Bold Ambition: Mohammed Jafer Musthafa, Founder And Managing Director, Daemaar Group
Daemaar Group founder and Managing Director Mohammed Jafer Musthafa on building (and leading) a business using "discipline, with compassion."
My conversation with Mohammed Jafer Musthafa, an Abu Dhabi-based entrepreneur, starts with a chat on how to overcome frustrations arising from one’s thwarted ambitions, and Musthafa is quick to state that one thing every entrepreneur must guard from is a lack of, and a crisis of, confidence. His favorite quote, he says, is one by Winston Churchill: “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” This pretty much sums up the engine behind the growth of his enterprise, Daemaar Group.
It might have been a risky decision to start a business in a fiercely competitive sector at the age of 26, but Musthafa believed in the opportunities the construction sector would continue to offer not just in the UAE, but also in the wider MENA region. Today, he is the founder and Managing Director of Daemaar Group, a business conglomerate comprising six standalone companies specializing in construction, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP), facility management, trading, retail, and e-commerce. “During the initial days of Daemar Contracting, which was the first among six standalone companies of the Daemaar Group, I had a far-sighted vision, knowing that my exploration was not going to be contained to one field,” Musthafa remembers. “To me, business is [about] serving society, and a lot of our substantial decisions are made when the market demands [it]. After Daemaar Contracting, we invested into Daemaar Trading to fulfill the requirements of our construction projects in civil, MEP, and facility management. From trading of construction materials, we moved to a more consumeroriented market with FMCG products. Exploring this new sector paved way for the launch of Daemaar Retail. Establishing ourselves in the retail sector, signing international franchises, dealing with fashion, lifestyle, cosmetics and F&B raised the bar to another level. This brought all our businesses under one roof, forming the Daemaar Group. Hence, connecting activities and services, and bridging gaps between them has helped us move forward towards our ever-growing vision.”
Mohammed Jafer Musthafa, Founder And Managing Director, Daemaar Group
Today, Daemaar Group is actively present in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and India, while operations in Kenya and China are expected to commence soon. However, Musthafa points out that it all started in Abu Dhabi. For him, the UAE seems the best place to dream gigantic entrepreneurial dreams unconstrained by difficult economic conditions often present in other regions. “There is a huge influx of people from across the globe into the Middle Eastern countries on an everyday basis,” he says. “They come here in search of better opportunities, lifestyles, and more, transforming it into one of the biggest cosmopolitan areas in the world. Hence, the region has immense possibilities of developing every day, in terms of infrastructure, economy, and so on. This gave us humongous scope to explore this part of the world through our construction business. Undoubtedly, it is construction that brings us the highest profit. There is no scarcity of projects, as the growth in this sector is mandatory. The demand for office buildings, residences, shopping malls, community halls, and much more escalates rapidly.”
However, for all entrepreneurs looking at starting up or expanding their businesses into this region, Musthafa has two quite specific pieces of advice. While the region offers tremendous possibilities for flourishing and succeeding, he says his entrepreneurial experience has taught him that even more are hidden in unexplored and comparatively newer domains. In addition to having a keen eye for seizing new market opportunities, Musthafa emphasizes that entrepreneurs need to establish a strong and solid base for their businesses. And here, he explains how: “One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs when starting their business in not only the MENA region, but anywhere in the world, is to obtaining stability in the market. This stability has to be longterm, and in regions like the MENA, establishing a strong foundation begins with thorough research on the culture, traditions, demographics, and mindset of the population, apart from the regular market study.
Also, it is important to analyze the scope of your business in the region, as the target audience is vastly diverse.” As for his second piece of advice, Musthafa says it’s one he has followed himself. “The Middle East is one of the regions where people are so familiar with foreign markets, and so regularly updated,” Musthafa says. “To keep pace with this market, we have to be continuously innovating, especially with retail. Combining and coordinating to engage customers online and offline for a more user-friendly and better shopping experience is now our focus. By 2019, we plan to incorporate a consumer-friendly technology within our retail stores to continuously engage the customers.”
For the past two years, his team has been improving their retail offering by implementing different execution and expansion strategies, launching new stores, and providing new experiences for their customers. One of the results is the Group’s e-commerce platform called MOON 24x7 Online, which is to be first launched in India, before expanding across the GCC. “Business is a vast spectrum of possibilities,” Musthafa explains. “Once you are in it and emerge successful, there is nothing stopping you from experimenting and taking risks. Knowing your strengths and limits, and having faith in yourself will take you a long way in whatever you do. I strongly believe in this policy. Daemaar Group is continuously growing beyond boundaries and exploring new spheres, such as the expansion of our retail business to other GCC countries, and investing further into different sectors like F&B, entertainment, and so on, which are some of our upcoming plans.” But it’s not just about the profits- Musthafa’s business is also keen on making a social impact, and that explains the creation of the MJM Foundation, a charity initiative which was founded to serve the community. As of now, Musthafa’s charitable goals have been incorporated in the Group’s retail division by helping local artisans from developing countries.
This part of the conversation leads us to his daily mantra which, Musthafa says, would be “discipline, with compassion,” meaning bringing discipline in the company, creating the right vision and prioritizing goals, while not losing the sense of being a good leader at the same time. “Every day is a new day, which means there is a fresh opportunity to start again and push harder to empower people,” he says. “Being a leader is pushing forward to accelerate results, thereby creating enthusiasm and continuous energy as people begin to share the milestones. A leader must also etch a purpose in the company, giving people a vision, and encourage them to turn challenges into opportunities. Effective communication is essential in any business, and bringing a group of people from various backgrounds to communicate as a team, to empower them to work towards the same goal, and to undertake the distinct difference between feedback and building on criticism is truly one of the many successes a leader can achieve on this journey.” At this point, if you are wondering as to how Musthafa came by all of the aforementioned wisdom, he is quick to explain that for him, experience has been the best teacher. “Gathering the stories of those around you of situations and experiences gives you a rather clear perspective of keeping in check with yourself,” he says. “Add to that your determination, and never losing focus of your goals, and most importantly, not being afraid of failure, and those would be the most important things for success.”
Daemaar Group founder and Managing Director Mohammed Jafer Musthafa
1. Create a long-term view with a focus towards building a positive momentum.
2. Be disciplined at the right time doing the right activity.
3. Motivate your people to create a culture that automatically enhances productivity.
4. Acknowledge, appreciate, support and respect your employees in order to motivate them to resonate with the vision of your company.
5. Communicate in a way that leaves a powerful impression.
Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.