Murtaza Kanchwala’s journey from the bustling world of FMCG sales in India to founding Hakimi Software Solutions in Dubai is very inspirational. In this candid interview, the CEO delves deep into his early career transitions, the genesis of his company, and the challenges and triumphs he’s faced along the way.
As a firm primarily focusing on implementing ZOHO Applications and Acronis Cloud Backup, Hakimi Software Solutions has carved a niche in a competitive market. Murtaza’s insights on entrepreneurship, the significance of networking, and the future trajectory of his company offer invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and industry veterans alike.
The Beginnings First
We wanted to learn how Murtaza started, so we asked, “We started by asking, “Can you share with us the career journey that led you to this point?”
“I began my career with an FMCG company in India when I was around 17 or 18. Although I initially had an affinity for software, my first job was in sales. I was deeply fascinated by software. As my interest in software grew, I transitioned into sales roles for IT companies that partnered with tech giants such as Google and Microsoft. This shift occurred around 2015. Since then, I’ve been engaged in software sales, pre-sales, and technical roles and have earned various certifications.” replied Murtaza Kanchwala.
A Unique Pathway
We were also curious about the story behind Hakimi Software Solutions. So, we asked, “What inspired you to start Hakimi Software Solutions?”
Murtaza Kanchwala stated, “After relocating to Dubai, I faced some challenges. My experience in India didn’t count for much here, so I had to start anew. I initially freelanced and even worked at an electronics store to make ends meet.
However, an opportunity arose when a startup focused on the Zoho platform was looking for someone with my expertise. The founder was a industry leader and dancer transitioning to start an IT company. He was fascinated with the Zoho application and wanted to launch a business centered on it. He was searching for someone with a similar passion.
After working with them, building many connections, and networking, I decided to venture out on my own last September. I returned to India and stayed until December 2022, during which I assembled my backup team and established the company’s back office in Chennai. My major move was returning to the UAE in January to reconnect and network. Within the first 3 months, we secured multiple clients.
Our aim was to partner with the best in Zoho. The results have been rewarding; in just those three months, we onboarded more than 15+ clients, mostly through referrals – from those who know me and those I’ve previously worked with. We’ve been blessed, and we hope this trend continues.”
“It’s truly impressive that you secured over 15+ clients in just three months from scratch. What made it possible?”
“Our mindset is crucial. We often think, “What if it doesn’t work?” Why don’t we consider, “What if it works?” Instead of fearing failure, we should embrace the potential for success. You might keep hitting the wall repeatedly, but it only needs to stick once. Everyone faced challenges after the pandemic. Many were mentally drained. It was a time to come up with new ideas and act on them.” Murtaza further added.
Learning From Challenges
Challenges are something that every business may come across at some point. To understand how it went for Murtaza Kanchwala and his company, we asked, “While you started this company, what were the major challenges?”
Murtaza Kanchwala continued, “Now, as an entrepreneur, there are new challenges everyday. We’re a team of 7 now: 5 people in India, myself here in the UAE, and another great woman, who’s also my friend, who joined us a couple of months back. Everyday, something new arises. Not necessarily a problem, but always something like, “Oh, this happened; now we have to address it.” It’s a daily, hourly learning process. It’s quite fascinating.
When you sell software like Zoho, for instance, there’s a need for constant updating. Zoho has more than 40+ applications, and they update all their applications either monthly or quarterly. The challenge of being an implementation specialist for Zoho is that we must stay updated about what’s happening not just with Zoho but also with Microsoft and Acronis. In Acronis, we do AI backups infused with a lot of Machine Learning. This means we must stay updated everyday.
It’s not just industry-specific, either. Take social media influencers as an example: if they want views on their reels or videos, they have to pick a globally relevant topic. They have to stay on top of trends; similarly, so do we. It’s a continuous process; like everything, it has pros and cons.”
The Benefit Of Staying Updated
We further asked, “Keeping up with the ever-changing software world sounds demanding. How do you manage to stay updated?”
With that, Murtaza Kanchwala continues, “It’s all about being attuned to our client’s needs. Each client might operate within the same industry, but their business models differ. In the UAE, We specialize in two industries – Company setup and Accounting firms. We have done Zoho Implementation for multiple companies in both company setup and accounting sectors.
