The UAE has been witnessing a tremendous growth over the past decade and has been proving to the world that a great nation is set on claiming its spot amongst the top players. But what’s really important is not only the progress we have seen, but the people behind this economic, cultural and intellectual miracle that we have been witnessing. The UAE didn’t only give birth to the world’s tallest tower or the globe’s biggest mall, it gave birth to some of the world’s brightest business visionaries who are making the Emirates the star it is today.
One such visionary, known best as one of the leading polo icons in the region, is Rashid Khalaf Al Habtoor. Now Rashid is not your typical suspect: his father may be a wealthy individual, but that doesn’t factor into his life, because he decided early on to prove himself to the world and succeed outside of his father’s clout. He is a very unique character: born and brought up in the UAE, he is the exemplification of what the country stands for: risk taking, business canny and cosmopolitanism. And to top it all off, he speaks four languages (Arabic, English, Spanish, Urdu), loves Polo, and is mesmerized by Marbella, which he considers to be his favorite spot on Earth.
We had the pleasure to meet with Mr. Rashid to go over his life, work, passions and vision for the future in the hope that his words would truly resonate with you and show you that when it really comes down to it, when you really want it bad enough and you give it your all, anything is possible. Where you come from should never be a challenge or an impediment to what you want to become, and that’s Rashid’s lesson to all of us.
Rashid Al Habtoor
Rashid is a very striking yet humble individual who at first sight comes across as someone who has seen much of the world’s ups and downs, as someone who has explored what life has to offer. Therefor, family is a big part of what Rashid stands for, a part of his identity which he truly values and appreciates. He recalls his brothers and sisters, sons and daughter in an affectionate and kind spirit.
I have three brothers, I am the oldest, as well as three sisters. I also have four boys and a beautiful daughter. Family matters a lot, it’s your foundation on which to build, where to find support and who to go to in times of need. We stand together through great times and tough times.
You see, establishing a foundation of unity when it comes to family is an essential factor in Rashid’s life that plays a huge part in his extraordinary vision. His close-ties with loved ones tend to balance out and equilibrate his tremendously busy lifestyle. However, he also realizes the importance of building strong cohesive bonds with other influential individuals around him, humbly allowing himself to see things from different perspectives by embracing and valuing other constructive opinions and views.
“Every Monday, we have an open majlis – open for anyone. Everyone is welcome to come. Even for lunch, the whole family gathers to eat, joined often by friends and new guests interested in meeting the Al Habtoors. And on Friday we all go to the mosque together.”
Time is Money
Time is the most essential resource you have as an aspiring individual, and using it wisely can never be stressed enough. All the legendary businessmen and entrepreneurs we hear about in the world only sleep for a very few hours and never waste their time in bed, dreaming about success when they could be fulfilling those dreams, using their most important commodity to live up to what they’re made of – and Rashid ladies and gentlemen, is no exception.
“I only sleep for around five hours a day. I try to make the most use of my day and I know that every second counts. In fact, I keep myself so busy and engaged that I can’t remember when the last time I had the chance to read a book.”
The elegant game of Polo
Every brilliant business icon in the globe is known for a peculiar interest, a unique passion, be it in sports, art or even collecting stamps, but in the case of Rashid, he couldn’t help but to fall in love with the elegant game of Polo.
“Ali Al Bawadi, an older friend of mine and the owner of Spinneys, was the one who taught me about polo, and ultimately, I ended up falling in love with the sport at the end of the 80s. I loved the game so much I became one of the biggest ambassadors of polo, and even chairman of the polo club. Even my sons didn’t escape the charm of the sport, and I can assure you they are great players. I take them with me to different games and I make sure they are able to explore their passions as much as they can.”
Dubai, the capital of the world
One cannot look at the success of a man without looking at what inspired him as he grew up, at what fueled his passion. For Rashid, his journey echoed the development of the city he was brought up in: Dubai.
“I believe the more you are successful, the more you are passionate about doing things that will keep you alive. Change is happening everywhere, just look around and see the changes that are taking place in Dubai. It’s challenging. Dubai is a challenging city, it never sleeps, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it.”
