Money & Me: ‘I like to live in the moment with no regrets’

Sulin Sugathan has noticed a change in his money outlook and now balances saving and spending

Sulin Sugathan says he has had a 360° change in his savings approach. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

Sulin Sugathan, president and director of retail at home-grown furniture brand Royal Furniture, joined the family business in 2016.

With a background in computer engineering, Mr Sugathan, 31, was born and raised in the UAE and completed his education at Gems Our Own English High School, Sharjah, and the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

His father, Sugathan Janardhanan, founded Royal Furniture in 1989 as an upholstery-making business in Ajman.

By 1995, the company began trading by importing fabric and furniture and opened its first retail outlet. In 2000, it opened showrooms in Sharjah and Ajman and currently has 12 outlets across the UAE.

Within three years of joining the business, Mr Sugathan started another “fun and modern” furniture brand called The Home, which is focused on Dubai and caters to younger customers.

Today, The Home has two outlets in Dubai, while two more are planned for next year. He intends to expand the brand to other Gulf Co-operation Council countries.

Mr Sugathan lives in Sharjah with his parents and wife, Tanya, who handles the e-commerce side of the business.

Why did you decide to join the family business despite a background in computer engineering?

Computer engineering was a passion since I love technology. I joined the company to see how I can take care of things.

Passions change and I realised that I love retail, too.

My dad started his company in 1989 and has reached this level. He inspired me to become better at what he was very good at.

I’m trying to be better than him, but it’s impossible since he has so many years of experience. It’s been a good learning curve for me.

What are the pros and cons of taking over a family business?

The pros include getting knowledge directly from the founder, in this case my father. However, we tend to discuss office matters a lot at home.

When it’s a family business, you are most likely to discuss matters during dinner table conversations. You cannot switch off work even when you are at home.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

Since the time I remember, we were quite affluent. My dad started the business in 1989 and I was born in 1992.

We never spent on anything lavishly, so that made me understand how to manage and value money. We were taught not to overspend, and this made us realise that money does not grow on trees.

This eventually became a lifestyle. Even when we purchased something, either cheap or expensive, we were made to think twice and taught not to splurge money wastefully.

I received pocket money in a very controlled manner. My mum was a homemaker and she made sure to give us just enough money to do what we wanted.

When you looked from the outside, it may have seemed like I was surrounded with money, but my father taught me to be grounded and prudent with spending. We still continue to have the same lifestyle.

I have had my share of fun during my college days, but my priorities have changed. Now, I am keen to settle down and focus on saving and investing.

How did you first earn?

My first job was with our family business. I haven’t worked elsewhere.

My first salary wasn’t very high since I came from a computer engineering background, and the business was all about numbers, margins and profits.

During the first three years, I had to learn about the business from the chief executive, chief financial officer, accountant, warehouse manager and sofa producers.

I was moulded into what the company expected me to be.

There’s no point in just keeping money in the bank
Sulin Sugathan, president and director of retail, Royal Furniture

How have your spending habits evolved?

After college, I was earning less and used to spend most of my money then. I used to spend on all the latest technology as it made me happy.

I have started saving more money recently. I have had a 360° change in my savings approach as I reached an age where I felt I need to save, invest and grow better.

Where are you saving and investing money now?

I make sure to allocate a fair share of what I earn to another account dedicated for my investments and other needs.

I am investing money in property and developing apps. I always ensure that I handle investing in a safe manner, so not too much money is wasted.

I find it intriguing to browse through tech products on Amazon and spend a certain amount on the latest gadgets every month.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A mix of both. I like to live in the moment, so I’m not going to save everything and later have regrets when I am old.

What asset classes do you invest in?

I mainly reinvest into our family business so it grows faster and yields good returns.

There’s no point in just keeping money in the bank. I plan to explore stock market investing in the future.

Have you had any key financial milestones?

I am trying to double, if not treble, my savings and company turnover every year. This is a milestone I am striving to achieve.

This is the goal I set myself to achieve every year or else I feel the year has been wasted.

Until now, I have multiplied this by 12 times over the past four years. That’s been a personal financial milestone.

What has been your best investment?

My best investments have been a residential building in the south Indian state of Kerala and a metal factory in the UAE. These two investments are giving me good returns.

I have also invested in property in the UAE.

Do you have a cherished purchase?

I like cars and recently bought an Escalade-V. This car makes me happy and motivates me to work harder.

How do you feel about money?

Money can make or break a person. Some people think you have more problems when you have less money, but even when you have enough money, problems will still crop up.

Any financial tips for the younger you?

Not really, because I’m happy with how I have handled myself so far.

I do not regret my spending decisions earlier. I am saving when the time is right.

You need to know when to save and when to spend.

What luxuries are important to you?

Cars and smart home technology. I like telling Alexa to do all tasks at home and prefer to laze around.

People think smart home technology is very expensive, but the actual amount is far less than you think.

What are your financial goals?

I have set a financial target to achieve before I turn 45. I wouldn’t like to disclose the amount.

I am working towards it. If you don’t have a goal, then there is nothing to work towards.

If I make X amount today, it has to be twice next year. Achieving this is not easy when the numbers are already high. This requires a lot of push, investment and time.

I have teams in different places to help me achieve this financial goal.

When do you plan to retire?

Why should I retire when I enjoy my work? I don’t plan to retire since I am passionate about work.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 6:02 PM