How I got here: Michael Mascarenhas, CEO, Desert Group
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How I got here: Michael Mascarenhas, CEO, Desert Group

How I got here: Michael Mascarenhas, CEO, Desert Group

Mascarenhas charts his journey from humble beginnings in India to becoming CEO of Desert Group



I come from a small town in India called Ajmer. In the 1960’s there would be the occasional plane that would fly over my house and I would run out into the compound to watch it fly past and dream of flying in it one day to a distant land. Pure childhood dreams. I was told by my parents to get a good education to achieve my dreams, and this has resulted in me becoming a chartered accountant, MBA, certified internal auditor, an alumnus of Said Business School and a certified director of Hawkamah. The urge to continuously learn has paid off for me. I have worked in some of the most exciting parts of the world and travelled more than I could have dreamt. Dreams do come true.

My start

Coming from humble origins has taught me to accept and embrace all that life has to offer. My first overseas stint was in 1986 in Oman where I was a sales executive, factory manager and a finance executive all rolled into one. I learned to shine at any level – these roles did not scare me. I was highly competitive and dreamed of being in Dubai, so I left Oman to join a Dubai-based audit firm – a new role and a new world. Being ambitious I wanted to be associated with something that was world class, so a five-year stint at ADIA in the world of derivatives followed. Embracing change is rewarding and exciting, and these formative years set the tone of who I am today.


I live fearlessly with a ‘can do, will do’ approach and there is no substitute for both ‘hard work’ and ‘smart work’. I love a fast paced, high-energy day where you are continuously mentoring, guiding, challenging, questioning and directing. However, I try to not overlook the human element in all that I do. We all are on a journey doing our best. Thus, it’s important we work with humility and use every opportunity to enhance other people’s lives.

Highs and lows

Looking back, what seemed as a big challenge one day now seems a great experience. Thus, I say to all and myself that we must move on. Life will throw the highs and the lows, yet it’s how you accept and continue to move on that counts. Even on the days I sense a feeling of a low, I remind myself that all will be well and a thing of the past soon. I also get solace from the fact that if you wish something to happen and you work hard to execute it – you will achieve. Achievements give me a thrill. Helping others gives me great satisfaction and tells me that all that life must offer is worth it.

Dos and don’ts

Each person is unique with unique capabilities and hence no one person’s life is like another person’s life. Yet there are certain guiding principles of life that can be used to explore and leverage one’s capabilities. Thus, I would not like to make a list of dos and don’ts but talk of these guiding principles. I have always believed that ideas are wonderful, yet it’s the execution of these ideas that counts. I also believe in going that extra mile and doing more than what is expected from oneself. Here is the final ingredient – integrity. Nothing matters if you are not honest and ethically sound. It’s something that brings it all together.


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