Money & me: Dubai boutique owner has a fashionably sensible stance towards her finances

Preeti Chandra, the founder of Love Shop Pray, says she has become wiser about money with age.

Preeti Chandra is the founder of Love Shop Pray, a fashion boutique in Jumeirah in Dubai. The 43-year-old, who moved to the UAE from India three years ago, started her career in investment analysis before switching to her real passion of fashion. Ms Chandra also heads up a non government organisation (NGO) she set up in India four years, which runs four schools, a drug rehabilitation centre and a rape victim shelter.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I started working in sales in a store at 16 because I always fiercely independent and I wanted my own pocket money. My father was a professional; he was head of HR in a company so he was keen that I went into a professional line rather than fashion. In those days fashion was not as respected as finance. But then things changed and I could follow my passion.

What did you study?

I did a master’s in finance and my first job was working for the Times of India as an investment analyst. I earned about rupees 40,000 (Dh2,290); in those days salaries were so much less and but I was 21 and it took me a long way.

When did the switch to a fashion career happen?

After a year I moved to New York and started working as an intern in a few fashion companies and I never looked back. I started my own wholesale organisation, supplying women’s fashion to big department stores. My master’s in finance always helped with the business. It was always about working very hard and getting value for money but at the same time I also knew that you should put back into your business.

Are you a spender or a saver?

That really depends on the stage of my life. I go through spending phases to guilty phases to saving phases. These days because I have a new business, I’m in more of a saving phase as I want to invest and open a couple more stores. From a personal perspective – there is the regular stuff that you can’t avoid such as your children’s education but as you grow older you become more selective about what you buy. After all, how many Valentinos or Birkins can you buy your life? I got a Birkin about 10 years ago but once you have everything you aspire for, then you have been there and done that. With time you automatically become wiser.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My Apple Watch. I use it everyday, non-stop for messages and calls. It gives me the time zones in California where my daughter is studying, in India for where my husband often is and I can answer a call while I am driving. Plus it’s such a trendy looking thing. I don’t even wear my old watches anymore.

Have the ever had a month where you worried you could not pay the bills?

Yes, about four years ago, I had too many shops in India for my eponymous fashion brand there.  It was a bit stressful because having too many stores becomes overwhelming as rentals are not easy. I decided to completely cut back my business because I had started an NGO in India to help children. I have four schools that I run in the slums in New Delhi and a drug rehab centre and a rape victim shelter for women.

What was your motivation for setting up the NGO?

My mum passed away and I decided to give up my business life to get into this field.  I joined hands with a couple of big organisations in India. Since I am a businessperson, I also look at a charitable venture from a professional angle and we have been able to reach out to a lot of people.

Why the store in Dubai then?

We just happened to move here as a family. My 16-year-old son goes to school here and my daughter is studying in Dubai. Initially there was a lot of travel between here, India and New York so it took two years to understand the market before I decided to launch my own company. When I came here you have the cheaper retail brands such as Zara and Forever 21 and then you jump to Boutique 1. There was nothing in the middle offering beautiful fashion that was not crazily priced so that’s why I opened the shop in a villa in April.

Where do you save your money?

I have a life insurance policy with a bank but besides that everything is invested in my businesses now. But I always have a little bit spare in my accounts in case of an emergency.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit card, always. I love my miles; I’m very particular about them. I use them for tickets, so if I fly long haul to the US then I fly business class. But if I take a small trip to India I fly economy. It is only three hours and I have to travel every two weeks plus I am usually going for my charity and to fly business defeats the purpose.

What has been your best investment?

My house in India in Delhi – it’s grown in value a lot from when we bought it 2008.

What’s your philosophy towards money?

Never get attached to it. I don’t think money is there to stay; it always comes and goes and if you are a businessperson, don’t expect to always be on the top. You will have times when you are down and then you rise up again. I’ve been involved with many businesses – some have worked, some have not. So don’t get attached to anything and just enjoy what you do.

What do you consider your luxuries in life?

A driver in Dubai. I consider that a luxury. That costs between Dh3,000 to Dh3,500 a month. Also the kind of apartment I live in matters to me, I live in a penthouse in JBR and I love that. And good food is important too. Dubai is so expensive – a week in Dubai can empty anyone’s pockets.

Do you have a financial plan for your future?

Right now I’m concentrating on the new brand in Dubai and putting in all I have. Maybe in the future when I feel secure I might invest in real estate in Dubai – in an apartment I can live in too.

What advice would you offer your younger self?

I’ve always been a very wise planner so I really don’t know what I could have done differently.

What’s your best savings tip for life in the UAE?

It’s very easy to spend money here; it’s like living in New York but I’ve always looked for a good deal and incorporate that into my lifestyle. It’s not about spending more or less; you just have to be wise. Small things matter like your credit card, your miles and the entertainer app are important. There are always way to save money and you should incorporate these habits into your lifestyle. Rather than say to yourself ‘I’m not going to go for that massage’, well why not? Take a two for one voucher. You just have to be wise and be aware of everything available.

What would you raid your savings account for?

For a medical emergency or if my kids needed it for their education – maybe a home. But nothing frivolous, not for a holiday.