So, every accounting firm and company setup firm has almost the same process. But when they implement a CRM application, their ideologies are completely different. Their business operation models are completely different. Sometimes, we learn as well. This uniqueness means that we’re always learning and adapting.
Every morning, my team and I have an “Online-huddle” where we discuss three things – what was done the previous day, what needs to be done today, and what we learned yesterday. It’s mostly a 15-minute discussion. In case I miss out, the team holds the huddle, but it never stops. This routine keeps us updated on every project.”
“It’s a proactive approach. How do these huddles contribute to your daily operations?”
Murtaza Kanchwala added, “They keep us aligned. In the past, I found micromanaged huddles to be counterproductive. But now, our focus is on the main points. We keep track of progress without getting bogged down in excessive details, ensuring that operations run smoothly. We are simply tracking everything to ensure that everything is going well and that projects are running smoothly.”
Transparency And Collaboration
We also wanted to understand what makes Hakimi Software Solutions stand out from the crowd. So, we asked Murtaza, “What differentiates your company from other businesses in your field?”
“Actually, in Dubai, 40+ partners do what we do. What sets us apart is our commitment to transparency, especially regarding pricing. As we’re updating our website, which will launch soon, transparent pricing is one of our unique features. We are transparent from the onset of a project. For example, if a project spans three weeks, we clearly outline the tasks for each week. We provide a comprehensive document to the client outlining everything, ensuring they understand their investment. The investor should know what they’re getting.
Take Netflix or Amazon Prime as examples. When you select a subscription, they indicate how many devices you can use and the price. It’s clear: you pay for a service and know exactly what you receive. Many in our industry miss this clarity. This insight came from observing others in the field. While they may seem like competitors, we often collaborate with other partners. says Murtaza Kanchwala.
Murtaza Kanchwala further added, “It’s not exactly a competition in the Dubai market. It proceeds in parallel, even within the same market. The Dubai market encourages collaboration, even among similar businesses.
Moreover, we prioritize delivering projects ahead of time. If we promise a month, we aim to deliver in before the timeline ends. Our emphasis on transparency and prompt delivery sets us apart. Other companies might do the same, but this is our core principle.”
It’s quite refreshing to hear about collaboration rather than competition. What made you implement business in this way?
Murtaza Kanchwala continues, “If you’re constantly competing, when will you focus on your own growth? Even if we have over 25+ clients till date, some are solopreneurs. If one person runs a company, they count as one client for us. We provide them the same level of service as we would for a team of 15-20 people. Our client base ranges from solopreneurs to larger companies. No matter their size, we treat them with equal importance. Everyone uses the software, and they all pay for licenses and implementation. It doesn’t make sense to differentiate based on competition or company size. While some might not agree with our approach, I choose not to spend time explaining or debating. Listen to everyone, but follow your own path. It’s more efficient to recognize their perspective and move forward.”
Preparing A Vision Board & Fostering Trust
We then asked, “Moving on to your business’s success metrics, what KPIs do you use?”
“To be frank, we don’t rely solely on traditional KPIs. Instead, we have a company vision board that mirrors my personal vision. This board highlights our targets, and attaching dates to these goals is essential. While KPIs are vital for certain departments, they aren’t always the best approach for everyone. For an admin, for example, setting a KPI based on the number of calls they take isn’t especially meaningful. If necessary, we could pull such data from a report. What’s more critical is continually monitoring our vision board, not just setting it up and forgetting about it. We actively work on it, track it daily, and use time boxing to manage our time more efficiently. I’ve learned this approach over the previous 6-7 months. Adapting to vision boards has been a recent learning experience for me, but it has proven to be effective.” replied Murtaza Kanchwala.
“That’s an insightful approach. Given this, how do you foster trust with your employees?”
Murtaza Kanchwala says, “Let them be; let them work. The problem arose when the pandemic hit, and as people transitioned to working from home, some companies took advantage, expecting employees to work continuously. It doesn’t make sense, especially if they aren’t being paid for working more official hours. Trust is a two-way street. When I began hiring for our support team in Chennai, India, the first person I brought on board was someone I’d known and trusted for a couple of years. He then facilitated the hiring of two more team members he trusted. I didn’t feel the need to oversee these two directly because I had confidence in my initial hire. Similarly, I hired a close friend in Dubai due to our shared trust.
