'I always wanted to be a restaurateur'

Seema Shetty, the executive director of the new Bite Rite in Abu Dhabi, speaks about her life.

Seema Shetty. Jaime Puebla / The National
Powered by automated translation

I was born in the Corniche Hospital in 1982. My parents are from Mangalore in Karnataka, India. My father came to Abu Dhabi in 1973 as a pharmacist. He married my mother in 1975 and she came here in 1976. First my mother helped my father in his business and now she is the medical director for all the NMC hospitals in Abu Dhabi.

I went to private primary and secondary schools in Abu Dhabi. I liked the fact that people were from different nationalities. It meant that right from the beginning we were able to understand the differences between people - differences of traditions and culture. I studied marketing and entrepreneurship at Boston University. There, it was a lot easier to accept different people and make them comfortable. I wish I had learnt more about finance but it's OK, I'll marry someone who is good at that. My marriage will be arranged, but one of my my criteria to my parents is that I want someone from a finance background.

It's very tough to say what I like about Abu Dhabi. It's my home and I'm very comfortable here. Even while I was in Boston, in the back of my head I was always ready to come back. What's nice about it is that the families who are here have been here for a very long time. In a lot of other countries people go abroad and try to get citizenship. But for us it wasn't even a question - our whole life is built here. We have family in India and my parents go back often - it's only three hours away - but our bread and butter is here in the UAE.

I get up at 8am. Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks come directly to me because I'm on the Bite Rite plan. I used to be obese, but even now I have the worst habits in the world. I don't like any physical exercise apart from dancing. I'm involved in four companies, Bite Rite, Zari Zardozi (an Indian restaurant/club/shisha restaurant at the Royal Meridien hotel), a jewellery business called Dancing Bird and I am also planning to start a chain of fitness clubs. I am into preventive medicine. While I was starting Zari Zardosi I became obese. I put on 15 or 18 kilos trying out all the food. My parents kept me in the clinic in the department of nutrition, but I ended up cursing the doctors. I didn't like their prescriptions about how I should live. When I complained, my mum said I should do something about it. We try to take a holistic approach. We try to make sure that balanced healthy food is available everywhere and anywhere, that it's economical and that our cafe looks good, because otherwise people won't make the switch.

I always wanted to be a restaurateur. In business one has to understand they never know everything. I am always learning from everyone - my subordinates, colleagues and superiors. You also need patience for everything you do. Things take time and you can't expect success to happen overnight. There are problems when people let their egos get in the way of understanding. Any decision that needs to be made needs to be made today and never left for later. I've seen that when I am frustrated things get delayed much more than usual. You have to understand a person's capability and ask yourself if that person is someone who is benefiting your initiatives. If the person is someone who is benefiting you, give them all the time they need. But if that person has nothing significant to offer and can be replaced, then you replace them.

I am extremely lazy but if I am passionate about something I'll go all the way. I only do things I'm passionate about but I'm happy as long as I'm doing something that's different and worthwhile where I am contributing. I have no regrets. Every regret I work out to my advantage. My parents are the most important people in my life. I can't bear death. I recently lost two people close to me. I have no idea if there is a heaven, it's too far ahead. But I know I will be buried in Udupi in India, where our family comes from. We cremate the body and mix the ash with mud. A plant grows from it.