.

My dad had a tough time running the workshop. It was a see-saw struggle keeping it going through the vagaries of the economy, a spiteful union-strike, an unexplained fire. Even our car was stolen twice and at that time I resolved that I would strive for a life of consistency and predictability and would never have my family live through uncertainty. When life was not a struggle, dad spent time listening to music and tinkering with things at home.
School did lay the foundation for a few of the principles that dictate my life. Hard work, discipline, ethics and respect for elders. Even today respect for elders is so deeply entrenched that I stand up when talking to elders even while on the phone.

Friends have been important source of life’s elixir and I have forever maintained the bonds irrespective of the years and progress in life. I make it a point to meet my friends each time I visit Mumbai. In Dubai I have made new friends and have never broken even a single strand of relationship. I continue to meet more people and forge new friendships.

With job hard to find in Mumbai I turned my gaze westward for a career, and Dubai appeared on the horizon as a possibility. I registered with a couple of recruitment consultants (we did not have or, and went back to watching Cable TV while I waited. And one morning I was presented with half-a-chance.

I was to be a stand-by candidate for a Sales job in Dubai at an office furniture company. In case any of the twenty short-listed candidates failed to appear, I would get a chance at the end of the queue. My punctuality paid dividends when I arrived 30 minutes before the start of the interview time. I arrived at 7.30 AM, when the interviews were to start at 8:00 AM.

Sitting in the lobby of the Oberoi Towers Hotel in Nariman Point, I struck a conversation with an Irani gentleman who turned out to be the Recruitment Manager. He probably stayed at the same hotel and had arrived a little early for the interview, just like me. My punctuality landed me the job.

At Symbiosis I was encouraged by our department head to attend an 11-day meditation camp in Jaipur known as Vipasana. He had also motivated us to practice Siddha Samadhi Yoga (SSY). My Irani recruiter was curious about Meditation and Yoga and we got off to a flying start culminating into a job offer with BAFCO. None of the twenty shortlisted candidates passed the interview and I was the only Sales Executive heading to Dubai.
I believe in luck. I believe that luck opens the doors, but you have to be prepared.

“When Opportunities Meets Preparation, Luck Happens”

The year was 1998 and it was the monsoon of July when I got the job offer. It took a few more months to complete the formalities and I flew on an Air India plane to Dubai on 27 October 1998. When I cleared immigration and came out, it was already evening and summer was just about receding. I had arrived to my future.

I had never worked before except for a brief internship at Cummins Engines in Pune. And here I was in a foreign land without an iota of experience, or understanding of local language or local customs. I soon realised that language was not a barrier and nor was the culture as most of my colleagues were Indians. BAFCO was an industry leader in Office Furniture and had an established clientele and a sprawling multi-story showroom. I was assigned to a few key-accounts, chase new enquiries, make cold-calls and cater to showroom visitors.

I worked hard, followed my leads, submitted proposals on time, but success eluded me. I tried my best but just couldn’t close enough deals. It appeared to me that I lacked the killer instinct. Then one day my British manager David Hutton revealed the ‘mantra’ to me. He said to me, “Joshi you are sincere, you work hard, but you are not able to sell, and do you know why?” I gave him a blank stare and he continued, “because you are looking at the transaction and not the relationship. Make your client your Friend”.’ And how do I do that I asked with the same blank look on my face. He replied, “Make him like you, earn his respect. Work for him”

The whole evening I thought about what he said, and decided to try it out when I went next to meet a client at a renowned university. This time I did not jump into furniture. I talked about his family, his interests, his vacation and what I could do to make his job easier. I was not in a hurry to discuss the configuration or the commercial. I appeared unhurried and focused. I saw the change in him. I continued in the same manner in the subsequent meetings bringing up business only after having spent some time building a rapport. When I left BAFCO five years later, I signed the largest interior fit-out deal for over 1 million dirhams. I did not make commission on this, but it was a tribute to my boss who took the ‘product’ out of me and put the ‘people’.

