BRAC has a huge set up in the UAE. How do you balance the need to think strategically with the challenges of running such a logistically complex business?
Many believe that as a General Manager, one shouldn't get too involved in the day-to-day business operations. On the contrary, I must get 'too involved' in the business because we must set strategies and if I don't understand the business, then I cannot do my duties as the leader. It is critical that leaders spend good amount of time where the actual work gets done, i.e. along with line managers. It's important to get into the guts of the business and understand the challenges. Further down the chain you go, the easier it becomes to come up with a strategy that serves your intended objectives. In this way, you always walk away with a new insight or a new opportunity. I strongly believe in monitoring instead of micro managing.
As you suggested, having the right strategies in place is crucial. What about the competitive environment?
The business that we are experiencing today is more volatile than ever. Technology and social media have completely changed the concept of competitive advantage. For a long time, companies could test and experiment; they could pilot a new concept or product, but they could keep it confidential. Now, whatever you do and say is almost instantly transferable to your competitors. Pricing strategies, marketing strategies, and anything you pilot immediately gets into your competitors' hands. Every company, especially in the Middle East, must be digitally sound and continuously advance toward adopting technologies because that's the only and best way to be prominent. Apart from its esteemed reputation, BRAC has many digital initiatives in the pipeline to stand out from the rest of the competition.
How has technology changed your industry in the UAE as a whole?
I am personally inclined to focus on the digital transformation of the business. Technology is making pricing much more transparent. Online intermediaries are all selling car rentals. Essentially, all they do is use a piece of software that makes it convenient for the consumer to shop and compare, but a substantial percentage of revenue is generated through these types of travel intermediaries. They are getting better by the hour at comparing what different car-rental companies offer. UAE Car rental industry is highly competitive, which means each company must always be on top of its game. Just relying on the company's reputation is not enough; there is a need to move forward and improve at all times. BRAC has always been customer focused, and, at present, only technology can make difference a real difference in customer service. Differentiation gets delivered faster.
How do you feel about the company's method of leadership?
A leadership model works well when its applied not only to one's specific talents and gifts but also areas for improvement. Important positions are held by many, but the model of leadership is not always same because it differs from person to person. In my own experience as a leader, I sought out experienced leaders who I could study in terms of the specific types of leadership methods they used to shape their own success. Along the way, I have tried many leadership methods and combined those that worked well for me to generate a combination of various styles. Since the start up stage, I have been refining my leadership method according to different situations. Anyone who aspires to be a leader must be charismatic, pacesetter, innovative, situational, and affiliative. The greatest lesson I have learned in life is that I still have a lot to learn.
How do managers stay in touch with the rest of the organization?
BRAC has 10 managers. Managers need to lead with an honest mindset; pride shouldn't get in the way of performance. I try to work on the attitude of an individual. Eventually, every shred of work that gets done reflects the passion and attitude of a person. If that is in track, everything falls into place. We conduct monthly “Coffee with GM" sessions with all employees, starting form cleaners and drivers to supervisors. The reporting managers of these staff members are not allowed to be present during the session. Listening to our employees not only gives us an insight of the various challenges we may have, but also opens doors to new suggestions and opportunities which we may not think of at the higher management level. The leadership of BRAC is dynamic and passionate. At the management level, we understand that if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers. A leader is someone who does right things and a manager is someone who does things right. So, both roles are important.