Mohammed Kazim, is one of the managing partners of Allinque Personal Assistance, and is one of Sail eMagzine’s columnists. In this interview, he’ll talk with us about his career, business, the hurdles he’s come through, and much more.
Sail eMagazine: Tell us a little about your background.
Mohammed Kazim: I did my under and post grad studies in Boston in the US and started my career there for 3 years. I then moved back to UAE in 2008 and have been working with a government owned company in Abu Dhabi until recently.
Sail eMagazine: How does it feel to stay in such a company for 5 years?
Mohammed Kazim: I stayed that long because throughout my time there I was given three elements:
- A meaningful challenge.
- The ability to create an impact.
Sail eMagazine: But you resigned last month?
Mohammed Kazim: Yes, because two of those elements weren’t there anymore. I had no authority or autonomy to do anything so my ability to create impact was plateauing and there was no appreciation. Just around that stage, my partners and myself have heavily invested in Allinque -the business I helped cofound-, and it required serious attention for it to sustain. So, I decided to quit my job and just move in and be full time managing partner in Allinque.
Sail eMagazine: Tell us more about Allinque and its business offering?
Mohammed Kazim: Allinque is a personal assistance service for your personal life. It involves things like getting your Emirates ID renewed, booking your restaurants, planning your vacations, and so on.
Sail eMagazine: So your services are between virtual and physical services?
Mohammed Kazim: Yes. We have personal assistance hours that are virtual hours, which includes any kind of work that can be done on a computer or telephone. And then we have messenger hours where we have our PRO who does the running around. We sell those hours in bundles that you either pay for as you go or you pay for an annual contract, in which you get a number of bundled hours monthly depending on your requirement.
Sail eMagazine: What’s the story behind the brand name?
Mohammed Kazim: We wanted it to be a creative & catchy. We had a few different words that we wanted to use to express the brand. We had: alleviate your stress, align your interests, unique idea, a link to the world, and few other words and we wanted something inclusive. So a branding specialist we were working with suggested using parts of these words and put them together to create a brand name. And so came Allinque.
Sail eMagazine: Who are the partners in Allinque?
Mohammed Kazim: We were originally 4 investors and managing partners: Faisal Lutfi, Ahmad Al Ashram, Khaled Gubash, myself, and now we have 2 new investors on board who are Ali AlYouha and Eissa Buhannad.
Sail eMagazine: What differentiates you from your competitors?
Mohammed Kazim: We’ve heavily invested in our own proprietary CRM system, which we built as we learned our business needs. The system learns as we operate, so we don’t have to spend the same amount of time going through the same information. By that, we get more efficient as time goes and as our database grows.
Sail eMagazine: What are the main difficulties you’ve faced with Allinque?
Mohammed Kazim: From a business perspective we’ve face a few difficulties:
- The staff turnover especially with the high visa costs.
- Understanding our cost structure and investment size.
- Managing Allinque the way we want to because we all had full time jobs.
From a client perspective, we had the issue of not being able to explain what exactly we do. So our clients couldn’t really understand what we offered.
Sail eMagazine: How did you handle the customers’ understanding part?
Mohammed Kazim: We rebranded. We created a new friendly feel based on our customers’ requests and feedback; we illustrated things in diagrams that explain better how our services are broken down and so on.
Sail eMagazine: Is that the only reason you rebranded Allinque?
Mohammed Kazim: It’s also because our initial branding didn’t cater to the target market. The target market was looking for relief-easy-fun-casual. While we were positioned more as a high-end concierge service rather than a personal assistance service for young business professionals.
Sail eMagazine: How did you manage Allinque with your careers on the side?
Mohammed Kazim: In our case, 2 of the partners quit from their full time wonderfully paying jobs to focus on managing Allinque because we believe in it.
Sail eMagazine: How did you manage the staff turnover?
Mohammed Kazim: We managed it in the same way we would want to be managed. The three elements I mentioned as the reasons why I stayed at my previous job were the same elements we focused on: providing a challenge to the employees, making sure they are appreciated and finally giving them the ability to create an impact. So when we did the rebranding exercise, for example, the staff were involved all along the way. They were seeing their work come to reality; we ensured they had those 3 elements and as a result we saw their loyalty growing, they wanted to stay longer and they were motivated.
Sail eMagazine: What do you have as advice for others?
- It’s not wrong to seek out help. What happens in the UAE and many other regions is that we keep our ideas to ourselves and for valid reasons. There’ve been incidents in the past where people have stolen ideas and taken things forward but I think if you find the right group of people who truly care for you and give you advice then you should speak about your idea, test it. I think we often don’t test our ideas enough and we jump into businesses.
- Don’t underestimate the service industry, it’s not like products, I think it has to be looked up very well.
- Understand your cost structure. This was something we had no idea about and we thought we could do this business with half the capital that we’ve put in. But obviously there are a lot of hidden costs.
- And finally, move, if you don’t move nothing will happen. Make a move, take initiative! Which was what my April article was about in Sail eMagazine.
Sail eMagazine: Aside of your career and business, you also write in Sail eMagazine. When do you find the time for writing?
Mohammed Kazim: Honestly speaking, I do it in my sleep time. It’s been challenging, I used to have a monthly article, now I am kind of doing it bimonthly and that’s because I want something to really move me and then I write about it. My last article was inspired by my resignation.
Sail eMagazine: Any last words?
Mohammed Kazim: I am happy, and I am glad to have the opportunity to write for Sail eMagazine. I am also glad to have the opportunity to be where I am with the people I am working with. And I think being grateful and being positive have a big impact on how things work out for you. There are a lot of downs but the important thing is that we work together to change those downs to ups. It’s very possible, everybody has this ability and I am not very different from anyone else, the only difference is I took action. I am still not a success story, I am far from it. I hope Allinque turns around and we get the results we want to get. If not, we will fix it, we will get up and try again.
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