Money & Me: ‘I regret not investing in Bitcoin 10 years ago’

Ashish Bhandari, owner of water company Aquaplus, says his family believes in building assets

Ashish Bhandari, owner of Aquaplus, says he likes to create an asset and then spend what he earns from that asset. He buys property and spends the rental income earned from the unit. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National
Ashish Bhandari, owner of Aquaplus, says he likes to create an asset and then spend what he earns from that asset. He buys property and spends the rental income earned from the unit. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ashish Bhandari owns Aquaplus, a company that plays healing frequency music to alkaline water, a positive energy technique from Japan before bottling it in BPA-free gallon containers.

Born in India and raised in Dubai, he is also involved in his family's staffing solutions and property investment businesses. He became an entrepreneur at the age of 25 with a luxury car rental business. Now 32, Mr Bhandari lives in Jumeirah with his wife and their two young daughters.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I came here when I was three months old, the youngest of three siblings. A middle-class family, money wasn’t the most important aspect growing up. We led a simple life, played outdoors for entertainment. The importance of sharing and good values was instilled in us.

My father came as a factory worker in the late 1970s. He worked at Daewoo and moved onto his own businesses. Dubai’s economy picked up, he had a great mind and, as an entrepreneur, did the right things at the right time. He was into different ventures and jumped into real estate in the early 2000s. That’s when our family really took off.

Did your lifestyle change?

To an extent. There was a fine line between luxuries and things that were not required. We always had that balance in place, never went overboard. Our family believes in building assets for the future, so whatever he made went more into real estate than a lavish lifestyle. Looking at my father and his instincts as an entrepreneur … from being a kid, I always knew I wanted to have my own business.

When did you earn your first wage?

In college, I did part-time jobs and promotional work at Gitex – Dh4,000 for a week for a 16 or 17 year old, that’s pretty good money. I used to enjoy life, but would try to invest it.

I don’t think there’ll be an asset [like Bitcoin] on the planet that will give a return like it will over the next decade or so

Ashish Bhandari, owner, Aquaplus

At about 18, I used to buy number plates, hold them for a while as an asset and then flip them. In Dubai, especially the local community, they take pride in their plates. My father helped me financially. He never stopped us doing something if we were confident about it. That has made me and my older brother confident entrepreneurs … if we believe in what we’re doing, “Go for it, even if you go wrong”.

What was your best deal?

I bought a three-digit plate for Dh420,000, flipped it for half a million and made Dh80,000. It took two or three months. It was my father’s money so I gave it back to him. I ended up losing a lot on plates as well, but my father said “that’s how you learn”. I probably ended up even.

He would never stop us trying something so long as it made sense.

Because I saw him grow from a humble background, I learned there are times when you won’t make money, times when you’ll lose. These kind of things help you in tough times.

What led you to Aquaplus?

We got the opportunity to take over in 2017. The product was very promising, the problem was the backend. I knew if we could spend money and time correcting the basics, this could be something else. Late 2019, we were 90 per cent there and started marketing. We’ve seen 60 per cent to 70 per cent growth since.

Mr Bhandari says he loves spending on cars, holidays and collectible watches that appreciate in value. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mr Bhandari says he loves spending on cars, holidays and collectible watches that appreciate in value. Photo: Chris Whiteoak / The National

It’s about logistics and customer service. I love the industry and thought about doing something out of the box. If you look inside the five gallon bottle, we’ve written the affirmation “love and gratitude” in English and Arabic on the sticker. We believe in positive energy.

What is your spending and savings outlook?

Save first, then spend. I like creating an asset and what I earn from that asset is what I spend. So, I would buy property and spend the rent from that. I understand there are times that are going to be amazing and times that are going to be tough, so you’ve got to build for the future. That’s kind of the reason I stepped into Aquaplus; it’s an essential sector – play it right, you will grow.

Where do you save?

Number one is property, to keep building that portfolio. For the time being, it’s under the family umbrella; we put into a family pool. I also invest in stocks, more in the India and US markets. The only regret I have is not getting into Bitcoin 10 years ago; I used to read a lot about it in the early 2010s. Of late, pretty much all my savings are going into that. I don’t think there’ll be an asset on the planet that will give a return like it will over the next decade or so.

Do you have a philosophy towards money?

It’s not the only thing that can make you happy. It gives you a better life, you can give more to your children. It’s very important, but not the most important thing over other values such as time with family. Money’s why you work, but it’s not the only thing you look towards in life. There always needs to be a balance.

Did parenthood alter your outlook?

I had a high-risk appetite since I finished college but that mellowed once I had children. You realise it is not just about you. The idea of securing an asset and earning from that really came [after becoming a parent]. I understood the importance of trying to be financially independent.

Do you have spending regrets?

There are a few things I shouldn’t have bought, made mistakes, but I don’t regret because it’s given me something to learn from. I could have been smarter with my money, but I’m not going to kill myself over investing in or buying something I didn’t need. I could have done away with a couple of cars early on and invested that money instead.

What are you happiest spending on?

Cars, holidays and collectible watches that appreciate in value. Going to the India vs Pakistan World Cup match in Manchester in 2019 with my older brother (was special). Apart from material (items), I love playing cricket and golf, collecting cricket bats. When I get the chance, I’ll probably be looking at a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

I could have done away with a couple of cars early on and invested that money instead

Has the pandemic influenced your business?

Initially, we were worried. Luckily, we did unbelievably well because probably 70 per cent to 80 per cent of Aquaplus’ portfolio is households. When everyone was locked down, water consumption was really high. A lot of people started spending time at home and we made a lot of new customers.

What has been your key financial milestone?

Turning Aquaplus into a profitable venture with the help of a solid team. I learned you need to be patient, do things right, focus on the process … the results will follow.

Are you planning for your future?

Definitely, for another 20 years, keep pushing that goal forward as you move on and try to enjoy life with what you have at that point, making sure you have enough for your children. I don’t think I’ll be able to retire completely at any point, I’ll always be involved in some venture.

What would you raid your savings for?

A family holiday. A month or two in a place like England.

Published: May 13, 2021 10:00 AM

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