BIJAY SHAH, National director of BNI – UAE, Qatar Kenya & Uganda.
Tell Us About Your Background.
I’m born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and did my university education in the UK. I’m a Gujarati Indian by heritage. The UAE has been my home for the last 16 years and will continue to be as my wife and I have decided to retire here.
What Made You Get Into Entrepreneurship?
As a finance professional, in 2002 in the UK, I was introduced to the concept of BNI – a global network of small business owners who refer business to each other following a structured system replicated in over 70 countries. At the time I didn’t know it was a franchise model. All I knew was that I could become a member. In 2004 when my wife and I decided to move to Dubai we realised that there was a gap in the market when networking and we applied to buy the BNI Franchise for the UAE market.
Following it’s success we went on the buy the Franchise rights for the East African countries and also another market closer to our new home, Qatar.
I simply love the idea of running a business which helps small business owners network and connect with each other to help and support each other. Its very rewarding to meet members and hear their stories on how the BNI platform has changed their lives, both professionally and personally.
I’ve had a couple of businesses before BNI and I know the pain and struggles small business owners face – it’s lonely and networking is not taught in college, yet it’s the number one soft skill every business owner needs to be successful.
What Current Business Trends Do You See?
We are currently living in a VUCA world. VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity. The term first came about in 1987 but has been more popular since 2002. The trends I see currently in this environment are the following:
– Digital Transformation – with many regions still facing lock-downs, travel restricted, and social distancing protocols and remote working, all industries and businesses have had to and will continue to transform digitally. All functions of a business, from marketing to operations to customer service to finance and human resource management – all need to assess how they can innovate and implement digital technology.
With household spending sharply reduced over the last 14 months, there is actually higher disposable income amongst many and as and when lock-downs ease and travel resumes, discretionary spending will rise. Living in the UAE where we have been realtively more safer compared to other parts of the world, when you go out and abouts you do see cafes, malls and even local hotels all busy as people choose to spend. I see this trend globally albeit gradually as conditions become safes and better.
· Change is inevitable, yet as human beings it’s psychological that we resist change generally. In the current climate, not only is it essential to embrace change, but the speed at which businesses embrace change will determine who thrives, who survies and who perish.
What Interesting Projects have You Implemented?
For 36 years, the BNI model has been about face-to-face relationships and networking. We strongly believed that in order to build strong trust and credibility, it is critical that we need to meet and see each other face-to-face.
We were forced to pivot to online and in a space of 2 weeks back in March 2020, the organization transitioned for 10,000 weekly meetings taking place face-to-face in 70 countries with over 270,000 business owners to a virtual platform.
14 months later, today, we find that 33% of our members (47% in the UAE) have not experienced our traditional face-to-face meetings – they all joined in the last 14 months and they continue to still build trusted and credible relationships to refer and do business with each other.
We are now able to offer an option of permanently online chapters when it is safe for us to go back to in-person meetings.
Take Us Through Your Typical Work Day.
I start my day at around 5:30am everyday and after showering and getting ready, the first order of the day is to catch up with emails. I also still have an interest in financial markets, currencies and commodities so I see what the markets have been doing overnight.
2-3 times a week I’ll have an online chapter meeting or a leadership team meeting to attend so typically that will be from 6:30am to 9:00am
After the online meeting I’ll have a short break away from the screen and have huddles with my partner or office team staff to check-in on the day’s plans.
Each day of the week is different – and depending on which part of the month it is it would be divided amongst the following activities:
· Having 121s with key franchisees, Director Consultants and leaders on the progress and performamce of our chapters
· Preparing for forthcoming trainings to be conducted
· Analysing key reports monthly – there is a lot of data that needs to be interpreted to ensure we’re on top of our game
2-3 times a week I’ll have a Town Hall or a National Director (Master Franchisee) Global Call with leaders from across the world – sharing successes, best practices and other updates – this normally happens between 4:00pm and 6:00pm as the American countries start their day and the Asian countries are completing their day.
6:00pm to 7:00pm will be a fitness training session or a long walk as I finish for the day.
Dinner with the family will be at around 7:00pm and thereafter it will be a quiet evening before retiring for the day at around 10:00pm
Notice that I have not mentioned breakfast or lunch – I have one meal a day – something that I’ve recently learnt about myself – I don’t need to more than a dinner everyday and my energy levels, health and fitness are all in control.
How can readers find out more about you?