Ambitious- The Real-Life Story of Umair Khalili

real life story of umair khalili hissah ec abu dhabi

Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you want the world to know about YOU?

I am the founder of Marcel’s which can be described as a boulangerie, patisserie, and bistro – inspired by Marcel la Roux’s continuing journey of gastronomic inspirations from around the world. I am 27 years old and started my entrepreneurial life earlier than usual so that I can be very established by the time I am 35-40. I am still quite young, so every day is a new day for me! I look forward to learning something new each and every day through my experiences in the restaurant business and bringing something new to the market.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I am an early riser. I wake up early and check my emails and respond to them. Depending on the day of the week, I come to work at around 10:30am and sit in my office and work on all the finance related issues such as payments etc. as well as complaints and feedback of customers. Also, I have to work closely with the procurement team for materials. I go to our other newly opened branch at around 4:30pm and spend 2-3 hours there. Weekends are busier and for that I come back again to the restaurant late at night.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced during your journey to where you are today?

Nothing is easy, especially when you want to start a business. We were tapping a new market and so the main challenges were sourcing the raw materials from abroad and designing a menu which could be sustainable and maintain that European touch. Establishing such a place in a developing country, the challenges also include things like inflation, the state of the economy, electricity issues, and more. Small issues are dealt with every single day – there are many operational challenges. We are heavily dependent on imported goods, so there is immense pressure on us because prices and costs are skyrocketing. Due to the recent appreciation of the U.S. dollar, all our raw materials have become much more expensive however we are unable to pass on that added cost to our customers. We want to give our customers the best quality at a good price and that is very hard to maintain. For example, our local flour lacks gluten so it is not the same quality as French flour. The same goes for butter. Butter is a core ingredient for our croissants and it cannot be substituted with local butter as the quality and taste would not be the same. When we were first starting up, we faced different issues like making sure the construction work is done on time and the architect delivers what we wanted. Time management and setting deadlines is the most important thing.

Who would you describe as a role model and why?

My dad is my role model because he also started his meat business very early and he was the driving force behind Marcel’s. He has a flourishing business by the name of Meat One, but he made it clear that he wanted his children to establish themselves and offered his full support. He also instilled the importance of respect and value of your employees. Having a loyal work family is vital. My father always wanted his employees to grow and progress rather than letting his own children take over from him. We have taken all these values from him.

Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know.

I am very shy and reserved by nature. I am also quite conservative and not very aggressive in my approach which is not good from a business point of view. However, I have my own unique way of handling situations, and I never lose my temper.

What is one piece of advice about how to cope with challenges/struggles you face in life that you would like to give to the world?

Whatever little I have learned is that challenges are a part of the parcel. If you don’t face difficulties when starting something new or chasing a dream, there is something wrong. One should face all challenges head-on, as they only make you stronger and soon you become immune to them. Nothing great can be achieved without some form of struggle or difficulties. So always face the challenges and struggles and never shy away from them.

What is ONE word that you feel defines you? (It could be your profession, a personality trait, or a quality you possess).

Ambitious is the one word that defines me. I am always looking ahead. I established Marcel’s from scratch and have just opened a second branch. Now I want to take it to the next level and expand all over Pakistan and one day become the biggest retail food brand in the country. Ambition is what drives me.