My Dubai Salary: ‘I earn up to Dh12,000 a month in IT'

Sayan Sarkar worked in India's software industry for 14 years before moving to the UAE

Sayan Sarkar and his wife, who is a doctor in Dubai, combine their salaries to manage household expenses. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Sayan Sarkar, an Indian information technology professional, moved to the UAE from Bengaluru, India, with his wife and son in December 2022.

Mr Sarkar, 37, finished a course in electronics engineering from the West Bengal University of Technology in 2008 and worked in India's software sector for 14 years.

However, he initially struggled to find a job and salary in the UAE that was commensurate with his experience and qualifications as he lacked local experience.

Now, he’s employed as IT operations head with a Dubai-based start-up.

Mr Sarkar, who is from the East Indian state of West Bengal, lives with his wife, a doctor, and their two-and-a-half-year-old son in Karama, Dubai.

What was your first job and how much did it pay?

My first job was with software company Infosys. Initially, I was posted in the south Indian city of Mysore and after seven months, I moved to Hyderabad.

My salary was around 19,000 Indian rupees ($228.90) per month back then. I was with Infosys from 2008 to 2011.

2024 UAE technology sector salaries

How did your career and salary progress over the years?

I moved to IBM in Kolkata and earned a salary around 550,000 rupees per year. I worked there from 2011 to 2013.

In 2014, I moved to Cognizant Technology Solutions in Chennai, where I started with a salary of 750,000 rupees a year. By the time I left this job at the end of 2016, I was earning somewhere around 900,000 rupees per year.

I joined IT services provider Birlasoft in Bangalore in 2016. My salary was around 1.2 million rupees per year. I was with this company from 2016 to 2022.

When I quit, my salary was around 1.8 million rupees annually. I left as a senior project manager.

When I was working with Birlasoft, I visited Stuttgart, Germany, for two months to work on a client’s project.

Why did you move to the UAE?

My wife is a doctor. Once she cleared the Dubai Health Authority exams, we decided to move to the UAE.

After we landed here, she received her license and got placed in two months.

Was it a struggle to find a job?

Absolutely. I thought because I had vast experience working for reputed global companies, it would be easy to get a job here.

I also did my MBA in marketing from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management in Bangalore from 2020 to 2022.

However, I found it hard to get a job in the UAE for a few reasons. Firstly, I didn’t have UAE work experience. Secondly, I was on a visit visa and, thirdly, my last job was in the mid-management level.

Employers here were not ready to accept a candidate on a visit visa in a mid-managerial level or as a senior manager.

Companies were mostly offering IT jobs for developers and coders, so my 14 years’ work experience backfired. I was always told that I was overqualified for positions.

How long did it take you to find a job?

In July 2023, I cracked an interview and started working in August. By then, I realised that the visit visa wasn’t conducive for my job prospects, so my wife sponsored my son and me as dependents. It took me around seven months to get a job.

I was finally hired in a senior role as IT operations head with a start-up. However, because I didn't have UAE experience, I had to compromise on my salary. I still work for that company.

How much do you earn now?

There are two components to my salary every month. There is a fixed component and a variable component because I'm directly involved with the company's revenue and growth.

My base salary is Dh5,000, which is fixed, and there is a variable salary that ranges between Dh4,000 and Dh7,000. So, in total, I earn between Dh8,000 and Dh12,000 on average per month.

Do you save?

I was working in India for around 15 years. My major expenditure included taking care of my family, my expenses working outside my home state, getting married, having a child and doing my MBA.

I had savings in the public provident fund, but that's a very minimal amount. I have three life insurance policies.

From 2020 onwards, I started investing in the stock market. I used to buy blue-chip stocks but wasn’t a day trader.

I learnt stock trading on my own. My cousin guided me, too. I also invested in mutual funds whenever I had excess funds.

Which stocks do you buy?

I refrain from buying very volatile stocks. I buy stocks of mostly Indian blue-chip companies and big market players.

I have stocks in Asian Paints, Reliance Industries, Tata Steel and HDFC Bank, to name a few.

Have you purchased property?

We stay in our ancestral home in Kolkata, so I haven’t invested in property.

I don't plan to buy property in the UAE as of now.

Do you have any debt?

I took out a loan when I was doing my engineering [studies], but I cleared it in two years. Currently, I don't have any debt and don’t use a credit card.

I am a bit old school, so I don't believe in the concept of credit. The only reason you will need credit is to cover emergencies. But if your health insurance is covered, I don't feel there's a need for a credit card.

I could have easily taken a credit card as I’ve been working for the past 16 years. As a married person, I have my responsibilities, but I didn't feel the need to take credit.

Have you ever inherited a sum of money?

No. I lost my father when I was 22 and had just started my career.

Were you taught how to handle your finances as a child?

I come from a middle-class family where my parents had excellent skills to make ends meet with a small amount of money and save, too. That's a skill I observed and learnt from.

But I was never formally taught about handling money. When you lose your father at a young age, you automatically learn how to handle your own finances. You don't have the luxury of being a spendthrift.

Because I was working out of my hometown, I had to take care of my expenses and send money to my family. I always felt the necessity of having an emergency fund.

How do you budget your salary?

Since I don't earn a huge amount of money right now, my wife and I combine our salaries. We plan our fixed expenses and make sure this is paid by the first week of every month.

My major expenses include the house rent, utility bills, kid's playschool and remitting money home. Sometimes, we have to pay for our insurance policies, too.

We try to keep our variable expenses on food and travel between Dh3,000 and Dh4,000 per month. We save whatever’s remaining.

Have you started saving for retirement?

I’ve never thought about it. I save money, but never thought of saving for retirement as such.

Life is unpredictable. I didn’t ever think that I would start my life from scratch at the age of 36 when I moved to the UAE. As long as my health permits, I’ll keep working.

I plan to work for a minimum of 13 more years and will make sure to invest my money in growth funds where the return will be somewhere around 10 per cent to 12 per cent, if not more. This will help beat annual inflation.

Do you earn passive income?

The shares I have purchased offer dividends, but they are a bare minimum amount.

Do you have an emergency fund?

Yes, I do. I always have a policy to have six months’ worth of expenses as backup money in a liquid fund.

I have a liquid fund in asset management company Aditya Birla, where I can withdraw the money without any deduction and it pays interest between 4 per cent and 6 per cent.

Apart from that, I have money in my savings account.

I will invest my money in growth funds where the return will be somewhere around 10 per cent to 12 per cent, if not more
Sayan Sarkar, IT professional

What do you spend your disposable income on?

It's mostly on food, travel and a little bit of shopping.

I also love travelling internationally, so try to segregate a fund for this purpose. I try to travel at least once in six months.

Do you ever worry about money?

No. I'm not an extravagant spender, rather I am a calculated spender.

When I earn say Dh10,000, I manage my expenses within Dh7,000. Or, if I earn Dh6,000, I finish all expenses within Dh4,000.

I plan my expenses accordingly. On top of that, I have my emergency fund to support me.

Money is a by-product of working hard. Even at the age of 33, I did my MBA after having a kid and while working full time.

You don't work for money. You use your skills, put in effort and money will come eventually.

What are your financial goals?

My short-term goal is to have at least Dh100,000 in my savings account by the end of this year.

My long-term goal is not purely financial. My wife and I wish to start our own clinic in about 10 years.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

It is a state when you don't worry about money, which I have already achieved.

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Updated: February 20, 2024, 6:56 AM