PROFILE & VIDEO – Mr Hussein Adam Ali
He is known as the Perfume Tycoon of Arabia. It is a fragrance he wears with great grace and dignity and it is distilled from sheer hard work and an inspiring work ethos. His commitment has become legendary and he has shown single-minded determination in pursuing his goals and achieving them. “Fairness, honesty, integrity, perseverance and passion.” These are his five horsemen and they are all positive. That intent summarises his formula for success. His cabin displays rows of perfumes and stand testament to his farsightedness and sense of creativity. Despite a busy schedule and appointments that come in quick succession he has found himself the time to play his own tunes, so to speak. Mr Hussein still finds time to sing and he has made music not just with his bottom line but even in the lilt of song.
Culture is the essence of life in the desert. Tradition counts and the pages of history are never smeared with rust. Mr Hussein Adam Ali preserved whatever he gained from his roots and his stay in Mumbai and Yemen endowed him a keen insight of his strengths and capabilities.
A man of principles and an uncompromising stickler for rules and regulations he finds great comfort in melody and has a voice to match his love. This owner of the most popular perfume brand in Arabia truly multi-tasks. Bridge, cricket, charity, travel…are all integral to his routine but his passion is songs, especially gazals of maestros like Saighal, Talat Mehmood, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar. It is no surprise that his friends call him Saigal. The passion is visible. The Saigal of Arabia. Asian Lite’s Kaliph Anaz meets Hussein Adam Ali, chairman of Swiss Arabian Perfumery Industry LLC.
What is your greatest achievement in life?
Completing 50 years of marriage recently. I am blessed to get a wife like Yasmin to back me and be my rock as we navigate the hardships of life. She has helped me to fulfil my dreams and anchored me whenever I struggled to berth. Throughout the thick and thin of my career and the raising our children, she has been the leader and I the happy follower.
What is the story of Swiss Arabian Perfumes? Tell us how it all began.
The story of Swiss Arabian Perfume begins in 1974. I was the first perfume manufacturer in the UAE. It was a small start-up. Today we operate five modern manufacturing facilities spread across an area of 165,000 sq. ft., producing more than 35 million perfume units annually and export to over 80 countries. The company was enriched by its association with Givaudan SA, one of the world’s largest and most respected manufacturers of exclusive perfume ingredients.
Our expertise and passion, our knowledge of legendary Arabian perfumery, oriental craftsmanship and contemporary elegance, all come together to create fragrances that capture the imagination of a vast client base. Quality control is of the essence. Our range can match the individuality of every customer and we are also offering bespoke perfumery. Our mission is to help every individual to find their unique mix of fragrances for the ultimate experience.
What is your formula for the work ethos needed to make it to the top?
I was lucky to have my mother’s blessings to become a successful businessman. Fairness, integrity, perseverance and passion for whatever you undertake. If you are not passionate, you will find excuses to skip deadlines and meet targets. A new business is like a baby. It needs time and affection to grow. You have to nourish it, care for it and shower affection on it. Yet with a long term plan.
How different are you from your contemporaries?
I love simplicity and modesty. I don’t want to be in the mad rate race to make money and splash it with fancy things. By Allah’s mercy, I survived in the game. I am trying my best to support my family and my community.
I still remember my early days in the UAE. After opening the business, I bought my family to Sharjah. I still remember the date – February 2, 1975. We travelled by air from Hodeidah to Sana’a to catch a connecting flight to Cairo. Stayed three days to collect visas and then took a flight to Abu Dhabi. We arrived at midnight and immediately took a taxi for Dubai to reach my apartment at 3am. The lift was shut so I had to carry my three small children aged two, four and six and our luggage to my fifth floor apartment. Following week, I fell very sick and developed bronchitis and within another week travelled to Mumbai for a four-week treatment. I still remember the care of my family and friends to get me back on my feet.
I started my life as an apprentice at the age 16. After 15 months, I left that to pursue my studies. I returned to Yemen when I was 18 and joined my family business. It was floundering at that time. Along with my elder brother, I turned around the family fortunes. By working to a plan.
Let me tell you this. I am a workaholic. I worked over 16-18 hrs every day to meet my targets. At the beginning there was no social life. I sacrificed my personal life to build the business. There was only one aim – success. Even after achieving success, I didn’t stop there. I continue. More targets and more deadlines. But I enjoyed every bit. I am still working 7 to 8 hrs.
What is the most significant moment in your life in office and at home?
In business, when I purchased a plot of land in Sharjah, near ex-Geco workshop in Industrial Area No. 2 in 1982. Govt had declared this area as residential. So we are now planning to construct buildings there in place of existing warehouse and offices.
What attributes in individuals would you find most attractive and most repelling:
I like people who are fair, impartial and those who do not trample on other’s rights. I can’t tolerate people who are ignoring the rights of others and not paying due respect to others. I don’t like people who are taking undue advantage of others and taking everything for granted.
Were you always a sportsman and what games did you play?
I have played cricket in my youth. A complete all-rounder. From Opening bowler and opening batsmen, to being a spinner and wicket keeper. I was ready to do whatever my team needed and excelled. I used to swim regularly and play table tennis as well. I am bridge player, also, it is a very intricate game.
How did you get involved in the T10 and what is your response to the initiative?
I was travelling with Shaji ul Mulk, T10 Cricket’s founder, in July and we were seated together. He made a presentation on his laptop. I found it very impressive and immediately agreed to be on board. He agreed to be my partner but in August he called to tell me while I was in London that he can’t be my partner but his brother Shafi ul Mulk would take his place.
Why the Kerala King’s and how do you fancy your chances to win the inaugural game?
I chose the Kerala team because we have a huge Keralite clientele base in the UAE and other parts of the world. And this is an opportunity to pay back for all these years loyalty. I also have quite a few Keralite friends. I have been to Kerala and I am really impressed with the greenery and cleanliness. I like the humility of Keralites and they are hardworking too.
Icon player Eoin Morgan and team coach Robin Singh are best in their profession. They are passionate to win this game. I am hopeful we will triumph.
What was the turning point in your life?
There are many turning points. But the most important one is the first step to my journey to the UAE. In 1974, I was able to finalise my first agreement with Givauda Sa, the world’s biggest fine fragrance and flavours makers. I won a deal to pack their attars in the UAE and obtained their trust for collaboration. Prior to that, we were only their distributors in Yemen. The 47-year-old strong business association still continues.
The best thing about being in the UAE?
It is a fair and free besides a progressive society. The Rulers of the United Arab Emirates (May God protect them and give them long life) are full of wisdom and an example for others.
The biggest challenge you faced in life?
My whole life at every stage has been a challenge from the age 16. And thank God I succeeded in overcoming most of the hurdles. I am tenacious and I persevere. Something is not finished unless it really finishes. Currently I have a couple of challenges but I cannot speak about them while I am trying to resolve it amicably.
What is your advice to new generation of entrepreneurs?
My advise to the new generation of entrepreneurs is never lose hope. Persevere. Don’t give up and be always modest and honest. Be trustworthy and be trusting, both go together. In the long run, your hard-work will pay rich dividends.