I was enjoying my job. I was interacting with people from all nationalities and for a Brahmin boy from Shivaji Park, who spoke largely to Marathi speaking people all his life, this was a cultural revelation. I got exposure to multinational code of ethics and business processes. I learnt the nuances of business and social etiquette. I made friends out of colleagues that I still cherish. I learned about ergonomics, interior design, and furniture installation, and when time permitted I turned up at my sites during deployment (though it was not part of my duty). I was learning and earning as well. Life was on a roll; closing deals making good commission. I had married my school sweetheart and were expecting our first child. All was going well.

And then it happened. The entrepreneur in me emerged and my inner voice said it was time to be on my own. My wife’s first reaction was to pack up and go back if I ever had to try anything on my own in Dubai. She relented and gave me two years to give it a shot. If I did not make in two years the same money as I did at BAFCO, we would pack up and go. I had not much in my bank except the end-of-term gratuity that I would be entitled to. Dreams in my heart and determination in my mind I resigned and started serving the three months’ notice period. I had no ‘plan’ but just a burning desire to be my own boss.

It was December already and my clock was ticking. One day while driving past Lamcy Plaza in the Oudh Metha area I chanced upon an ex-BAFCO colleague Dileep getting a truck loaded. I parked my car and walked up to him to find out whether he had opened a furniture company too. He said he was relocating a house and invited me to tea at a nearby cafeteria.

I heard with rapt attention as he described the business of relocation that he started after he quit as Operations Manager at BAFCO. We had worked together and I had known him as a sincere and meticulous manager. He was applying his experience of furniture installation to relocation. He had started with the help of two other friends and owned a truck and had hired two loaders.

Once again my inner voice said to me that I could do this. Instead of setting up my own relocation company I felt we could be a team. I knew he was good at operations and I was good at sales. I thought we could complement each other and hoped that he would see that too. Confidently I asked him if I could join hands with him. Dileep said he would discuss with his other partners, and after 2 days he called me back to say ‘Yes’. I removed the money from my gratuity account and invested in the Emirates Land Furniture Movers, which later we shortened to E-Movers. The year 2003 was winding down and I was going to launch myself as my own boss.

We identified a need in the market and went after it. Office relocation was a disorganized trade and mostly done by individual blue-collar workers with a truck of their own. Administrators in large private and government enterprises were pretty much tasked with arranging the labour and the vehicles to relocate offices. We changed that. We took the load off their back and gave them peace of mind and time to focus on more important matters.

We also discovered that furniture installation was another niche market that was not well served. I leveraged by industry contacts to get our first few customers and were also assisted by our ex-colleagues who referred their clients to us. I had always maintained good relationships with my clients and since we had no conflict of interest with my erstwhile company we made quick inroads in the office relocation and furniture installation market. Today we pride ourselves on big names like Emaar, RTA, Ruler’s Court, ADNOC, to name a few.

We quickly grew to 100 people within 4 years and in 2009 opened Abu Dhabi branch. Suresh Pillai, my partner, was running operations in Dubai, moved to Abu Dhabi to manage it. We also moved the head office from Sharjah to Dubai, and in 2011 made our first overseas foray into Qatar where we continue to operate on our own steam. Hiring talent became as important as instilling process and safety. The induction of Siddhi Joshi in the leadership role strengthened my team. It’s a coincidence that she has the same surname as mine but is not related to me. The stability of our core team and a retention rate of 80%+ gave us the foundation to grow even faster. Today we are 500+ people and enjoy a very high customer satisfaction index as reflected by our Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 90+.

Over the years I have continued to become a better version of myself through audio-books, personal coaching, business networking and social participation. I joined the Business Networking International (BNI) in 2006 and went on to become the Regional Director in 2008. I attend annual conferences of our trade bodies IAM and FIDI which gives me an opportunity not just to further our international relocation business but also learn about global trends and management practices. I am a big believer of processes and practices and have made it a way of life in all my business. I spend equal effort in training my team and making it the best in each of our businesses.

