Deepa Bhatia is the co-founder and managing director of Capsule Arts, an arts consultancy in the Middle East that designs bespoke art and accessories packages for brands in the hospitality industry and office spaces. Ms Bhatia lives in Dubai with her husband, three-year-old son and nine-month-old daughter.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I was born and raised in Dubai. My father moved here in 1968. I value his experiences as he worked throughout his time in Dubai. My mother was a housewife. My upbringing has a lot to do with my attitude towards money because I saw my father’s hardships as he really worked hard. I value where I come from because I have more respect for the money we make now.
While growing up, my mindset was to be very cautious about what we spend on. When my sister started working, things eased a bit. My parents’ life revolved around taking care of us. So, that’s the value I imbibed from them – that family is important, taking care of them is important.
My mindset was that I didn’t want to worry about money, but I always wanted to work in an industry that brought me happiness, even if the money was less. When I started working at an early age, I always saved and valued my money but also spent it on things I enjoyed.
What was your first job and how much were you paid?
After doing a diploma in interior design from India, I started working as an in-house interior designer for a furniture showroom in Dubai called International Art in 2002. I was paid a salary of Dh2,200 ... that was a lot of money back then.
How did your career evolve?
I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I worked with International Art for two-and-a-half years, and then stumbled upon this specialisation of art when a friend came to sell some art prints. Soon, this friend was pregnant and her job was open for appointment. I joined the company and that’s when I started to work in the art industry. I later joined an art studio as a partner where I directly worked with artists and sold their works.
How did you and your business partner think of starting an arts consultancy?
I met Rachael (Brown) at the art studio and we conceptualised our business of Capsule Arts. There’s been a shift in attitude towards art in Dubai. Earlier, people felt artists should be given an opportunity without much pay. However, we felt that art should be a sustainable career and people should be paid for their work. That was one of the reasons we opened the art consultancy in 2012.
In fact, our business started with two aspects – one was an e-commerce platform where we sold artists’ limited-edition work and the other was a consultancy.
What challenges did you face?
Every start-up faces cash flow issues. Being one of the initial art consultancy companies in the region, cash flow was an issue for us, too. We invested some money into the e-commerce platform, but had to invest much more to make it grow and online shopping was not so well-developed then. After two years, we weren’t able to sustain the e-commerce platform and focused our energies solely on the consultancy instead.
How large is your team right now?
We started off with just the two of us in 2012. It was only after two years that we appointed our first staff member. Now, we are 21 members and we've completed more than 100 projects so far.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?
In 2019, we worked on several reputed projects such as the Address Sky View, Address Fountain View, Vida Downtown and Vida Hills. At the start of 2020, we had several projects lined up, where clients were about to confirm with us. I was pregnant with my second baby and since I was going on a maternity break, we were working towards a planned approach for 2020.
When Covid-19 struck, some projects in our pipeline were put on hold. But our team was busy with ongoing projects. We switched to work from home and once the movement restrictions were lifted, our clients confirmed some of those projects. In fact, we used the downtime to our advantage – we interviewed and appointed five new staff, trained them and were ready to take on new projects.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I spend when I want to, but also save. I don’t hold back if I want to spend, but again I do not go shopping every month. I like to spend on my home, on things that bring me more comfort. In my 20s, I was more into buying clothes, shoes and bags. Now, I’m completely the opposite. I like to buy more crockery and decorative things for the house.
Any saving preferences?
After marriage, my husband and I have been doing a lot of personal investments and making sure that we are putting it in the right places. We’re investing a lot into our businesses. On a personal front, we are investing in stocks and bonds.
What has been your best investment?
Capsule Arts has been my best investment, both in terms of time and money. I’ve invested a lot of my prime years and after working hard for so many years, seeing the growth and success is an amazing feeling.
What has been your most treasured purchase so far?
When I was working at the art studio, I saved money and purchased a Cartier watch. Being single, able to save money and purchasing a high-value watch was a big thing for me. That’s a treasured purchase and I still have it.
What luxuries are important to you?
Having a good home is a luxury.
Do you have a philosophy on money? Has living in the UAE influenced it?
I feel I’ve moved countries without physically moving. From just a few buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road to what it is now – the UAE is the land of opportunity, business and growth. That really influences you.
There are so many entrepreneurs in this region and it’s nice to be around ambitious people. Dubai influences how you want to be ambitious, well-settled, have a good home and drive a nice car. But in terms of my philosophy on money, I don’t want to worry about it. If you have a goal and a vision, you can plan.
What financial values will you pass on to your children?
Our kids are not going to see the times we’ve seen. I want them to grow up valuing money. I want them to understand that we worked hard to give them comforts. I want them to cherish the moments when they receive gifts on their birthdays or if they worked hard and achieved something.
I want them to have a positive outlook towards money and not grow up spoilt ... that’s something only parents can instill.