Even mom-and-pop outfits can use a personal assistant

The Life: Warsha Joshi worked in the beauty industry when she first arrived in the UAE in 1996 before becoming a personal assistant. But she has since set up her own 'virtual assistant' business. She speaks about how she got started.

The 2009 financial crisis made it easier for Warsha Joshi to set up her own virtual assistance business. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Warsha Joshi worked in the beauty industry when she first arrived in the UAE in 1996, before becoming a personal assistant (PA).

She has since set up her own "virtual assistant" business, Platinum VA, offering PA services to small companies. Here, she talks about how she got started.

You worked in the beauty industry when you first arrived here. How did you become a personal assistant?

In 2000, I went through a big health issue. I was diagnosed with cancer so I had to take a break and recover and then I wanted to take it easy. In 2001, I had taken up a part-time, admin service job but I continued with the company for six years and grew through the ranks and my last position there was PA to the general manager. My then boss moved to Dubai World Group and he took me with him so I was there for about five years.

Why did you start your own company?

My last employed position was PA to the chief financial officer in one of the Dubai World companies. Then, in 2009, I got made redundant. That's when the idea was born. During 2009, a lot of my colleagues were losing their jobs because of the [economic] climate then. And that was also the time when Dubai ... made it easier for people to open their own businesses. I found a gap and thought, 'There are all these new businesses coming up, one-person or two-person companies and they need assistance but they don't necessarily need an assistant for eight hours a day, nor can they afford a PA.' I thought, 'Here's what I can do.'

How does the virtual PA service work?

All the assistance offered to [small businesses] is completely virtual. The PA works from our location and offers services like email management, calendar management, or even things like making proposals for the client's clients. The PA doesn't have to be sitting in front of the client.

How many PAs do you have?

We are six consultants now and we are large enough to have a finance director on board.

What are your plans for the business?

Earlier this year we put the entire business to a proper audit to ensure it is franchise-ready. Let me take a step back first, virtual assistants are big business in the rest of the world. But it is virtually unheard of over here, not just in the UAE but also in the [wider] GCC and, surprisingly, in India as well. India is a big outsourcing centre but it only outsources to the rest of the world. Those businesses [that are] in India have no support. We thought, 'Why not expand it to parts of the GCC, which are growing?' We're looking to expand to Doha and India as first steps and it will be one more step to Jordan if things go well.