There’s a misconception about not hiring friends, but it’s truly about mutual respect and understanding. When chosen with discernment, friends can be invaluable assets. They’re upfront about their mistakes, allowing us to address issues directly. I have some remarkable people on our team. We aren’t planning to expand our team dramatically. Even if we grow to over a hundred, I’d prefer a small, trusted group to manage the larger team. It all hinges on the right vibe and understanding.”
3 Major Solutions
Our next question was, “Could you provide more details about your services and your current projects?”
“We specialize in three primary software solutions: ZOHO, Microsoft O365, Acronis Cyber Backup.
For Acronis and Microsoft, our focus is predominantly on India. We don’t market these in Dubai. Instead, we offer Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMCs) for Microsoft and Acronis, particularly in the disaster recovery space, ensuring the continuous availability of services.
ZOHO, however, is our main focus in the UAE and Oman. With Zoho, we consider ourselves implementation specialists. Zoho offers over 45+ applications covering a wide range of business needs. Notably, it’s an application trusted by the Dubai government, especially for Accounting. In fact, when getting a DED license for starting a company, one gets a complimentary One-year Zoho One package for up to four users. This endorsement by our government underscores Zoho’s credibility and trustworthiness. It’s important to note that while we don’t sell Zoho licenses—they must be acquired directly from their website—we offer implementation services for those who have purchased a license or are planning to.
Being a small startup, we have certain advantages, particularly regarding pricing flexibility, which we view as a significant strength. We can adapt and customize pricing more effectively than larger organizations.” he replied.
Staying Updated With Industry Trends
“How do you ensure that you remain updated with technologies and market trends?”
“To be honest, one primary method I use to stay informed is attending webinars and networking events whenever time allows. They offer invaluable insights. However, the essence of staying updated is networking. There’s a saying, “Your network is your net worth.” I deeply resonate with this—it’s almost like my daily mantra, similar to “eat, sleep, repeat.” Much of our business success comes from networking.
Through networking, we’re exposed to a plethora of new technologies. You receive immediate updates if you stay updated and connected on social media, especially with software providers. Networking is our foundation for keeping abreast of the latest industry trends.
Additionally, I’m part of a few exclusive networking groups in Dubai.” In this group, various business leaders come together to share insights about current industry trends and global developments.” said Murtaza Kanchwala.
Maintaining A “Never Give Up” Mindset
We also wanted to know what Murtaza has to say to people who are just starting on a similar journey. So, we asked, “What advice would you offer to budding entrepreneurs?”
Murtaza Kanchwala replied, “Truthfully, I’m still relatively new to this journey myself. But based on my experience, I’d advise the following: maintain a ‘never give up’ mindset above everything. Understand that not everything will go your way; most things won’t, especially in the beginning. Setbacks are inevitable, but resilience to bounce back is crucial.
Resist the urge to spend heavily on marketing at the start. From whatever you earn, prioritize saving and reinvesting in the business. If you earn 100%, channel 80% to 85% back into the company and manage your expenses with the remaining 15% to 20%. This approach will benefit your company in the long run.
Many companies launch and fold rapidly. It’s disheartening, especially seeing businesses established during the pandemic now closing. However, each entrepreneur’s journey is unique. Just because a model or approach failed for someone else doesn’t mean it won’t succeed for you. Numerous reasons could be behind their challenges.
Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be moments when you feel defeated and overwhelmed. In those times, stay grounded and patient. Patience and perseverance are the keystones of success in this journey.
In essence, maintain a never-give-up attitude, exercise patience, and be wise with finances. That, in my view, is the path forward.”
The Future Plans we asked Murtaza Kanchwala
Our last question was, “What are your future plans regarding your company?”
“Our future plans involve expansion. We aim to expand our team soon, with a focus on investments in marketing and team growth. While we don’t anticipate significant growth in Dubai, we are particularly interested in enlarging our backend team. Our intention is to invest more in the technical aspect, as our core strength lies in the technical team. Without the right tech team, our services would be ineffective. I personally handle Zoho implementations. So, we do have plans. We aren’t driven by external investors; our progress is solely based on our earnings. We’ve been self-reliant, without external funds flowing into the company. Everything we’ve achieved has come from what we’ve earned and saved. Hence, although our pace of expansion might be gradual, it remains a clear goal for us.” Murtaza Kanchwala concluded.