Follow The Leader: Thumbay Moideen, Founder President, Thumbay Group

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Thumbay Moideen, Founder President, Thumbay Group. Image credit: Thumbay Group.

“Innovation is such an important aspect that nowadays, rather than just a word, it’s a culture that every company must follow. If an organization is stagnant, it will not survive; innovation is indispensable for growth. The culture of innovation has to permeate each department and employee, so as to achieve gains like efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and to acc omplish the organizational goals.”

Thumbay Moideen’s charming, unassuming manner can come as a bit of surprise when one meets with him for the first time- after all, the Founder President of the Thumbay Group is someone who established an enterprise that started out in 1998 with a path-breaking educational institution, and has since grown into what is today an international business conglomerate with a presence in 16 different industry sectors, which includes everything from retail to real estate. But ask Moideen to what factors he attributes his company’s success to, his modesty is easily apparent when he answers with a deference to the Thumbay Group’s brand motto: Growth Through Innovation. “Since its inception, Thumbay Group has been led by the vision to innovate, and the mission to explore new growth avenues,” Moideen says. “Our growth through the years has been driven by a strong set of values, comprising of excellence, trust, knowledge, innovation and integrity. We have always stuck to the core of ethicality.” And if his business’ current status is any indication, then those are the principles every entrepreneur should be basing his or her enterprise on- it’s quite clear that Moideen has dreamed big with the Thumbay Group, and make no mistake, he hasn’t stopped dreaming big either. “All of our businesses are growing as per plans, and we aim to scale up our existing businesses at least 10 times more in the next five years,” Moideen reveals.

The story of how Moideen started the Thumbay Group in the UAE has become somewhat of a legend in business circles in this region- the short version of the story is that Moideen had a chance meeting in 1997 with a member of Ajman’s royal family, who asked him for ideas on projects that could help boost the Emirate’s economy. Moideen proposed an educational institution modeled on the likes of a similar establishment he had seen in the state of Karnataka in India, and lo and behold, Moideen was invited to initiate and lead the creation of a medical academic center in Ajman. While Moideen didn’t have any experience or knowledge about this space at the time, he did see the opportunity inherent in the idea, and decided to swoop in and try to capitalize on it. The gamble paid off- 1998 saw the establishment of Gulf Medical College, and it grew into what is today Gulf Medical University, one of the most sought-after private medical universities in the region.

Along the way, driven by a need for teaching hospitals for his students, Moideen ventured into the healthcare provider business as well- the first Thumbay Hospital came into being in Ajman in 2002, and today, it boasts of locations in the Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah, as well as in Hyderabad, India. The Thumbay Group has made inroads into other sectors as well- for instance, there are the health, nutrition and wellness stores running under the name of Nutri Plus Vita Stores, a coffee shop chain (Blends & Brews), the network of spa facilities (Body & Soul Health Club & Spa), and a lot, lot more.

Thumbay Moideen receiving the Dubai Quality Appreciation Award in 2016 for Thumbay Hospital Ajman from H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Image credit: Thumbay Group.
But as is often the case with entrepreneurial success stories, the above oft-repeated timeline makes it seem that Moideen had an apparently comfortable run in the world of business. However, nothing could be further from the truth- while Moideen does hail from a reputed business family in India, setting up the Thumbay Group in the UAE in a sector and country that were almost entirely in my career, there is definitely not an easy task. “One of the major challenges we faced as we set foot in the country was that we had chosen to enter a territory which was completely new to us,” Moideen recalls. “We have been faced with challenging situations every now and then, but we’ve developed a work culture at Thumbay Group which keeps us committed to our goal and powers us with the passion to stick to our guns until the goal is achieved. I’m fortunate to have a team that has stood by me during the tough times.” But that was then- today, the Thumbay Group is on quite a solid footing (as is evidenced by its current billion dollar value in the market), and it is now looking to expand further. “Thumbay Group aims to expand internationally, creating a global presence,” Moideen says. “By 2020, we aim to develop 420 establishments including three new university campuses in three countries, develop an alternative medicine hospital and college; as many as 15 new Thumbay Academic Hospitals in UAE and other countries; 100 Thumbay Pharmacy outlets; 25 Thumbay Labs; 100 Blends & Brews Coffee Shops; 25 Body & Soul Health Club outlets; 100 ZO and MO Opticals outlets; 50 Nutri Plus Vita outlets. The strategic growth plan will nearly double the group’s net worth to US$3 billion by 2020, from the current value of US$1.8 billion. This will also triple the 5,000 existing human resources to 15,000.”