What has happened in Dubai over the last decades is truly a unique experience, a historical happening that’s almost so fascinating its seen as a tad extraterrestrial. What was a pile of sand 40 years ago is today a global metropolitan city and a world icon that has every single eye glancing towards it, perceiving the rise of the next capital of the world. The vision of Dubai was, and is, spectacular, and the execution of this one-of-a-kind vision was excellent. It was perfectly done.
Work Hard, Play Hard
We’re humans after all, and while Rashid Al Habtoor may seem like a success machine grinding day and night to expand his business empire, he is still mortal. He understands the need for balance very well. The necessity to find peace in your business and social life and to coordinate both in total harmony. But most importantly, he realized the need to avoid letting his business consume him, a lesson much needed for all entrepreneurs around the globe. While taking care of emails and sending directives to your team members is critical, the need to find time for yourself, and your family, is just as essential.
“Each one finds his own balance to be honest. Family is very important, work is important and friends are important, so it’s up to you to find time for everything and prioritize based on what you value most. It’s not all in black and white; you can still enjoy the company of everyone while successfully accomplishing your tasks. You can be with your family but still have your phone on so you can use time to both work and be with your loved ones. That is the life of any entrepreneur, you have to adapt and accept the new reality your work imposes on you.”
The Rise of a new generation
While playing hard should be on everyone’s radar, Rashid’s generation and the ones before him didn’t have it that easy. The UAE was basically an empty desert roamed by nomads on a constant lookout for water and refuge, nothing like the air-conditioned skyscrapers we see everywhere today. Before luxury automobiles and top-of-the-line infrastructure, there were camels and cattle, and before leisure and fun there was hard work, blood, sweat and tears. This is the story of the UAE before oil and tourism got into the picture, a story that tells us so much about the perseverance of its people and the hardships they went through before establishing the modern-day Emirates. The point here is to get todays generation, the youth, to understand that this is critical and necessary if we are to witness a determined youth rise and take the lead in business.
“My generation is more concerned about how their parents had a tough life and understand their forefathers’ struggles, so they have a complete understanding of what went on behind the scenes, it wasn’t easy. But for this new generation, pretty much everything is easy. It is another mentality altogether. We are trying to involve Millennials and make them understand that everything that was done, was done based on incredibly hard work. Thankfully, the introduction of the Emiratisation scheme will help the UAE nationals to succeed and be more engaged in shaping their country’s success. Today, there is a strong leadership that helps the new generation get into different sectors. It’s been such a success that a lot of the youth is now coming back to study here in the UAE and establish themselves in the region.”
The UAE, and Dubai especially, has seen great improvements in its social infrastructure, with more locals taking on ventures and personal endeavors to establish themselves as a part of the region’s economic uprising.
“Dubai has been reshaped as an environment fertile for success, and the IT and Media city are testaments to how well Dubai is doing. Today, plenty of young Emiratis are now developing into great influential roles, from architects and fashion designers to successful Entrepreneurs and businessmen, something that is new and heart warming.
Some people speak negatively about the crisis that hit Dubai, but personally, I think the crisis was good for everyone in the country, especially the youth. Euphoria stopped and the government put the right things in place to make sure it didn’t happen again. We were brought back on track and the youth realized that everything isn’t a fairytale. They understood that they needed to be ready for such a crises and needed to start caring much more about their country’s future.”
Where we stand today
One cannot help but to admire the hard work, perseverance and genius of Rashid Al Habtoor. It’s not a matter of luck or family background, it simply boils down to how bad you want to establish yourself and prove your worth. Rashid is an influential icon for every entrepreneur and Millennial in the UAE, not to mention, the world. His journey is a venture that one should embrace and learn from, letting yourself comprehend the business mindset behind such an entrepreneurial role model. The success of Dubai is as much that of the leaders of the country, as it is that of the business visionaries running the show on the ground, and Rashid is a perfect example of how the citizen can make miracles happen for their nations, and can lead by example and pave the way for generations to come.
Photo Credit: Al Habtoor Trading Entreprises