The Incredible Mulk
Having built a conglomerate worth $1.8bn, it’s more than a little surprising to hear that Shaji UI Mulk has some regrets about his career path to date.
Maybe it’s fatherhood, and watching on as his own children enter the stage of making career choices, but Mulk, chairman of Mulk Holdings, is adamant that he regrets not furthering his own education before making the plunge into business in early 20s.
The story began 30 years ago, after Mulk graduated from Sri Venkateshwara University with a bachelor of commerce degree, and arrived in Dubai to work with his brother in-law’s company.
The plan, after working in Dubai for a year, was to travel to the US to complete his business education, but a last-minute change of mind saw him stay on.
I remember the day. It was ten o'clock and the bus was waiting for me to take me to the airport. But I had a change of mind,” he recalls.
“I was speaking to a friend on the day before I was to go. I had a doubt in my mind, because it had taken a year for me to get the visa and in a year I was beginning to get a feel of the business, doing a bit of trading here and there. Some money was starting to come in, so I was feeling the money already.”
The friend asked Mulk, then aged 21, where he saw his future — as a CEO or a businessman?
“His point was: do you want to be a top class manager, where you reach to be a CEO of a large company years down the line, or do you want to be a businessman?
“I think I was pretty clear about wanting to be a businessman rather than work for somebody else.”
The bus left without him on board and he never got to do his masters in the US and so, according to Mulk, he missed out on learning very important lessons about running a business.
“It really took me ten years to learn corporate governance, to really learn how business has to be approached — what is market research, what’s the meaning of taking the right decisions with the proper intel. So it was all trial and error, going through 21 or 22 years, knowing very little, making mistakes.
“But then that’s the decision I took. Ten years down the line, if I had gone, I don’t know where it would have taken me.”
Ultimately, Mulk believes that he could have achieved more in a shorter timeframe.
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