It is not often you meet people who have started from extremely humble beginnings to reach dizzying heights. And yet as we walked into Bal Krishen’s elegant office, what was immediately clear was that the CEO and chairman of UAE-based financial services and investment firm Century Financial remains firmly grounded, despite his lofty achievements.
Greeting us personally, Krishen was exceptionally hospitable and warm, and quick to start a friendly – and erudite – conversation. “I have always believed that ‘It is not about what life has offered you, but what have you done with that offering’,” he explains.
Krishen exemplifies that narrative. Born in India as one of nine siblings in a modest family, he completed his basic education in a local school where his father was a teacher. “But I was more interested in acquiring practical knowledge. I started working at an early age by doing several odd jobs, which helped support my family and provided early learning experiences. My entrepreneurial instincts were shaped when I took a risk and started a small business venture in my native town. It paid off and encouraged me to explore better opportunities outside my hometown. When my father retired early, I decided to go to Dubai aspiring to find a good job that would provide a better livelihood for my family back home,” he says.
Arriving in the UAE in 1996, Krishen was determined not go back empty-handed and took the first job he could find – at a local hotel in Dubai. “I learned the fundamentals of people management and the importance of customer service. I started as a bell boy and quickly worked my way up into an admin job at the hotel,” he elaborates.
The magic happened when a client at the hotel, a senior banker, noticed Krishen’s exceptional mathematical skills. “The banker noticed my speed and consistency with numbers and encouraged me to consider a career in investments and finance. This interaction made me seriously consider a career in the financial investment industry.”
In 1999, he met Emirati entrepreneur and the then chairman of Century Financial, Sulaiman Baqer Mohebi, who agreed to give the tenacious young man an opportunity in his company as an office assistant. “During my initial days in Century, I closely observed the work done by the customer service and sales teams. I soon got an opportunity to work as a junior dealer, where I assisted in the supervision of transactions across major global exchanges. I worked 12 to 15 hours every day because I wanted to learn more and better understand the business. I believe it was my passion and persistence that led me to further growth within Century. It started with the position of trader and financial analyst, and eventually, I went on to become head of Investment trading. From there started the leadership roles with associate director, director, and ultimately, the CEO and chairman of the company.”
His dramatic rise in the last 20 years at the company is a well-known journey, and yet is an inspirational one which reflects the attitude with which Century has – and continues to – evolve. “My greatest life lessons have not come from any achievements I have attained, but rather from the process of attaining that success.”
Krishen’s two-decade journey to the top has echoed the rise of the UAE’s growth as a regional economic hub – particularly in the financial and investment industry. The country’s GDP has grown in the last 10 years, while it has also seen a steady increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows. In fact, FDI inflows grew 44.2 per cent year-on-year in 2020 to reach Dhs73bn ($19.88bn) despite the Covid-19 crisis, a report by the Ministry of Economy last month stated. The cumulative value of foreign direct investments inflows (including equity inflows, reinvested earnings and other capital) amounted to $174bn, a year-on-year growth of 12.9 per cent.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Phi Trends: A balanced approach
2020 has clearly depicted that investors must focus on prioritising companies with sound business models, writes entrepreneur and investor Shailesh Dash, who shares his perspective in this monthly column
A delegation of medical operators from Switzerland recently visited the UAE to explore opportunities to grow the Swiss medical tourism sector
Understanding the HYDROGEN HYPE
Here’s why the GCC is well-positioned globally to play a leading role in the supply of hydrogen
Paying it forward
Financial inclusion is a not a topic that Raghu Malhotra, president of Mastercard Middle East and Africa, takes lightly. In this exclusive interview, he speaks of the importance of ensuring an equitable financial future, of leveraging key technologies and offers advice to leaders on handling a crisis
Educating a generation
Ihab Fikry and Ibrahim Kamel, co-founders of Arab e-learning platform Almentor, recently raised $6.5m in a Series B funding round. Here’s what they plan to do next
UAE-based businessman and motivational speaker Dariush Soudi reveals details about his entrepreneurial journey, his new crypto venture and why he remains bullish about the future
Moving in a new direction
The mobility industry has been evolving rapidly thanks to technology and changing consumer preferences, says Richard Sikkel, CEO of UAE-based Massar Solutions
In the driver's seat
A centuries-old Swiss watchmaker and a thoroughly British luxury carmaker recently joined forces, announcing the first timepiece as a result of that partnership
Calling tech SUPPORT
The pandemic has brought ICT to the forefront as a critical enabler of business continuity, says Hou Tao, vice president of Huawei Technologies
A swing and a win
The Emirates Amateur Golf League Mini-Series held last month proved the operational feasibility of the much-anticipated world’s first franchise-based amateur golf league that will be held later this year
How we know
TOBIN HART is a humanistic transpersonal psychologist, professor in the University of West Georgia’s Humanistic, Transpersonal and Critical Psychology program, and co-founder of the ChildSpirit Institute. In the final part of this series, in which he is interviewed by VICTOR KANNAN, Director of the Heartfulness Institute USA, Tobin speaks about the intersection of western psychology and spirituality, in particular the importance of presence, imagination, wisdom, love, compassion, purity, and overcoming spiritual bypassing.
One of my closest friends in my hometown had a love marriage, which many considered to be a rebellious act against our small society.
DR. RICHARD DAVIDSON is a prolific and well-known neuroscientist, speaker, meditator and author. In March 2021, Richie was interviewed by THANGAM VENKATESAN, professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and ANAGHA MATAPURKAR, Ph.D. MBA, about his life’s journey and latest initiatives to bring well-being to humanity.
Contentment - THE ART OF REMOVING AND CREATING HABITS
DAAJI continues his series on refining habits, in the light of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and current scientific and yogic principles and practices. Last month, he explored the first Niyama of purity, shaucha. This month he shares his insights on that pivotal human quality – contentment, which is known in Yoga as santosh.
Communication: Bridging the Gap
In this 3-part series, LIZ KINGSNORTH introduces the basic principles of Heartful Communication, and how it can guide our understanding of our personal feelings and the feelings of others, ultimately leading to a more consistent state of harmony. In part 1, she focuses on the importance of the quality of our communication.
If You Disagree, You Are Not Listening
DR. ICHAK ADIZES explores the art of diffusing a disagreement, especially when the other party claims that you have not understood them because you are not listening. He uses the technique of mirroring to ensure better understanding and communication.
Our Shared Humanity
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” —Pema Chödrön
The Pandemic of the Separate Self
DAN SIEGEL is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute. In part 2 of his interview with UDAY KUMAR, he speaks about intraconnectedness, alloparenting, presence, connection, open awareness, and love.
THE CAB RIDE
I sat in the cab on my way to the airport as the driver zoomed over Delhi’s wide roads. The sun was rising over the horizon as a new day dawned – quite literally, as election day approached the city of Delhi.
Turn It Around
AMRUTA PATEL is a student at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She has been studying Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and Heartful Communication for the last several months.