Shahid Kazi- Insightful Leadership in Consulting

Shahid Kazi | CEO | ValuStrat

Shahid Kazi – Insightful Leadership in Consulting

Almost all the businesses need to have a professional advisory relationship to make their growth graphs sustainable. They help the enterprises in making strategic decisions to take it to a different level. ValuStrat is Middle East’s leading consulting group providing Advisory, Valuations, Research, Due Diligence and Industrial Consulting services.

Shahid Kazi in an interview with The Enterprise World magazine talks about how ValuStrat is focusing on leadership, integrity and innovation in their consulting business.

  • Tell us about the company.

ValuStrat is a consulting group headquartered in Dubai with offices in UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar, providing various financial and strategic advisory services such as strategy & management consulting, business & asset valuations, market research, feasibility studies, due diligence and industrial consulting. ValuStrat currently employs over 100 people and serves over 1000 corporate clients in a wide variety of sectors. All the way from start-ups and SMEs to large corporations, financial institutions and government organizations, we successfully provide our consulting services in sectors as diverse as real estate, education, hospitality, healthcare, retail, energy, transport, industrial manufacturing, infrastructure and FMCG.

  • What were the initial challenges you faced?

One of the key objectives of ValuStrat was to provide corporate clients with a very good alternative to the large and established multinational consulting firms. Competing with these companies was naturally not easy; however, we did our best to overcome this challenge by providing the ideal combination of quality work and reasonable fees and thus fill this large gap between the large multinational consulting firms and small local advisory boutiques.

To provide quality work, hiring top quality professionals was imperative, and that was challenge in itself given such candidates generally prefer to work for the typical large firms. However, we discovered there were many professionals working in large organizations who were frustrated in their current jobs and were open to working in firms of our size and scale, as long as they had a positive working environment, were empowered in their work, given exciting professional opportunities and faced little bureaucracy in moving up the ladder if they performed well. Thankfully we have been very successful in developing a great team. Most of our consultants have significant past experience in top multinationals and this international expertise combined with our local presence and reasonable fees makes it a great combination for our ever increasing client base.

  • Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?

The real growth for ValuStrat has come over the last decade or so, during which the firm moved from being a small UAE company offering just a few services to becoming a multi-service multi-sector international firm. The first milestone in this growth story was when our current Chairman acquired the firm from its previous shareholders back in 2002 and brought about some service enhancements soon thereafter. I partnered with the firm in early 2009, initially to establish the Saudi business, followed by leading further expansion into Qatar, as well as addition of new service offerings. Subsequently, we undertook a major organizational restructuring in 2013 which propelled a significant expansion in the team with the addition of a large number of top notch consultants across the various geographies. Since then our business has continued to grow, despite the challenging economic environment, and we have also managed to add new offices in Pakistan and United Kingdom, including our recent acquisition of a London based real estate advisory firm Capital Chartered.  

  • How have the company graphs changed since the foundation? Can you share a few statistics?

During the last 10 years:

  • Staff increased from 15 people to over 100 people
  • Offices increased from 1 office in UAE to 10 offices in 5 countries
  • Revenue increased by almost 200%
  • What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?

The essential nature of our business is to provide independent advice, analysis and information that is utilized by our clients or other third parties to take important decisions. Our business therefore rests on reputation, based on intellect and integrity. We work very hard to develop and retain this reputation and this ethos is constantly emphasized within our firm – resulting in our long-standing success.

Overall, ValuStrat has two key competitive advantages:  1) Reputable advisory and consulting services at reasonable cost, and 2) offering a unique combination of services which no other company in the region is providing under one umbrella. There is no single firm in the Middle East region which provides the exact set of services that ValuStrat does i.e. strategy & management consulting, real estate valuations, plant & machinery valuations, business valuations, industrial consulting, research and due diligence (technical, commercial & financial) across diverse sectors.

Banks and financial institutions are one of our largest client base, which is a great testimony to our reputation as they make important and sizeable lending and investment decisions based on our analysis. We also place a lot of emphasis on innovation and being ahead of the game, especially through technology. An example of this was our innovation relating to use of iPads and bespoke software developed in-house for our surveying, residential valuations and due diligence services, resulting in unmatched turnaround times and significantly enhanced product offering.

  • Can you please brief us about your professional experience?

After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, I worked for over 4 years with the German multinational SIEMENS in their Industrial Project Management Division. I then won the Britannia Chevening Scholarship by the British Government and pursued an MBA degree with a specialization in Finance at the Imperial College, London. Subsequently, I spent over 10 years in Citibank in various management positions in their Corporate & Investment Banking Division in the Middle East. The combination of engineering, project management, finance and banking provided me with invaluable multifaceted experience, which has been incredibly useful for me in the consulting world, and in making ValuStrat a success.

  • What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?

Gaining the trust of many of the top corporate clients in the region in both the private and public sector, while competing with large multinationals has been the biggest achievement of my journey at ValuStrat. The core reason for this achievement has been the ability to hire some of the best people, keeping them together and making it a success for them too.

  • How do you look after your employees? What makes your team unique?

We do our best to make ValuStrat a fun place to work where employees get a lot of empowerment, and where career progression is only dependent on competence, integrity and results, without undue bureaucracy or politics. It is a simple combination of team consultation and empowerment to experts. I am a strong believer in the ‘Give it to who does it best’ philosophy and that true leaders are those that create more leaders than followers. At ValuStrat, subject matter experts are leading their divisions and they have maximum authority regarding their business.

All of this enables us to hire and retain some top talent. We are blessed to have over 20 different nationalities working in ValuStrat and the diversity they bring in terms of culture, thought process and best-practices is one of our biggest assets.

  • It’s a rat-race out there. How do you cope with that?

I try, to the best of my ability, that the purpose of achieving my personal and professional vision and goals i.e. ‘winning the race’ should be value addition and benefit for a wide variety of stakeholders, and not just myself; and to never let go of core ethical values for any short-term gains. I believe that the combination of competence & integrity enables you to compete in the race effectively, without being a rat in the race.

  • Which is the most inspiring quote you have read?

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”

Tom Peters

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