How a Dubai resident went from washing cars to being a multi-millionaire

Vignesh Vijayakumar speaks to The National about his dream – and now reality – of owning 14 luxury cars in Dubai

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Dubai is no stranger to rags-to-riches stories and one such tale is that of Indian expat Vignesh Vijaykumar, who went from a teenager washing cars to being the owner of 14 luxury cars, among other assets worth millions.

The car park in Mr Vijayakumar's opulent Jumeirah villa is enough to turn any car lover green with envy.

Dubai resident went from washing cars to owning 14 luxury vehicles

Dubai resident went from washing cars to owning 14 luxury vehicles

His private collection includes a Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Bentley Gt Continental, Bentley Flying Spur, Range Rover, Cadillac Escalada, Mercedes Viano, Lincoln Aviator, Maybach, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes E300, Mercedes G630, Thar, Nissan Patrol and a Defender.

The Keralan founder and chief executive of Wealth-i group of companies, also owns a luxury yacht, 68 horses and several farms all over the world.

He has more than 700 employees working under him in a diversified portfolio of companies in various industries including real estate, hospitality, e-payment, car rental, human resources, and legal and business consultancy.

Mr Vijayakumar's stratospheric rise from one of his first jobs as a receptionist earning Dh3,500 in 2005 to a multi-millionaire is the stuff of which Bollywood blockbusters are made.

Humble beginnings

Mr Vijayakumar told The National that his entrepreneurial journey started with a modest investment of Dh100.

"I bought a bucket, three towels and car polish. Everything I made began from there," said the married father of two.

Looking back at his humble beginnings, Mr Vijayakumar said car washing was a part-time job he took up to make ends meet as a teenager faced with the responsibility of paying off his father's debts.

"Dubai was never on my radar when I was doing my undergraduate degree in Kerala," he said. "But circumstances forced me to do so.

"My father who was a Dubai expat ran into debt after he incurred big losses. I decided to take up a job in Dubai to help my father and support my family."

But his nine-to-five job was not enough to clear the debts.

"I looked around and saw two options; I could be a newspaper boy earning an extra Dh600, or I could wash a few cars and earn more."

When he did the maths he figured out that by having monthly deals to wash just 14 cars every week he could earn up to Dh2,000 extra.

The young 19-year-old woke up at 4am each day and spent the first few hours washing cars in the Deira neighbourhood.

"I got paid Dh150 a month for big cars and Dh130 for small cars. I did a better job than others because I had three towels, which I always kept clean, and I added a dash of car polish for a finishing touch. My customers were happy and they paid me well," he said.

Close quarters

At the time he was living in a room with seven other people, which had one bathroom shared between 14 people living in the house.

Mr Vijayakumar said that even when he was struggling, he had always dreamt of owning cars.

"I had the gall to dream of owning a dozen cars. But if I had not washed 14 cars, I would not have bought as many.

"I drew inspiration from Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. I learnt a lot from him that dreams should have no limits," he added.

He took on more jobs alongside his car washing gig which topped up his monthly salary to about Dh9,000.

Dreaming big

In 2008, his dreams grew with his income, and he launched a visa-renewal business.

"Soon, I was processing 600 visas a month. I decided to give up my full-time job since I had enough money to invest in a contracting business through a friend," he said.

By 2011, Mr Vijayakumar had launched another business, which he said was a one-stop shop for all investors and businessmen.

"My fortunes turned around in just two years. In 2013, I was among the list of 50 upcoming Indian businessmen published by the Indian Association of Dubai," he said.

Mr Vijayakumar has also won the Golden Achievement Award from Dubai Chamber of Commerce in 2020 and the Youth Business Icon Award in 2022.

Cautionary tales

But he has had his share of ups and downs, after building a business empire spread across immigration consultancy, public relations, HR and green economy.

"I made millions but I also lost several millions," he said.

Mr Vijayakumar said he is grateful for the challenges and the good relationships he built with people.

"There is no bigger wealth than that. If you are honest, you will always find a way out," he said, adding that he had to sell off all his assets to pay back his customers.

"There are a lot of ways to make money.

"The only things you need to look for are the opportunities that are always around you," he said.

Updated: July 17, 2023, 3:14 PM