The Incredible Mulk
“If you really look at my business growth, the first ten years, I made only half a million dollars, because I made a lot of mistakes. In the next ten years, I made five million dollars,” he says.
“But if I was to go back, I would take that bus. My son [Adnan] has just come back from London where he has done his business management and I tell him don’t ever [make the same] mistake I made,” he adds.
Fast approaching the $2bn mark in value, much of Mulk Holdings’ growth has taken place “in the last 12 to 13 years”.
The job with his brother-in-law involved selling solar technology — the silicon pro films for cars and buildings that help reduce heat and ultraviolet rays.
His first solo venture was a franchise from English company, Gordon Tiles, making plaster of Paris ceiling tiles.
“At the time, I wasn’t a very serious businessman,” he recalls. “I was a sportsman. For me, sports was my life.”
He played cricket and badminton to a fairly high standard, with national titles in both sports. He made the UAE squad that played in the Cricket World Cup, but pulled out because he had just gone into a joint venture called Prefab Building Industries with the Baker Group.
From an initial workforce of 70, the company grew to 1,000 in the space of six years.
“I was also making money on my own. I made some investments in the US, owned a few hotels in the Days Inn chain,” he says.
One of those hotels was used to acquire a 15 percent share in Alubond, a relatively small family-run business manufacturing aluminium composite panels.
“He [Robert Bobb, the owner] was doing it more for the domestic market, with a single line operation, and had no global aspirations for Alubond. He had an interest in the hotel because hotels were doing well,” Mulk recalls.
The deal was also for distribution rights in the Middle East and India. Mulk soon left the JV with the Baker Group and focused full-time on Alubond. He built a manufacturing plant in Ajman Freezone with one line and was clearly entering the market at the right time, just as Dubai was entering its building boom. Soon the factory had six lines and demand was such that more bases were set up in Turkey, India, Europe and Africa.
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