Money & Me: ‘I never look at how much I own or what my fortune is’

Hasib Khan, founder and chief executive of Udrive, is motivated by seeing people earn money through businesses he owns

Hasib Khan, founder and chief executive of Udrive, is inspired by his father who had to start business from scratch in Germany after fleeing the war in Afghanistan. Courtesy Hasib Khan
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Hasib Khan is the founder and chief executive of Udrive, a pay-as-you-drive car rental platform.

Born in Kabul and raised in Germany, he moved to Dubai in 2011 from where he ran a large logistics business servicing troops and other international organisations in Afghanistan before launching a UAE car rental firm five years ago.

Mr Khan started his first business as a teenager, following his passion for cars by selling pre-used vehicles online. Now aged 30, he lives in Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My family moved to Germany when I was around one. The war in Afghanistan made us flee, as refugees. My father started to build his own business. He had to start again from zero and was a big inspiration. I was always looking up to him, seeing how he managed, built his businesses and made money. Money was a struggle at the beginning. We had really tough times and always had to think twice when we were buying something. As a child, I received everything I needed, but always saw the pressure was there, someone needed to go and make the money. I was looking to one day start my own thing, to build something independently.

How did you earn your first income?

My father had supermarkets in Hamburg and needed branding, signs. I was designing them on the computer when I was 13. I taught myself the skills, was the technical guy for him, and got my pocket money, €20 to €30 (Dh89-Dh133) a week. That had a big effect on me; I got a task, I was always very motivated to deliver.

My first salaried job was my own. I always had this interest for cars. I sold them on the internet aged 15/16. My dad gave me €5,000 to get my first cars, I bought two and sold them for profit. Then I registered the business under my mum’s name as I was too young, bought cars, sold them … some made no profit or a loss. I realised very early that this world is not only about profit. At 18, I had a big, professional car dealership.

What prompted you to launch Udrive?

I had this huge business in Afghanistan and management office in Dubai. I was 23/24 and started a car rental company. It led me to a point where I had almost 100 cars, doing longer-term rentals. One day, one of my employees needed to do stuff, but we didn’t have cars available. I realised how inconvenient car rental was and needed to be digitalised. I thought about options available in Germany – car-sharing companies – and started a conversation with a technology provider. I equipped 35 cars and in March 2016, we registered 2,500 people on the first day.

Can Udrive save people money?

It saves people a lot, either daily or a couple of minutes, whatever you want to use it for. Dubai Marina to the airport … you save more than 50 per cent compared with all other options. When you reach a certain amount in the day, depending on each car, you don’t pay any more and the car is yours for the whole day.

Start-ups is something I like to work on. In business, I am risky

What is your outlook on spending and saving?

I’m a spender. If I have the choice between two jackets, I’d rather take the one with the quality, spend more and work more for it rather than saving by taking the other one. I look for value in everything I do.

How do you save?

I’m very focused on property; apartments in Dubai and in Germany, commercial buildings, apartments and houses. It’s stable, your fortune is safe and it gives some return. I have tried stocks and shares, not had a good experience. I don’t have the patience. Day trading is gambling – you can’t influence it, you just see the facts and numbers and hope for the best.

Are you risk-averse?

I look for security for part of my investments. The other part I like to work with, to try things out. Start-ups is something I like to work on. In business, I am risky. You can only lose if you try, if you don’t try, you have lost already. I wouldn’t say I’ve made bad investments; I paid a lot to learn. That’s not going to end any time in life.

Do you have a philosophy on money?

I don’t make money myself, I solve people’s problems and then I get paid for it. I don’t sell anything. Hard work and dedication, and not giving up is the key to success … and that brings you money.

What I would advise everyone with money is don’t set yourself standards you wouldn’t be able to maintain for too long when you get hit hard one day and can’t live the same way.

Hasib Khan owns property in Dubai and Germany. He has also tried investing in stocks and shares, but did not have a good experience. Courtesy Hasib Khan
Mr Khan owns property in Dubai and Germany. He has also tried investing in stocks and shares, but did not have a good experience. Courtesy Hasib Khan

Are you wealthy?

Compare me with Jeff Bezos and I would say I’m very poor. But compare me with someone in Afghanistan who works with his trolley on the streets, ‘yeah, I’m wealthy’. Someone else always has more. I don’t really pay too much attention to it. It’s more important that I’m comfortable and can afford the standards I’ve set for myself.

I’m not motivated by money. I never look at how much I own or what my fortune is. I’m motivated by building big things, big teams and sharing the success with people around me. I love to see people earning money through businesses I have.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

I really love food. I’m not talking about expensive stuff, just going wherever you can get a great taste. I’m also into shoes … I have a shoe problem.

What I wish for that I haven’t done for 10 years is proper vacations, switching off the mobile.

How has the pandemic impacted Udrive?

We’ve had negative moments last year … when the pandemic hit, we’ve been hit very hard, had almost two months of not operating. I had to take an uncomfortable decision to let people go for the first time.

Now we’re trying out new fleets, new solutions, going to new markets in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Have you experienced a key financial moment?

I won the tender for a $190 million transportation contract for food stuff and equipment with the US Army between 2014 and 2015. It took me more than 800 pages to prepare. A couple of months later, (then US President) Barack Obama announced he was withdrawing troops and the entire contract went boom. I don’t take anything for granted. The moment you put something between your teeth, it doesn’t mean you’ve eaten it.

Do you plan for retirement?

I’d be very bored if I’m not working on something that I believe in. I don’t have a proper retirement plan where I wouldn’t be working anymore. I enjoy what I’m doing, I have fun, so do I want to retire from having fun?

The pandemic has shown the effect of circumstances you cannot control, how hard they can hit you, so diversification and a well-placed fund is something I look forward to building over the next 10 years.