By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Beloved salon owner Aisha Tekwani shares her early days in Dubai. Tekwani describes how she started her business and shares advice for other entrepreneurs on how to get started.
If you happen to be in Sharjah, you will never miss the busy streets of Rolla and in that densely-populated area stands ‘Aisha Beauty Saloon’, almost a quarter-century-old parlor.
Make no mistake. This is no ordinary ladies parlor, it is run by a sexagenarian, power-house Aisha Tekwani — fondly called ‘Madam Aisha’ — an icon of strength, guts and fierce personality with shades of being humane to the core.
Aisha’s tales of generosity are common in the locality and even today she personally handles customers and does not hesitate to attend herself despite having a staff of more than 30 in one branch. She comes across as an entrepreneur, mentor and a very strict employer with customers being top priority. A look at her and it is evident that it is a tale of ‘trials to testimony’.
Before she loved the emirate, the place embraced her innocence and hard work and has today showered her with her two own salons. The plush life that she leads now did not come easy and in the past had made her hit the bottom to taste the harsh realities only to rebound and surface stronger.
Aisha who has roots in Kashmir said: “I landed in Dubai in 1981 — 24 years old and newly married — it was a new world, all together for me. I was a bit nervous and happy to come here. I always dreamed of traveling abroad and finally my wish was granted. The first week in the UAE was a bit difficult for me because I missed my family and house, however, my husband was a comfort factor so I somehow managed myself.”
Aisha said the first week in Dubai, she could hardly speak in Arabic but then gradually mastered the language. “The UAE experience of my life has been very exciting. I always prayed to god to do what is the best for me. I was searching for a job and fortunately in a couple of days I went for an interview.”
She recalls …The interview started and she was questioned in Arabic. “The employer discovered the only word I knew was ‘maafi maloum’. The employer was impressed by my honesty and finalized the employment at Dh800. I was hired as a cashier and when I first got my salary, I kept Dh100 for myself, I donated Dh100 and the rest I sent to my family.”
Aisha’s ordeal began after her husband lost his job and at that time, she was pregnant. The birth of the baby brought additional expenditures that had to be met.
“I had to deal with many problems during that time because the entire burden was on me. My husband also depended on my salary.
“I didn’t have enough food, money and especially for my child, I had to go through a lot just to feed him. I could not see my child hungry and suffering. I worked on my day off, I worked after coming back from work. I worked in the salons, I worked in expo centre, I worked for a watch stall. I literally worked until our conditions were stabilized.”
During her tumultuous period, she contemplated setting up a parlur with an investment of Dh40,000, which was a bank loan.
“The first beauty salon that I opened in 1987 was called ‘Roma beauty Salon’. It was a very small beauty salon. However, I also worked in Expo Centre Sharjah as a sales director.
“From that time my financial situations improved because I had a job as well as my own business. The salon was in great demand and it witnessed an increase in customers. I decided to open a new salon in 1993 which was named as Aisha Beauty Saloon and there was no looking back.”
Today ‘Aisha Saloon’ is an extended home to many customers, who for generations, have been visiting her. The customers range from locals to expatriates, young and old, professionals to homemakers and it is a multicultural parlor with all the employees treated at par.
The years of trials and turbulence have not deterred Aisha from exploring the new tech-savy Dubai. She is very active on social media and advises the younger generation to be patient.
She added: “Dubai is becoming a major business centre for people from around the world, with a more dynamic economy. Dubai enjoys a strategic location and serves as the biggest re-exporting centre in the Middle East. If I compare today’s business environment in Dubai with 35-40 years back, of course it is very different. The competition has increased and the business environment has completely changed dramatically over the past years.”
“My mother always told me to be patient and egoless; always try to understand people and always be ready to help people in need. Honesty is the best policy in life and work hard,” she concluded, as she ran to the counter to attend her ever loyal customers.
Why Dubai is so special
Aisha Tekwani, who arrived in the UAE in early 1980s, has seen the country emerging as a dynamic economy. “The UAE is a country rich in heritage and culture. The culture of UAE is rooted in Islam therefore the citizens and the people living here are liberal. Women are respected. Helpless people are helped, unemployed people are employed, and moreover, everyone living here is safe because of the systematic government policies.
“I have also grown with Dubai. I have achieved a very good reputation, a better lifestyle, a lot of respect from the people and citizens, a lot of appreciation, and moreover, the love and blessings of lovely customers and people around me,” Aisha said.
According to her, Dubai provides strength and inspiration that touch all aspects of everyday life. Courtesy and hospitality are among the most highly prized of virtues in the Arab world, and visitors will be charmed by the warmth and friendliness of the people.”