LuLu Financial Holdings' MD Adeeb Ahamed on the Covid crisis, remittances and plans ahead
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LuLu Financial Holdings’ MD Adeeb Ahamed on the Covid crisis, remittances and plans ahead

LuLu Financial Holdings’ MD Adeeb Ahamed on the Covid crisis, remittances and plans ahead

UAE-based LuLu Exchange contributes to nearly 1.7 per cent of the global remittance inflows, reveals Ahamed

Adeeb Ahamed New

How has Covid-19 impacted your operations this year?

As an organisation doing business in multiple customer-facing sectors, it has been an opportunity for us to re-align our strategies, redefine our priorities and re-assess how our existing capabilities can be scaled using modern technology. Being part of the global remittances economy, we did take a hit initially, but have recovered and managed to stem the downfall by pushing forward our digital offering and innovating our service models to better serve existing and new customers.

You lead businesses across sectors – from financial services to hospitality. Do you use the same principles while strategising or does it differ from brand to brand?

While each of our businesses may have different operational priorities, what unites them is our common business philosophy: to deliver an experience-led customer engagement by constantly striving for innovation. Thus, there is definitely an overlap of certain principles, although the function of each business warrants strategies endemic to that business.

Our organisation is structured in such a way that all our businesses function like silos with a customer-centric focus, with opportunities given to team members to put their own spin to the requirements of the business. This sense of intrapreneurship helps the various businesses stay focused on their core line of function, without losing their connect with the central working culture.

We commit to this vision with the help of an engaged workforce and by following sound financial discipline. As a multi-vertical business, it’s important that our foundation is solid if we are to shift gears naturally, on a local and global level. The advantage for me is that I get a bird’s eye view of where we presently stand and the direction we need to move, without losing sight of our unified organisational vision.

LuLu Financial Holdings has grown significantly in the last 10 years. Any further plans for expansion in the near future?

We live in an era of constant disruption and innovation. Every industry is here to evolve, and we’re pacing ourselves with the changing customer needs and their viewpoints.

We are aggressive on our digital offering, LuLu Money, and are adding new services and functions of utilitarian value which will be of support to customers, irrespective of location. The remittance industry, in its digital avatar, will eventually become invisible and our investments are geared to ramp up our capabilities to serve the new consumer.

The idea of last-mile remittance and financial inclusion are basic tenets on which our financial services hinge, and our expansion into newer territories will coincide with our push to make our services more seamless and readily available to all.

Your other venture, Twenty14 Holdings, now has properties across the GCC, India, Europe, and the UK. Are you eyeing any new projects?

We are coming up with two new luxury projects in Bengaluru in India, as well as properties in Germany and Netherlands. Being a hospitality investment company, we constantly conduct scoping exercises to evaluate how the industry is changing, and the role we can play in creating immersive experiences that connect a property to its place. New projects that fit all the parameters of our investment strategy will surely find a place in our portfolio in the coming years.

What is your advice to other business leaders in this region to deal with the current crisis?

This is the time for leaders to take control of the day-to-day operations and trust in the ability of their team. While we contemplate the prospects of a post-Covid future, it is also important to self-introspect and identify solutions to challenges that may have been overlooked previously.

There needs to be a renewed focus on goals, and now is the time for leaders to give due importance to integrating technology with existing services to better serve and grow their customer base. This should be done keeping value-creation and customer experience at the heart of all things new.

Also, knee-jerk reactions to changing market trends should be avoided. The relevance of all ongoing and future projects should be assessed, and HR managed accordingly, as it’s easy to dismiss but difficult to re-build your team.

Lastly, what are your future plans? What is it that you hope to achieve?

Today, LuLu Exchange contributes to nearly 1.7 per cent of the global remittance inflows. We started the company with the vision to pioneer how a person transacts and sends money home. Remittance is the lifeline of migrants who work in distant lands far from their loved ones, and with the world of payments transforming at a dizzying pace, we see it as our duty to make the remittance process as hassle-free and convenient as possible.

We envision digital innovation as a means to solve customer pain points through a powerful, genuine, and simple solution that is accessible to all. In the coming years, we expect to play a crucial role in helping communities achieve last-mile remittance and financial inclusion in its truest sense. We hope to translate this vision of connecting communities through technology, whether it be for shopping, dining, or travel experiences, in our other businesses as well.

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