Establishing a good team at E-Movers gave me time to look at new opportunities and once again we were lucky to find an unserved need in the market. We were hunting for a leather repair company to fix some expensive dining chairs that were damaged while moving a villa in Abu Dhabi. Mobilia, a company with avant-garde furniture range, was already our customer for furniture installation and we turned to them to help us find a solution. We found nobody in UAE and our search took us to Australia and to the Leather Doctor, a firm that specialized in leather repairs. We saw an opportunity to take a franchise but the problem was that they were offering franchises only in Australia.

Domenic Zaffino , the director of Mobilia was a good friend and offered his help to procure the franchise using his Australian connection and Italian charm. He also evinced interest in taking a stake and thus our second business came to life – Giving leather a second life.

Leather Doctor was a pioneer for leather repair in UAE and competition sprung up soon enough. We have three workshops in Dubai and a team of 50+ who help to clean, repair, and recolour leather.

I have always believed that a successful businessman invests in people and not in businesses. If you find the right partners who know the business, it is more likely to succeed than first investing in a business and finding partners to run.

One good turn deserves another and joining hands with Domenic Zaffino on Leather Doctor brought me closer to his furniture business Mobilia. When his Australian investors were looking for divestment E-Movers bought a stake and came aboard. Mobilia focusses on contemporary home and office furniture and Domenic’s deep experience and taste helps to stock an eclectic inventory.

I have a professional team in all the businesses. All stake-holders constitute the board, but I am actively involved in strategy and business review. I manage all businesses through individual Checklists and have instituted many professional practices and management processes that run the operations. I continue to learn, master and hone practices and processes to keep growing.

“You only get what you Inspect, not what you Expect”

I started my story saying that I live by goals. I keep setting and achieving goals and believe that any goal that I put my mind to I will achieve. I share some of the goals that I set and achieved:

Goals Achieved
100+ Families will earn a living through my enterprise

2010: Conduct a solo training program for an audience of 100+

Goals I am working on: Create a community of 500+ peers supporting, advising and learning from each other.

And in Conclusion, the rest of my Love Story.

Anagha Dharap stayed in my sight all the years and we were in the same class for last three years before passing out from school. I never spoke to her while in school but she lived in my thoughts for many years and came back in my life at our Class Reunion, just when I was ready to move to Dubai. We rediscovered each other and when I returned to Dubai we stayed in touch on online chat.

I had completed one year in Dubai and was back in Mumbai for my annual break. She was working at Idealake as a graphic artist after completing her Applied Arts from J.J. School of Art. I received a message through a common friend that she was interested in converting our casual chatter to a formal relationship. But I was not ready.

We waited another year till I got my act together in Dubai; took a one-bedroom apartment in the Old Pakistani Consulate (OPC) area and had a better fix on my earnings. I returned for my annual break and was glad that she had not tied the knot elsewhere. We got married in December 2001 at the Vanita Samaj Hall near Shivaji Park. Thus Anagha Dharap became Mrs. Joshi. I had waited for her since Grade 1 unknown to her, and she had waited for me too, unknown to her as well. Perhaps destiny knew it all.

We returned to Dubai together to my OPC apartment and we stayed there for the first decade of our life. I worked hard at BAFCO and she took some time to settle, but before she could think about resuming her career, she got pregnant. Anvay, our son, was born on 17 December 2003.

Anagha and I are almost the same age, she is an Examiner personality and keeps the Nurturer in me closer to ground. She lets me flex my wings but has me rooted at all times. My son was born almost the same time as I started E-Movers, and while I was busy bringing up E-Movers she was expending her time on bringing him up.

My son Anvay has matured into a fine person taking on responsibility for self. He loves dramatics and gave his Trinity Exams for Theatre and has an acute awareness of global politics that he discusses ever so passionately.

Anagha has more time to herself now and has been designing and producing Paper jewellery that she sells via social media and at exhibitions. She also single-handedly manages all our investments in India and keeps a close tab on savings, deposits, rents and sundry financial matters.

My parents live in their flat in Mumbai, and mother has more time to watch her favourite Marathi serials and spending hours doing her ‘Jaap’ (chanting). My dad closed his workshop years ago and took over the reins of my grandfather’s Parijat Lodge in Dadar. He is an avid net-surfer and stays eagerly attached to the modern world.

I end my story here hoping you got to know me better.