Off hours: Plan b founder who went from Dh2,000 to Dh200,000 a month in Dubai

Harmeek Singh, the founder and chief executive of Plan b Group, describes himself as a contemplative soul who likes to spend his time outside work writing poetry.

Harmeek Singh, chief executive, of Plan b Group in their new offices. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Harmeek Singh is the founder and chief executive of Plan b Group. He arrived in the UAE in 2003 on a visit visa after his family’s business in India – then the second-biggest electronics manufacturer in the country – closed owing to increased competition with China. He found a job in a Dubai advertising company – an industry he knew nothing about – starting on Dh2,750 per month. Within two years and two changes of company he was earning Dh200,000 per month and set on opening his own business, launching Plan b Advertising with himself as the sole employee. Today he employs 300 people with four offices which includes Plan b Advertising, Plan b Events, SiO2 Events and the group’s PR, social media & strategy wing bSocial. Mr Singh, 41, says his company is called Plan b because if a strategic plan isn’t working he will make sure he has another option.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

Considering how busy the working week is, an ideal weekend involves unwinding by spending some quality time with the family. I usually end up going out for dinner with my wife and two kids and we quite often end up watching a movie together after that. I am always looking to try new and exciting thing with some extreme sports activities on the list for the coming weeks. I love the thrill adrenalin gives you, it can be similar to closing a business deal, except with extreme sports there generally isn’t a plan B.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I enjoy the dedication, freedom and artistic expression of writing, I love writing poetry. This has been my means of self-expression for quite some time and allows me to focus, collect my thoughts and communicate with myself. I live deeply within my head and once my creativity peaks, it seems I enter into a trance-like state. The creative side of me keeps yearning to break through. All in all I find poetry is quite therapeutic and relaxing. While I have an overwhelming work ethic I have a contemplative soul that requires expression and enlightenment.

What can’t you live without?

Air, water and my phone for the obvious reasons. Really, my smartphone is my everything. All my contacts, schedules, important notes, my emails, my gateway to social media sites and my browser to the broader web, where I can get all the updates. A business owner today has to be connected 24/7, if they are not then the business will not be as fruitful as it can be. Clients and customers need to know that their business partner is responsive, reliable and ready to roll at a moment’s notice – smartphones allow that connection, it is now the most important business tool.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

The world today is fast-paced and challenging. We operate in a creative and competitive environment which makes it all the more challenging. Hence, I have lived by the philosophy that straight lines are the best routes – add focus and passion to it and you have the perfect recipe.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

In any business roadblocks are pertinent and one should learn from experiences as they lay the foundation for a fruitful journey. Every bad experience is an opportunity, hence keeping an open mind always helps. Honesty and hard work are two other elements one must not neglect.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

In spite of a hectic work schedule and demanding nature of the industry, I always make time for my loved ones and try to sync work time and me time. A play date with my son and daughter sure helps me unwind even on the busiest of days.

How do you relax after the working day?

My colleagues are my extended family so I spend time connecting with them. Indoor games come in handy for instant relaxation and I am a fan of foosball. Sometimes a workout session is rejuvenating too.

If you weren’t running your business, what else would you be doing?

I am not into this business by default but by choice. However, if it wasn’t for my business instinct I would have been a writer. I keep the writer in me alive by penning down my thoughts, experiences and emotions.