Abdulla Ajmal, the general manager of Ajmal Perfumes, says 'you can make a lot money from oud as long as your overheads are very low'. Jaime Puebla / The National
Abdulla Ajmal, the general manager of Ajmal Perfumes, says 'you can make a lot money from oud as long as your overheads are very low'. Jaime Puebla / The National

West follows the scent of oud oil



It can be more expensive per ounce than gold and is prized as highly as precious gems.

Oud oil, which costs up to US$30,000 (Dh110,190) per kilogram, has been used in Middle East perfumes for centuries, but western fragrance houses are now venturing into the lucrative market.

Tom Ford, Armani and Jo Malone have launched their own oud lines in recent years and Estée Lauder is expected to follow suit soon.

"They want to cater towards the less recession-hit countries … and if they want to capture those markets they have to listen to the consumers," says Shahzad Haider, the chairman of The Fragrance Foundation Arabia.

"To my mind it's a very intelligent strategy by the international brands to adapt themselves to Middle Eastern consumers, and give them something in oud."

Oud is formed when the agar tree, which is found across South East Asia, becomes infected by a fungus. The tree secretes a resin - the oud - to protect itself. It is expensive because it is scarce and the process to extract and produce the oil is laborious.

Yet, it can also be lucrative for savvy business owners who are able to cut costs elsewhere.

"You can make a lot money from oud as long as your overheads are very low," says Abdulla Ajmal, the general manager of Ajmal Perfumes, which owns an agarwood plantation in India.

About 30 per cent of Ajmal's business is oud, but the company is hoping to get this down to 20 per cent.

"When you're a retailer of our size it eats into your margins," says Mr Ajmal.

"It's sort of a loss leader but we have to carry it because we're known for it. It adds to the top line but it doesn't do much for the bottom line." Oud oil occurs only in trees that are about 12 to 15 years old, although Ajmal holds a patent for a process that injects the fungus into younger agars.

"There's a lot of sustainable harvesting now but the problem is that it's not a cash crop. It takes years and years. The best quality of oud comes from a tree that is about 40 or 50 years old," says Mr Ajmal.

"In my grandfather's time there were amazing grades of oud, which you can't get as much anymore because people aren't willing to wait."

However, the quality varies and it can be difficult to tell the difference, making it possible for oud that is worth Dh500 to be on sale for Dh5,000.

"We have regular checks on all our products to make sure they're not mixtures or anything like that, says Mr Ajmal.

"It's very difficult to tell (the difference) if you put the right kind of mixture. You could mix a very high quality with a very low quality and most people can't tell."

At the moment, there is no way to test the quality of oud in the UAE, but that is about to change.

Delegates at the first Middle East Fragrance Summit, which was held earlier this week in Dubai, called for the establishment of a committee to develop standards for perfume produced in the Emirates. And one of the ingredients that will be monitored is oud.

"Oud that is 10 years old is more expensive than one year because it stays longer and better," says Mohamed Saleh Badri, the director general of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA).

"That's why it is very essential that the perfume that they create which is called oud is regulated right for the protection (of the consumers) and transparency of the process."

ESMA has received calls in the past from shoppers who suspect the oud they bought for Dh5,000 was worth a lot less.

"Once we regulate this a lot of the counterfeits will stop and fairness will be returned to the trade," says Mr Badri.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

Tour de France Stage 16:

165km run from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company profile

Date started: January, 2014

Founders: Mike Dawson, Varuna Singh, and Benita Rowe

Based: Dubai

Sector: Education technology

Size: Five employees

Investment: $100,000 from the ExpoLive Innovation Grant programme in 2018 and an initial $30,000 pre-seed investment from the Turn8 Accelerator in 2014. Most of the projects are government funded.

