Money & Me: Handyman guru has a firm grip on his finances

Banker turned entrepreneur, Ricky Jaiswal, gave himself a 30 per cent pay rise when he quit corporate life to set up his maintenance business


"Ricky" Rahul Jaiswal, Founder of Handyman Guru Technical services, at his home.

Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Alice Haine / Section: BZ Money & Me) ID 46486
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Ricky Jaiswal is the founder of Handyman Guru technical services, a maintenance company he set up in 2013. The 45-year-old from India moved to the UAE in 1998 to work in banking – working for Lloyds Bank as an account manager before deciding to set up his own business.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I come from a middle class family where both my parents worked - my dad was in real estate and my mother a teacher. Although my parents had no debt, with seven members of the family living together in a studio in Mumbai - including four children and my grandmother - money was difficult. I learnt to enjoy the things you have and not crave the things that you don't have. So outings or school picnics or boy scouts were considered a luxury – my parents had to choose who out of the four siblings would go on a school picnic.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I was a room service waiter at a five-star hotel in Mumbai. I applied for a housekeeping job but they said ‘housekeeping is cleaning toilets. You fit into being a room service waiter'. My salary was Dh300 a month – that was in 1993.

How did you go from that to banking?

I switched to another hotel and because I’m a people person and enjoyed interacting, one of the guests approached me and asked if I wanted to change field. He was an director at Thomas Cook International in Mumbai so I joined them and that’s how I got into finance – through foreign exchange. Then after a few years I landed up in Dubai.

What did working in banking teach you about money?

What I learnt and who I am today is all to do with my time at Lloyds in Dubai – 100 per cent. I joined as a cashier and when I left I was an account manager. I used to advise clients on what to do with their money and I learnt a lot about people’s attitudes to money.

What made you leave banking?

I just had enough of corporate life; I was on auto pilot and was burnt out after so long in the role. I decided on a handyman business because I saw there was a gap in the market between the client and the service provider. Most of the maintenance companies do not communicate well with their clients – it was about delivering on time, doing the job, cleaning up the place and tidying and meeting client expectations.

How did you fund the business?

I invested Dh150,000 of the money I’d saved up. I started with four staff and one van and now I have 18 staff and five vans.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A mix of both. I look at my expenses more than my savings. I follow the 70/30 rule – I save 30 per cent of all my income into a separate savings account,which automatically goes out on a standing order and I don’t touch it. The other 70 per cent is for my expenses.

Do you pay yourself a salary?

Yes, although I’ve never given myself a pay rise. When I left my nine- to-five job, I wanted to make sure I was earning 25 to 30 per more than I did as a salary so that’s how I decided what to pay myself. But while I don’t give myself a raise, I give myself a thirteenth month bonus every year.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My watch. My dad always wanted an Omega watch and so did I, but I couldn't afford it for a long time. When I finally could, I bought myself an Omega Seamaster for Dh15,000 and a Longines for Dh10,000. My dad never bought himself a watch – but when he retired he started travelling instead. He used to travel by train and bus and after retirement he started flying business class.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I believe in the wheel of fortune. When things are down they will not stay down forever. Very few in this world are born with a silver spoon in their mouth but things change – you have to be optimistic.

Where do you save?

My savings are in cash in my bank; in commodities such as gold and in fixed deposits in India where the interest rates are more attractive. My investments, however, are in real estate. I have two properties, a villa that I live in in the Springs in Dubai that I bought in 2009 using some of my inheritance from my father and a second investment property – also in the Springs – which I bought in 2011.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or cash?

Credit card because I can track my spending; the card company gives me a breakdown of how much I spend on fuel, hotels etc. I also like the Skywards miles and I always pay before the due date – I hate paying anything extra to the bank.

What has been your best investment?

My business is my work but in terms of the best investment, it’s real estate in Dubai. I bought the first property at the peak but I didn't lose when it crashed because it was my house; I was living there, so it did not matter. But the returns that I am getting from renting the other property is the best investment ever. Investing in property is a no-brainer – instead of paying Dh14,000 or Dh15,000 in rent, if you have the deposit and can take out a mortgage you’re paying about Dh7,000 to Dh9,000.

Do you regret spending on anything?

I tried to help a friend that was leaving Dubai. He was in a bad way and he sold his car to me under value. But I never drove it, it just stayed parked outside my house. I bought it for about Dh9,000 and ended up scrapping it for Dh1,500. He needed the money but I didn’t need the car.

Do you plan for the future?

From a personal finance aspect, I’m pretty much secure. I don’t have long-term plans – I’m just seeing how the business works and whether or not to diversify to another business. I often feel like Dubai is a big airport where everybody is in transit – people come for a year and stay for 20. I’ve been here for 18, so who knows where I will end up. I don’t see myself going back to India to live. When you get older, health is important and the security situation and transport for getting around is not great in Mumbai. Maybe I’ll move to the United States or Canada – somewhere more developed.

What luxuries are important to you?

For me, it's things like a personal trainer and organic food. I’m very health conscious so I invest time and money into what I eat as well as exercise such as swimming, running and going to the  gym. I won’t buy an LED TV or a nice luxury car because that’s not the best investment. You might spend Dh5,000 on a TV or Dh100,000 on a car but if you’re not eating healthily what’s the point?

What would you raid your savings account for?

I’ve looked after my money, so I don’t have any debts. Even when I bought a car, I didn’t take out a loan. A mortgage is a good debt but not a car, which is a depreciating asset. So, I wouldn't raid my savings account for anything. If I can’t buy it, I don’t want it.