Nilesh Karani was a year old when his parents brought him to Dubai in 1967. His father ran a small pen store in Meena Bazaar which he started in 1965, a year before Nilesh was born. But when it came to a career choice, Nilesh chose to ditch his father’s line of business and joined a bank instead. At the age of 23, in 1987, Nilesh joined British Bank of Middle East, now HSBC. His job profile was a clerk with a starting monthly salary of Dh1,700.
“I dabbled for a while in my father’s business. But my heart was not there. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and tread the unknown path – so as to equip myself with skills and be - how should I say - a self-made man. So I left a job where I could have been my own boss and instead chose a profession that would upskill and leave me humbled.”
The turning point:
In 1984 – when Nilesh was 18 – his father enrolled him for a computer class with IBM. “This course changed my life forever. I took to computers like a fish to water. I self-learnt applications on computers reading books and working for hours on the computer. When most of my class-mates could not comprehend a class on computers, I enjoyed it really well. Luckily for me I could understand everything what the faculty was teaching me.”He said: “The concept of computer and internet was not there so much back then. So I read many books on computers and equipped myself. After my graduation in 1987, I joined my fathers’ business and automated his business for a little time. But I knew I wanted more out of my life. To get more exposure into technology; I decided to work outside."
Nilesh joined an international bank in 1989 in the position of a clerk. From here, he progressed in the bank as a developer and moved towards designing complex systems for the bank’s ATM and cards section. “It was great. The atmosphere in the bank was brilliant. I grew every year and my work was going great to say the least,” said Nilesh, a former student of the Indian High School in Dubai.
Memories of old Dubai:
I remember going out with friends to Khalid Bin Waleed Road from Meena Bazaar. “We went in Land Rovers as there was no other easier way to commute. The winters were really cool and many times needed a heating system to keep us warm. But all that has changed now.” Nilesh recalled how cold the winters would get back in the days. “In the evenings, the temperature would dip and we needed heaters to keep us warm.”He said Dubai’s initial development happened along the Sheikh Zayed Road. The World Trade Centre was the landmark growing up in the 80s. It was such a monumental piece of development right in the heart of the emirate.
Quitting his job to join his father’s business:
But in 2011 Nilesh decided to quit his job and invest his two decades of savings into his father’s business and take it to a whole new level. His online business portals are www.kingstraders.com and www.penscorner.com. The rest is history as they say.
Kings Traders was started in 1965 by Nilesh’s father Hemchand Karani. In 2017, the company under the leadership of Nilesh, started operations in high-quality leather footwear for men with an eye for classic and contemporary shoe designs. “I started e-commerce initiatives to expand the business laterally. In 2017, I got an opportunity to tie-up with 3DM lifestyle (a major online success in India) to bring their shoes collection to Dubai. And so Kings Shoes was launched. To bring innovation into the business, we started offering custom shoes to people who were dynamic and bold to sport a look of their desire.”
We are all different:
“We humans are a disproportionate mixture. For example, my right foot is larger than my left foot and my right shoulder is a bit lower than my left one and because of that, my shirt sleeves have different lengths. The same goes for your face, and for your feet and our hands. The left side is unlike like the right one. The only way to resolve this anomaly be that every man out there gets a pair of bespoke shoes. And that is why I am into the business of making bespoke shoes.”
“To make the shoe customization process easier and conducive, we brought in an online interface where-in people can design their own shoes in various materials like plain, pebbled, grain or crocodile print leather. There are options for suede, linen, velvet and other sartorial materials as our offering to customize. We also offer hand-painted Patina shoes as well as golf shoes for golf enthusiasts.” In two years’ time the company has seen success. The annual turnover of the company now stands at around Dh5million and the numbers are growing. So the key takeaway from this is to be innovative and creative in your business. "It is the signs of time."
Life is incomplete without family:
Nilesh credits his success to his wife Anita. They have two sons Karan and Rishi. Karan is married to Adetti and they both assist Nilesh in the business. His second son Rishi is a certified personal trainer. Nilesh has three younger siblings - Bharat Karani, Veena Kewalram and Punit Karani. Bharat and Punit also help in the family business.
UAE, the land of opportunities:
"The infrastructure is lucrative for anyone doing business here in the UAE. I would give a lot of credit to the internet services available and the kind of architecture. With the kind of opportunities available, one has to have a bent for business that is all. The peripheral system and services you need is at your fingertips. The UAE is an amazing country to have your own business. The economy fluctuates, you just need to alter your business and be customer centric. That is all."
How do you sustain the business today:
“Earlier, sales would happen by default. People would just pop in to your store. But as we shift in the business trends are changing. More and more people go to the internet to shop but there is still a large crowd who browse on the internet, and come to your store to look and feel the product. So we have an online and an off-line presence. What we have seen is that people like to see the products first online, but they prefer to come to the store to feel the product and purchase it.”
Tips for millennials:
“Be wise in your decision if you want to venture on your own. You should have the mindset of an entrepreneur right from the start of your career. There are two kinds people – one who are service oriented and prefer a 9-5 job. Others have an entrepreneur bent right from a young age. If you belong to the second category, then tap into this. The UAE is one of the best places to start a venture on your own. The documentation process is so fast. In very little time you can become an entrepreneur. So live that dream. Be wise at the end of the day.”