5th December, 2020 | 5 MIN READ

Dubai: Expat Businessman From UK Shares His COVID-19 Survival And Lessons Learnt

Dubai: Optimism blended with realistic expectations and caution have been the main takeaways from 2020 for UK expatriate of Iranian descent, Dariush Soudi, who set moved to Dubai in 2009 and was able to beat the recession then and has ever since been has been riding the crest of a success wave.

Soudi, 54, chairman of a group of companies called ‘Be Unique’ that offer sales and marketing solutions to corporates, is hopeful that we are not going to perish as a faceless race and soon enough, a medical breakthrough will help us vanquish this pandemic and get the smiles back on peoples' faces where everyone will be able to see it.

Soudi told Gulf News: “When I flew in from London in 2009, during the worst recession, I knew that when people have problems they are looking for solutions. When I was able to offer these solutions I prospered and I know post-COVID, 2021 will be a busy time for us. So we are into doubling our strength, recruiting and expanding as I know soon people will be looking for solutions and we will be there to provide it.”

But despite a strong undertone of enthusiasm and positivity, Soudi’s company did suffer initial setbacks as during lockdown the sales and marketing sector took a major hit. “One of our sectors dealing with hospitality that was bringing in revenues in millions, shrunk to literally zero revenue overnight as restaurants and hotels shut down.”

But having a diverse basket of investments helped. “Our digital and website business picked up and I was able to pay everyone on time and throughout the lockdown period. I felt my staff had been motivated and loyal to me had to be paid in full and on time. I owed it to them.”

Post COVID-19, Soudi thinks the entire business community has learnt a few important lessons and certain things which started as an exception would be the rule in the new normal. He has braced himself for the ‘new normal’ and he shares the new lessons that the pandemic has taught him.

1. Online Meetings Will Be The New Normal

“Earlier if a salesman thought of meeting a client on a video conferencing call, it was perceived as a sign of laziness. Today, as people have taken video meetings to a new level, we can see a strong online community where corporate traditions are being built and new rules or engagement forged. People, laugh, chat, get furious and are most productive and the online relationship is strong. Today most of our clients prefer video meetings and this is going to be the new normal for years to come.”

2. An Increase In Productivity

COVID-19 taught me to see the benefit in diversity: As my salesmen were stranded with work at home, I realised the lockdown made us more productive. Now, instead of four meetings a day they are able to manage 6-8 meetings as they save the stress of commuting and I save the expenses on toll and fuel allowances. It’s win-win for everyone.

3. The World Has Become One Family

COVID-19 issues transcend race, nationality and geographical barriers. Suddenly we are all dealing with the same issues — masks, social distancing, infections, sickness and the issue of someone in UK, Singapore or any other part of the world seems so real and relatable. Our world has shrunk and we have become a more empathetic and inclusive community,

4. Business Will Always Need A Personal Touch

No matter what the new equations, I believe business is still done face to face. It is important to meet the person once after the deal is through to see if we can work together. Somehow one meeting in person can help build relationships in the long run. So I will continue to invite my client for an event, to meet the team and see the dynamism for himself as and when the market opens up. Some things have to be done the old-fashioned way.

5. Old Values of Honesty, Productivity And Reliability Do Not Change

“This is something I realised when I had to relieve about 20 per cent of my staff. Usually an employee is considered productive when he gets business three or four times what he is paid. During this pandemic, I realised there were few people who were very nice and pleasant but were not productive at all. The pandemic forced me to take hard look and review my workforce. Some people were low on productivity from the beginning. The lockdown further crippled their productivity. I was honest with them and I think they were also relieved as this non -productive period gave them a time to review their own life and decide what direction they wanted their life to take. I had to let them go as I wanted to be fair to the others who were working hard. But I gave these people their due, and to this day most of them keep in touch with me. So the pandemic helped me shed the excess baggage of employees I was carrying as I was forced to take the right decisions. So in the end no matter what situation you are in its honesty, reliability and productivity that never goes out of fashion.”

6. Savour The Small Pleasures In Life

“COVID-19 has taught this generation never to take the small pleasures for granted in life. The simplest pleasure of sitting next to another in a cinema and watching him or her munch on popcorn, laugh and cry in the movie, has become so coveted and special. Somehow despite the gloom, COVID-19 has given us hope that soon enough we will see the smiles on people’s faces and we are not going to be a faceless race forever. One day the masks will come off.”

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