Three brothers from Freiburg succeed in business in Dubai

The Life: Three German brothers run utterly different businesses, but remain connected in their support for one another.

The three Hohmann bothers - left to right, Uwe, Wolfgang and Lothar - take a seat at Lothar's Precise Group premises. Antonie Robertson / The National
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A 3D crystal laser etching of the Burj Al Arab, a thriving business consultancy and a bike shop on Sheikh Zayed Road have a common link.

They are all enterprises set up by three German brothers who came to Dubai in search of new careers little more than a decade ago.

"The sun was shining then and I set up a sales and marketing organisation," says Lothar Hohmann, who was first to arrive in 1994, later switching his business interests to crystal engraving in 2002.

During a Las Vegas holiday with his wife in 2002, he came across crystal etchings. Spotting a gap in the market back in Dubai, the 46-year-old former chef launched Precise Group the same year from a retail outlet at Dubai airport's Duty Free offering tourists personalised 2D and 3D prints and crystal engraved souvenirs.

Last year, the company had a turnover of around Dh20 million.

His older brother Uwe Hohmann, a former tax consultant, joined the company shortly after launch. The youngest sibling, Wolfgang Hohmann, jetted in to set up a bike shop in Dubai.

Siblings often make successful business partners or at least mentors. Business history is peppered with successful sibling enterprises such as the Cadburys and, closer to home, the Jashanmals. In a 2009 study from the Kauffman Foundation research, 15 per cent of 549 US company founders surveyed said they had been preceded by a sibling who had previously launched an enterprise.

The Hohmann brothers' enterprises may be utterly different, but they are united in their support for one another and are adamant they never get competitive.

"We are confident in sharing ideas without the fear that one would grab the idea and walk away," says Uwe Hohmann, who, after working at Precise Group for four years - and in an amicable split from his brother's enterprise - decided to concentrate on his own consulting business, Trust Middle East Accounting. "It was an opportunity for me and I grabbed it," says Uwe, who also looks after Lothar's books. "The boom in Dubai pulls a lot of European companies and they need our services."

The 48-year-old advises medium to large enterprises on setting up shop in the emirates, with 95 per cent of the companies based in Dubai and the rest spread across Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Sharjah.

For Wolfgang, 42, the youngest sibling, his journey to Dubai started when he set up his bike business in the brothers' hometown of Freiburg in the Black Forest region in the corner of a car repair shop in 1990. Twelve years later, he brought Wolfi's Bike Shop to Sheikh Zayed Road - a business now synonymous with the cycling community. He now manages both the Dubai and the German branch at the same time.

Innovation in bike retailing is what he is focusing on as the sector is seeing improvement with new infrastructure added in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and growing competition.

"For us it is positive, because people can compare our services with others," says Wolfgang Hohmann, who like Lothar is a trained chef.

His business now has 25 people on board, up from three when it started. Despite the differences in their businesses, the three brothers came together in 2007 to jointly invest in a facility in Dubai Investment Park along with two more business partners from Germany and France. It has two offices as well as a manufacturing unit for 3D figurines and crystal engraving. The investment took Dh10 million and involved a German bank because of the fixed rates of interest.

The facility is on a 33-year lease - another common denominator among the brothers.

"Everything we are doing is long term," Lothar Hohmann says.