How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your business?
The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the entire world and our business also felt an impact, similar to our peers. But this is not the first time we are facing such a situation. The 2008 recession was much harder, and we survived while also making good profits and gaining our clients’ trust.
While the situation back then and now is slightly different, the way we work still remains the same. During the first half of the year, when we saw many companies shutting down temporarily, Aries was able to sail through without a scratch, all thanks to our efficiency management system, which has helped us stay resilient. The system enabled us to shift our staff to a remote working environment within 24 hours.
Some of our projects were held up since our team members were stuck on ships due to travel restrictions. While 30-40 per cent of our jobs got cancelled as the situation started getting worse in some countries, we were able to take corrective measures immediately and plan our future strategies to sail through these times.
We reduced our operating costs substantially by shifting our staff to remote working and readjusting projects. Some team members were also asked to take leaves to keep the operations running. Thanks to these measures, we managed to avoid salary cuts for all employees until June.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without our efficiency management system – EFFISM, which was conceptualised and designed by the Aries Industrial & Maritime Research Institute (AIMRI) following six years of extensive research in the field of efficiency improvement through proper time management.
You have been active across a range of areas – from naval architecture to movies. How do you find time for all of it?
It’s all about how you manage your time. I am a naval architect by profession, but my heart lies in the film industry. I always make a five-year plan and then break down my goals into small tasks and take one step at a time. Time is one crucial thing which, if it slips out of your hand, will never come back. Hence, you have to be very careful about how you spend it.
I started the Aries group in the year 1998 with only Dhs50 in hand and was determined and had a goal in mind about how I wanted to shape and create this company. Slowly and steadily, I diversified it into a consortium of 53 companies spread over 15 countries.
Being a big consortium, it sometimes gets tough to keep track of each and every activity; hence we developed EFFISM. Although at the start it was designed only for time management, we realised this software could be a complete game-changer. It not only helps us manage time but also increase our efficiency and productivity. Today all our companies are using this particular software to manage their tasks and improve the way they work. We have become more time-bound and goal-oriented. We can delegate functions easily, which provides us more time to concentrate on meaningful and significant tasks that require our urgent attention. We plan our day in advance and review it at the end of the day, which helps us identify the loopholes or tasks which are actually holding us back. It is a tool that allows us to introspect and channelise our focus on what is urgent and essential rather than just doing unimportant jobs that can be handled by others.
We are in the final process of developing EFFISM into a product that can be commercialised in the industry across various sectors. We hope to launch this product in the market soon.
We are currently offering free training to organisations to understand the policy and customise it as per their needs.
Can you highlight some of your main achievements?
There are many achievements that I am proud of. I started Aries with just Dhs50 in hand, and building it into this multinational consortium was not easy. So, I consider this my most significant achievement.
In the film industry, we were able to create a revolution with Project Indywood in 2015 and we are also the proud owners of multiplex theatre Aries Plex, EPICA studios, and Aries Vismayas Max. We were the first to introduce the concept of an educational 3D theatre in India and also organised the Indywood Talent Hunt in India and UAE which was a massive hit among students.
Our in-house production DAM999 was a film project which is very close to my heart and a significant milestone for Aries. It was the first movie from India which followed a Hollywood format and was converted from 2D to 3D and competed in the Oscars mainstream category. Our current dream project is EFFISM, which has been successfully validated and tested in our group.
What is your advice to entrepreneurs in this region?
The UAE today is the centralised hub of the Middle East where diversified industries have established their base. Its entrepreneur-friendly policies make everyone feel welcomed to develop and grow their businesses here. In fact, Dubai is now emerging as a significant maritime hub, and I am sure that within a few years, it will become one of the most preferred destinations for marine industries as well.
If you are an entrepreneur and are keen to expand internationally, the UAE is definitely the best place to be. In this world of cut-throat competition, it’s not about the survival of the fittest, but the survival of the most efficient. If you are not competent, you will be replaced instantly, but if you prove your worth – then the sky is your limit.
Lastly, what are your future plans?
I am currently focusing the next five years on my dream project – EFFISM, its commercialisation, and developing a perfect efficiency-oriented system. We have currently identified over 200 efficient drain holes found in an organisation, and we hope to scale up our game and recognise a few more of them and device plans to plug them to enhance efficiency to a much greater extent.
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How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your business?