Partners/incubators: Turn8 Accelerator; In5 Innovation Centre; Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme; Dubai Future Accelerators; FHI 360; VSO and Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

65

Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

'Falling for Christmas'

Director: Janeen Damian

Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet, Jack Wagner, Aliana Lohan

Rating: 1/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

PRESIDENTS CUP

Draw for Presidents Cup fourball matches on Thursday (Internationals first mention). All times UAE:

02.32am (Thursday): Marc Leishman/Joaquin Niemann v Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas
02.47am (Thursday): Adam Hadwin/Im Sung-jae v Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
03.02am (Thursday): Adam Scott/An Byeong-hun v Bryson DeChambeau/Tony Finau
03.17am (Thursday): Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan v Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
03.32am (Thursday): Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen v Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland

The specs

Engine: four-litre V6 and 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: six-speed and 10-speed

Power: 271 and 409 horsepower

Torque: 385 and 650Nm

Price: from Dh229,900 to Dh355,000

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES

All kick-off times 10.45pm UAE (+4 GMT) unless stated

Tuesday
Sevilla v Maribor
Spartak Moscow v Liverpool
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli v Feyenoord
Besiktas v RB Leipzig
Monaco v Porto
Apoel Nicosia v Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid

Wednesday
Basel v Benfica
CSKA Moscow Manchester United
Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich
Anderlecht v Celtic
Qarabag v Roma (8pm)
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea
Juventus v Olympiakos
Sporting Lisbon v Barcelona

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).


Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).


Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

The biog:

Favourite book: The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma

Pet Peeve: Racism 

Proudest moment: Graduating from Sorbonne 

What puts her off: Dishonesty in all its forms

Happiest period in her life: The beginning of her 30s

Favourite movie: "I have two. The Pursuit of Happiness and Homeless to Harvard"

Role model: Everyone. A child can be my role model 

Slogan: The queen of peace, love and positive energy

Five famous companies founded by teens

There are numerous success stories of teen businesses that were created in college dorm rooms and other modest circumstances. Below are some of the most recognisable names in the industry:

  1. Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg and his friends started Facebook when he was a 19-year-old Harvard undergraduate. 
  2. Dell: When Michael Dell was an undergraduate student at Texas University in 1984, he started upgrading computers for profit. He starting working full-time on his business when he was 19. Eventually, his company became the Dell Computer Corporation and then Dell Inc. 
  3. Subway: Fred DeLuca opened the first Subway restaurant when he was 17. In 1965, Mr DeLuca needed extra money for college, so he decided to open his own business. Peter Buck, a family friend, lent him $1,000 and together, they opened Pete’s Super Submarines. A few years later, the company was rebranded and called Subway. 
  4. Mashable: In 2005, Pete Cashmore created Mashable in Scotland when he was a teenager. The site was then a technology blog. Over the next few decades, Mr Cashmore has turned Mashable into a global media company.
  5. Oculus VR: Palmer Luckey founded Oculus VR in June 2012, when he was 19. In August that year, Oculus launched its Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $1 million in three days. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion two years later.
MATCH INFO

Manchester City 2 (Mahrez 04', Ake 84')

Leicester City 5 (Vardy 37' pen, 54', 58' pen, Maddison 77', Tielemans 88' pen)

Man of the match: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Stamp duty timeline

December 2014: Former UK chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reforms stamp duty land tax (SDLT), replacing the slab system with a blended rate scheme, with the top rate increasing to 12 per cent from 10 per cent:

Up to £125,000 – 0%; £125,000 to £250,000 – 2%; £250,000 to £925,000 – 5%; £925,000 to £1.5m: 10%; More than £1.5m – 12%

April 2016: New 3% surcharge applied to any buy-to-let properties or additional homes purchased.

July 2020: Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils SDLT holiday, with no tax to pay on the first £500,000, with buyers saving up to £15,000.

March 2021: Mr Sunak extends the SDLT holiday at his March 3 budget until the end of June.

April 2021: 2% SDLT surcharge added to property transactions made by overseas buyers.

June 2021: SDLT holiday on transactions up to £500,000 expires on June 30.

July 2021: Tax break on transactions between £125,000 to £250,000 starts on July 1 and runs until September 30.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices