Money & Me: 'The UAE offers many opportunities to make money, especially in real estate'

Businessman Safdar Badami says investing in property in the Emirates is an integral part of his financial portfolio

Mr Safdar Badami at a Al Muqarram Industries manufacturing Plant in Sharjah. He became managing director of the family business in 2010. Photo: Al Muqarram Industries

Safdar Badami had a very successful career in the United States when he “got the call” from his father in 2010 asking him to return to the UAE to join the family business. Mr Badami then joined Al Muqarram Industries - which manufactures construction-grade products such as silicone sealants, adhesives, tapes, waterproofing, canvas coatings and spray paints - as managing director and has never looked back. Originally from Pakistan, Mr Badami, 43, who is married with children, grew up in Dubai, where he attended school before studying in the US.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

My father is a very successful entrepreneur but he started with very humble beginnings and always guided us on the importance of money in life. I was given the best of education in life growing up.

Is your family wealthy?

Yes. My father developed a business empire that spans the globe. But again, we have seen him do all the hard work in the beginning that really allowed us to adjust ourselves to the situation and really understand what it takes to earn money. We had a good lifestyle but we were always reminded to value what we had been blessed with. An example would be when I went to university abroad for my education, my father paid for the tuition but I had to earn money to pay for all my living expenses. So the attitude was there to understand the importance and learn the hard way, to some extent.

How much were you paid for your first job?

It was working in the university cafeteria. This was when I was at college and started working at the same time. I earned about $200 a week, working almost 40 hours a week. My studies were always there, but [I was taught] to work hard. And if I had to earn my own living I had to work for it. So I put my effort in and you know the satisfaction you get when you are a young person with your first pay cheque, right? That’s how life progressed for me.

The businessman spent his first ever paycheque on a trip to Burger King for him and his friends. Photo: Al Muqarram Industries

What did you spend that first pay cheque on?

My first purchase with my first salary was a trip to Burger King to buy myself a nice meal that I could enjoy. I was in a very small college town. Yes, I spent all the money. I took my friends out as well and I ended up spending the money I earned.

What has been your biggest financial milestone?

When I was able to procure my first real job as a business consultant in the US. I was paid at that time $145,000 a year. It was right after college. It was a great achievement, a great milestone.

Tell me about entering the family business.

I was a very successful person living abroad, so when my father called me I was already involved in multiple situations. I was a director of business intelligence for a company in the US and I had my own side businesses going. But as part of the culture, as part of the ethics I grew up with, when the call comes in from the family member you have to take it. Dubai is a great place for kids to grow up. It is a safe place where you can enjoy your money. It gives you the opportunity to make money if you are smart and know what needs to be done. So, yes, of course when I got the call I made the jump and came back. I was bringing a lot of experience with me from the West. I was able to bring that experience back into our business and really take it to the next level by bringing the right attitude and policies that seasoned entrepreneurs that come from the Asian side are not able to bring to the business.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I save as well as I spend. I am very successful in managing my savings and my spending. I spend so that my family and I can enjoy a good life. For example, if I am on vacation I don’t look at my wallet. I make sure we have a good time, because if you are earning then you can enjoy the money that you own. But at the same time I have saving habits, which you have to keep to balance your financials.

What’s your most cherished purchase?

I don’t have any particular one. There are many of them and they all revolve around my kids or my family. For example, I still remember the first car seat I bought when my first son was born, back in the US. That’s something I could never forget. The first house I bought with my wife; the stuff we did. These are the first things you do in life that you cherish.

Where do you save your money?

I work with a financial adviser who helps me invest in money market accounts and portfolios that I have put together. I have my own retirement fund and I invest in properties in the UAE, because I think it is a good product to have in your savings. The UAE presents many opportunities to make money in real estate.


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What has been your best investment?

If you look at only pure investments then it is my kids, but if you mean a financial investment, then it is the investment I have done in my business here in the UAE. That has been the best investment because I believe the UAE is a great platform to develop your financial targets. They offer the means that are required to have a successful business. But apart from that I invest in properties. I have a portfolio of investment products that I work with. But I think anything to do with investments in the UAE has been the best for me so far.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay your bills?

After coming back here, no. I never have had, touch wood. But earlier, yes. When you leave college and are starting to look for jobs, things are tough for someone who is starting his career and I have gone through that process.

What luxuries are important to you?

I am a very low profile person. Luxury for me is happiness. Spending time with my family.

How much do you have in your wallet right now?

I have Dh1,010 in my wallet right now. I am a credit card user but I always keep money in my wallet as anything can happen. You could be stuck somewhere where cards are not accepted. I spend on credit cards but I always pay them off every month.

Mr Badami says driving a Tesla Model X satisfies his responsibilities for having a greener vehicle as well as enjoying the ride. Photo: Al Muqarram Industries.

What car do you drive?

I drive a Tesla Model X. the SUV that has those crazy doors that open up. That’s been on my radar for a long time. I bought this at the end of last year. It is an amazing car - it satisfies your responsibilities for having a greener vehicle as well as enjoying the ride.

Do you consider yourself to be environmentally responsible generally?

Yes, I think we as individuals all have a social responsibility that we need to carry. I have done work in my business. We have launched products that are environmentally friendly in the construction industry. I personally make sure we recycle at home.

What would you raid your savings for?

Savings are meant to give you a good retirement. I have goals in life that help me plan for what I need. Based on that I have developed a financial plan, which will allow me to have a strong financial future.

When do you plan to retire?

If you ask me today I will say tomorrow. But I have set up a time. I think before I turn 50 I should be out of work, that’s the plan.

What will you do with your time?

I have started thinking about this and in my mind I am thinking that I have to have social responsibility, to do something good for people maybe.