Money & Me: ‘I aim to get my company into the corporate tax bracket’

Sherry Gupta, founder of PR company Excel Comms, says her best investment is her apartment in Dubai

Entrepreneur Sherry Gupta says her best investment has been buying property in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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Sherry Gupta, an Indian entrepreneur in Dubai, launched a public relations company during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 after her employer stopped paying her salary for five months.

The founder of Excel Comms, Ms Gupta, 35, initially worked as a journalist for eight years with the Times of India and NDTV in India, the Qatar Tribune in Qatar and Connector magazine in Dubai. She started her career as a PR executive in Mumbai in 2011.

She lives in Jumeirah Lakes Towers with her husband, who works in finance at the Dubai International Financial Centre. The couple bought their apartment in 2018.

Ms Gupta, who has been in Dubai for seven years, is from the city of Ludhiana in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

What role did money play in your childhood?

I grew up in a family where money was not an issue. If I needed something, I would get double, but I never made unreasonable demands. We thought that anybody could earn money because we grew up in such an environment.

My dad had his own glass business. My mum was a homemaker.

Although I come from a conservative family, I always wanted to have my own identity.

I was very good in my studies. If I got a fair grade, my father would give me 50 Indian rupees (60 US cents), while a good grade earned me 100 rupees and a star yielded 500 rupees.

This money would be saved and the moment it hit the 10,000 rupee mark, it was put in a bank and I would earn interest on it.

My father would discourage me from counting my savings every day. It was an important lesson that it is not necessary to keep marking our budget every day; just continue working hard with your goal in sight.

When I grew up, I realised that if I keep looking at my accounts every day, I will only get more anxious.

Why did you venture into journalism?

I was inspired by my eldest sister who had done an internship with the English language daily, Hindustan Times, in Ludhiana.

I got fascinated with media and journalism. I followed my heart and went to Mumbai to do a diploma in public relations and advertising.

I did my bachelor's degree in commerce. I am very good with numbers.

How did you first earn?

My first job was in PR in Mumbai. My salary was about 19,000 rupees a month as a PR executive in 2011.

But I was curious to learn about journalism. So, I switched my field and got an editing job at Indian news channel NDTV. Later, I was a reporter for the Times of India.

Those years helped shape my personality. I received a fixed salary every month, which I would use to pay my rent, transport and food.

I was able to manage because I am not a spender. When I got my first job, I stopped taking money from my parents.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I grew up in a very conservative environment where you are not supposed to work after you get married.

Even my parents did not appreciate the idea of working for others. My father always encouraged me to be my own boss.

I always knew that I wanted to have something of my own. But entrepreneurship is not easy. Once you draw a good salary and then you are out of a job, it is hard to know how to start.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, my employer was not able to pay my salary for five months.

I was tired of being stuck in a loop, working for different employers, and wanted to try entrepreneurship.

I decided that I would not update my CV or send it to any employer. I was determined or maybe the right time had come.

Is this when you launched a PR agency?

I took baby steps into the PR industry. When I was working as a journalist in Dubai, I had made a list of PR companies. I had a fair idea of how the industry works.

I told my husband that I wanted to get into the industry and he suggested that I find a PR job. But I was very determined to be my own boss. It was not an entirely alien field either.

I found my first client through Instagram. It was a new restaurant in Dubai. I was very careful because I had not done PR for a very long time.

When we moved to Dubai, we had decided that if we continued to live here for more than five years, it would be wise to invest in property
Sherry Gupta, founder of Excel Comms

I offered them my services for a very small amount. This gave me confidence that I could pull it off.

I started to build my contacts in the market and realised that word of mouth works wonders in Dubai. All the work I have received so far is through word of mouth.

Did you invest a lot of money to launch your company?

When I started getting inquiries for work, I registered myself as a freelancer with the Department of Economic Development in Dubai.

I went through different licensing portals. The best option was the DED because I could work from home and did not need employees on board.

They had listed public relations as a category and the fee was about Dh1,500 to Dh1,600. I opened a corporate bank account and registered my company in April 2021.

Today, we are a team of six and have an office in JLT, Dubai.

We offer our services mostly to food and beverage companies, followed by consumer-orientated businesses and start-ups.

How do you grow your wealth?

If I earn a certain amount, I distribute it among different assets, but mainly gold.

It is for the purpose of diversifying my portfolio and to act as a safe-haven asset during hard times.

We have also invested in equities and mutual funds in India. I have a person there who manages our investments. I keep track of it and how my money is allocated.

We also invested in property in Dubai. This was a major decision because we did not want to live in a rented house.

When we moved to Dubai, we had decided that if we continued to live here for more than five years, it would be wise to invest in property so you can build equity in an asset.

I have realised that money loses value but assets appreciate over time and can be passed over generations.

The warehouses my father purchased, offices, houses and plots, these still hold value.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a saver. I think a lot before I spend. If I want to spend, I like to go out and eat at fancy places. But I have never felt the need to impress others.

I do not mind spending Dh500, for example, on a good experience. Or if I want to buy a bag, I will do it, but it does not happen too often.

When I choose to spend, I do not have a thrifty mindset. I usually buy the highest version of what I want.

I have never seen my parents overspend on anything. Even though we had all privileges, we never went overboard and always exercised control while spending.

Have you been wise with money?

When I was a salaried employee, I would always allocate about 1 per cent of my earnings for eating out and splurging. When I would save a big amount, I would put it into gold or a fixed deposit.

When I started my business, I put my money knowledge to test. I had to pay for my licence, a co-working space and had to build my team and pay salaries.

You can take care of all these expenses only if you manage your inflow and outflow well.

I am also saving because we want to move to a villa.

What has been your best investment so far?

Our house in Dubai because property prices have gone up now. We have repaid our mortgage, too.

What is your most cherished purchase?

I recently purchased a Rolex. I consider such watches as assets, not expenses. In 2019, I bought an Omega watch because I thought it was an investment. But I was wrong. It does not have resale value.

When I was buying my second watch, I wanted to be sure that I was putting my money into an appreciating asset.

How do you feel about money?

Money is confidence. When you are doing good work, it brings money and confidence in yourself.

Business is always uncertain. But you always have this confidence that you can earn money and not be dependent on others.

What are your key financial milestones?

I wanted my sales to touch the mark of Dh1 million. We achieved close to Dh1.5 million last year. I set this milestone at the beginning of last year.

Everybody told me that it was overambitious. But I worked towards it and achieved it.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Stay consistent, do not leave a job the moment you are not feeling happy.

There is no alternative to consistency, discipline and persistence.

What are your financial goals?

I want my company to get into the corporate tax bracket. Corporate tax applies to companies when revenue exceeds Dh3 million.

Updated: March 29, 2024, 6:02 PM