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Now, those may seem like very ambitious plans, but once you consider that Moideen will be the one driving these initiatives forward at the Thumbay Group, it’s safe to say that those dreams are well within reach for the company. Moideen’s two sons are also helping with the realization of his grand vision for the enterprise- while Akbar Moideen Thumbay is the Vice President of the Healthcare Division at the Thumbay Group, Akram Moideen Thumbay is the Director Operations for the Construction and Renovation Division of the company, and both sons are members of the Thumbay Group Board as well, where strategic plans for the conglomerate are made and implemented. Moideen also doesn’t shy away from highlighting the importance of the contributions of his team to the enterprise- the executive team, in particular, is a case in point. “Finding a good executive team is very important, as these are the people who handle the major responsibilities,” he notes. “We are fortunate to have a strong HR department, which has a strong framework of human capital management. Thumbay Group is driven by a strong set of values, the vision to innovate, and the unending quest for new growth avenues. We have a qualified team of executives who not only understand and appreciate the group’s mission and vision, but are also passionate to work for it. The members of my team are committed to ethicality, and have the spirit of innovation.” It’s interesting here to note that while Moideen continuously reiterates the importance of his team at the Thumbay Group, the Founder President continues to play a very hands-on role at the company- here is someone who believes in leading from the front, and knows the value of doing so. “As the driving force of the company, I constantly make sure that we keep up with the latest trends, as well as plan ahead,” Moideen says. “Acting as the facilitator for my team, I oversee all day-to-day operations, and at the same time, resolving problems and ushering in change.”

Akbar Moideen Thumbay, Thumbay Moideen and Akram Moideen Thumbay. Image credit: Thumbay Group.
Moideen’s particular style of leadership is easy to understand when one considers his thoughts on what makes someone a great leader who inspires. “A great leader must live up to the highest standards of professionalism, in addition to setting the organization’s vision,” he says. “The helmsman of an organization must dream big for its growth and success. He/she must have the ability to take intelligent risks, while remaining optimistic at all times. People management is yet another important skill, and the leader must trust his/her team members, in turn earning their trust and confidence. Apart from the above, personally, I make sure that I lead my team from the front, taking care to infuse dedication, discipline and hard work at all levels of the organization.” In addition, Moideen is a firm believer in giving back- besides the firm entrenchment of CSR in the culture of the Thumbay Group, he is also eager to see replications of his entrepreneurial success stories in the world around him, and so, he is a keen follower and contributor to the entrepreneurial ecosystem at large as well. “I never miss a chance to interact with young and upcoming entrepreneurs and to do my bit to inspire them,” Moideen says. “Moreover, Thumbay Group is constantly striving to expand its operations and reach to all parts of the globe- as such, we are always keen to partner with and support individuals and organizations who are enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and innovation.” One instance of Moideen’s drive in this regard is Gulf Medical University’s upcoming innovation center at its campus in Ajman. “The innovation center we are building at Gulf Medical University aims to enhance the culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, and to serve as a launch pad for innovative products and services,” he says. “In addition to serving as a contact point for scientists, faculty and students for medical innovation, it will also foster collaborations and partnerships with international institutions, universities, research labs, pharma companies and the healthcare industry.”


As an entrepreneur who has seen much success with his various business ventures in the Middle East, Moideen continues to be encouraging of new entrepreneurs who want to set up shop in this region. “There are opportunities aplenty for entrepreneurs in the Middle East,” Moideen declares. “The visionary leaderships of the Middle East nations have laid a strong economic foundation for the region, as a result of which we have all these opportunities today.” Moideen also alludes to the changing dynamics of economies in the region as a potential advantage for entrepreneurs in the Middle East. “The countries of the region are increasingly diversifying their economies and moving away from oil dependency,” he notes. “They are wholeheartedly welcoming investments in various sectors. Now is definitely a good time to start a business in the region.” And given that comment comes from Thumbay Moideen, one may be wise to follow his words to the tee.

ASK THE EXEC - Thumbay Moideen

Thumbay Moideen, Founder President, Thumbay Group. Image credit: Thumbay Group.

The Q You have often mentioned that for you, doing business that also has a social element is important. Can you elaborate on this aspect , and what are the ways in which you implement CSR/social support in your business?

The A “Doing business with a social angle is part of the corporate culture of Thumbay Group. This is something that was imbued in me by the elders in my family, who themselves were successful businessmen. Corporate social responsibility is a full-fledged activity of Thumbay Group. The Thumbay Foundation was formed as a charitable trust established to support charitable activities in healthcare, education and social causes. Thumbay Foundation provides funds and support by the provision of scholarships, grants, bursaries, awards, fellowships, endowments, donations and other forms of financial assistance to students pursuing any level of education or training in any educational or training institution or establishment. Along with many other charitable initiatives, Thumbay Group is at the forefront of business houses that see philanthropy as a duty to society and as an act of giving back rather than an act of charity. Our hospitals have dedicated Patient Affairs Departments, which ensure good treatment to the poor, at subsidized charges. We make sure that no patient is denied treatment because of his/her inability to afford. Our hospitals also conduct frequent medical camps for the public. At Gulf Medical University, we give scholarships to deserving, meritorious students to pursue medical courses of their choice through our Care & Share program. GMU sponsors around 20% of its students.”

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