Money & Me: ‘An emergency fund helped me survive testing times last year’

Prakash Adtani, owner of a Dubai restaurant, focused on food deliveries and social media marketing to keep his business afloat during Covid-19 restrictions

Prakash Adtani, owner of Tum Tum Asia restaurant, says he prefers the safety of fixed deposits to save money. Pawan Singh / The National
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Prakash Adtani is the owner of Dubai restaurant Tum Tum Asia, which opened in 2017. An Indian raised in Dubai, Mr Adtani says he became an entrepreneur because of a lack of options to satisfy his vegetarian food cravings.

Although his family runs an established textile business in the emirate, Mr Adtani wanted to step out of his comfort zone and pursue a career that challenged him creatively. Despite being hit by Covid-19 restrictions last year, he hopes to soon open a second branch of the pan-Asian vegetarian restaurant.

Mr Adtani lives in Dubai with his wife in a joint family.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was born in India and raised in Dubai. My father came to the emirate in 1977 and he was the first person from my family to travel abroad. He worked really hard and within 10 years, he opened his textile business. It is a family owned business that includes my father and his brothers. I was amazed at the hardships they endured and their efforts to give us a good life and upbringing.

But we were not given everything on a platter. When I was young, having good grades was a precondition to receive something we wanted. We were also taught to value money and were given only Dh50 as pocket money every month. A lot of thought went into spending it wisely. So, I have always been practical when it comes to money.

What was your first job and how much were you paid?

Since I was eager to start earning, I started working at the age of 18. My first job was with Knowledge Network, a training and management consultancy, for a salary of Dh3,000. I was keen to pay for my college with the money I earned. But my father saved my earnings and gave them to me after I finished college.

I also did several part-time jobs. I worked as a customer service representative for telecom operator du for six months, helped out with events at the Dubai World Cup and Gitex exhibition, among others.

What was your professional journey after you finished college?

I completed my bachelor’s degree in media and communication in Dubai. The idea for my first venture was conceptualised when I was in college. We had a unit to manage events and my friend and I managed to sign on 21 sponsors for a college event. That inspired us to start our events company and we ran it successfully for two years. Then, my family wanted me to join the textile business, which I did for seven years and focused on expanding it into different areas.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I don’t believe in getting everything on a platter. I cannot simply sit on my father’s chair … because to reach that level, it will take a while and I am not his equal yet.

The best investment was when I offered my first salary to my parents. It was fantastic to see the happiness and smiles on their faces
Prakash Adtani, restaurant owner in Dubai

I had also reached a certain limit creatively in terms of expanding the business. We cover the GCC, started exporting to India and had international clients. That is when I wanted to do something on my own.

What made you open a restaurant?

I am a foodie and being a vegetarian family, we were always faced with limited choices while dining out. On studying the market, I found there were few vegetarian restaurants that served good Asian food. That is when the idea of a pan-Asian fusion food restaurant struck me and I reached out to chef Akshay Nayyar to conceptualise Tum Tum Asia as a partner.

We opened our doors in October 2017 in Dubai’s Umm Hurair neighbourhood. It was a huge risk in a market such as Dubai and people were sceptical. But the response was overwhelming.

What financial lessons have you learnt from your family business?

The most important lesson is to manage your finances. If you do not have your finances sorted, you might end up paying out of your pocket.

It also instilled in me a sense of not to be ashamed of doing anything because it is my business in the end and that is how you learn and grow.

How did you cope during Covid-19?

I started the business with one of my school friends and chef Nayyar but during Covid-19 restrictions last year, my friend wanted to quit so I bought his share. We also had to let go of a few people and that was the most difficult part. But I had no choice. Even though the employees were not working during Covid-19, I continued to pay them basic salaries as they have families to support.

It was a huge hit because I was paying from my pocket for about six months. The reason we survived is because we had an emergency fund.

What strategies helped the business to recover?

Firstly, social media played an important role. We did a lot of cross marketing at the time. I have always believed in organic social media marketing and word of mouth. Secondly, we realised the importance of deliveries as, until then, we were more focused on dining in. Deliveries helped me pay salaries and electricity bills during that phase. So, now we have become more efficient in deliveries and improved branded packaging.

We have also started private catering for small groups. People are coming back to dine in due to the increased pace of vaccinations. We plan to open another outlet soon and will begin to start hiring again.

What has been your best investment?

The restaurant has been an investment that elevated me to where I am. But the best investment was when I offered my first salary to my parents. It was fantastic to see the happiness and smiles on their faces.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am definitely a saver. I only spend when I think there is a need. It might be old school but I like the safety of fixed deposits where I can put in small amounts and forget about it for five years.

I also believe in allocating a salary for myself despite being a business owner. It helps to gauge earnings and losses better. It also helps to decide whether I would like to reinvest it into the business, keep it aside for a new outlet and so on.

What is your most treasured purchase?

When I was in college, I saved and bought a pair of Guess Collection watches for my parents’ anniversary.

What luxuries are important to you?

The most important luxury is peace of mind, being with people you love and a healthy lifestyle. Materially speaking, I want to own a house and a car.

What car do you drive?

We live as a joint family – my father, his three brothers and their families. We have five cars and I drive whichever is available when I need it.

Has living in the UAE influenced your attitude towards money?

A lot. It is amazing to see the drastic change Dubai has gone through. I remember a line by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in a TV interview. He was asked why do you want Dubai to be number one in everything. He replied: “Why not?” That answer stuck with me. It is motivational.

How much cash do you keep in your wallet?

I usually do not keep more than Dh200 at any point.

Updated: August 19, 2021, 6:00 AM