Up Close... with managing director of Allied Builders Pravin Darad-‘Seychelles is rightly moving with the times and we have to meet the challenges’


But those closest to the managing director of the Kurjibhai Ramji group of companies in Mr Darad at workSeychelles know that relaxation time is not high on his list of priorities, so much so that you would be more likely to find Mr Darad at work or official engagements rather than anywhere else.

It is this commitment to hard work and excellence that Mr Darad believes is the determining factor to success, and says he has applied this ethic to his deep commitment to Seychelles, which has been his home for the past 15 years.

The Kurjibhai Ramji group of companies in Seychelles comprises 13 companies in total, including the well-known construction company, Allied Builders, as well as an expansion into the tourism industry with a chain of hotels, car hire companies and a bureau de change business.

Born in a small village in Gujarat province, India, in 1963, Mr Darad found a passion for the sciences in secondary school and thereafter enrolled for a degree in civil engineering, passing with a coveted first class. After entering the construction industry in India, Mr Darad opted to join the Kurjibhai Group in Mauritius in 1993, which established him as a builder and civil engineer. He then went on to set up a base for the group in Rodrigues and completed major infrastructure projects there such as the airport, power station, hospital and gymnasium.

Arrival in Seychelles
His hard work and dedication paid off when he was appointed as the new managing director of Allied Builders in Seychelles in 1999, following in the footsteps of the late B.K. Patel, who had fallen ill at the time.

“I was supposed to be here only temporarily, because I was still handling the projects in Rodrigues at the time I started here. But B.K. never returned to work because he lost his eyesight and was suffering with heart disease, so I have been here ever since,” said Mr Darad, who became a citizen of Seychelles in 2005.

He started work in his new country once more with an airport project, this time with the planned second phase of the Seychelles International Airport, but he says the going was tough at the time because of a shortage of foreign exchange in the country. Persevering despite the difficulties, Allied Builders continued to work on a vast array of infrastructure development projects through the years, such as the desalination plants, sewage treatment facilities, schools, churches, hotels and housing estates.

Family life
Both of Mr Darad’s parents were former primary school head teachers, whom he credits with inculcating within him his core fundamental values and principles by which he conducts his life. The youngest of four children, Mr Darad grew up in a somewhat typically tight-knit Indian family.

“Our culture is such that, we used to care a lot about our parents. Once my father was retired, I brought them to Mauritius with me, and when I arrived in Seychelles in 1999, my parents came to live with me here too. My father passed away in 2006 in Seychelles and my mother passed on in December 2011.”

Before leaving for Mauritius in 1993, Mr Darad married Beena, a teacher, artist and choreographer. She left the teaching profession after becoming mother to the couple’s two children – Vaibhavi and Khanjan – and focussed on caring for her family.

Even though he doesn’t have a lot of time on his hands for family life due to his work commitments, Mr Darad credits his family for giving him the love and support he needs to carry out his professional duties.

“Family is the basic social unit of society,” said Mr Darad. “It is in the family that we first learn to play, to share, to help and to love each other.”

Organisations and social responsibility
In addition to the burgeoning business empire under his control, Mr Darad is involved with a string of professional organisations and associations for the betterment of society. He is a member of the UN-associated World Organisation of Building Officials (WOBO), the American Mr Darad raising the Moroccan flagSociety of Civil Engineers, the British Association of Building Engineers, as well as a counsellor for the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Aside from the professional organisations, Mr Darad is a former President of the Lions Club of Paradise Seychelles, the chairman of the Hindu Council of Seychelles, an executive council member of the Anse Royale Development Foundation and a member of the Seychelles Interfaith Committee.

Of all the projects he has been involved with, he is most proud of the Lions’ Club project called the Jaipur foot project, which has given artificial limbs to over 100 patients in need of prosthetics.

Religion & culture
A staunch practitioner of the Hindu faith, Mr Darad is the chairman of the Hindu Council of Seychelles. “My mother was very strict on the religious side and my wife also. Me, I’m also religious, but I’m a bit modern in my thinking. I believe what is important is to live well, not to tell lies, not to drink alcohol, and things like that.”

Mr Darad said that the Hindu religious festival of Diwali (or Deepavali as it is called in south India) has become a major event on the Seychelles calendar, and notes with happiness that President James Michel has sent the council a special message to mark the occasion for the past two years.

The council also organises activities around other major Hindu festivals, such as Durga Pooja, Holi, Ganesh Chathurthi and Rakshabandhan, to name a few.
“The whole idea is to teach people, not in a fanatical way, but teach people about a moral way of life.”

In addition to this, Mr Darad affirms his commitment to multiculturalism and peace by his work on the committee of the Seychelles Interfaith Council (Sifco), an organisation which aims to bring together all religious denominations within the country and serve the community with a united voice.

“We founded Sifco about two and a half years ago,” said Mr Darad. “Our efforts also tie into the government’s moral renaissance initiative, which is very important. Our aim is firstly to work out the differences of opinion between the religions, and go forward with one principle in mind: to boost morals within our society.”

Another thing that makes Sifco a wonderful organisation, according to Mr Darad, is that whenever the body needs to be represented at events, all the members attend together to show their sense of unity and solidarity with one another, and show a positive example to all people in the country that different religions are able to respect one another and coexist in peace and harmony.

Honorary consul
Mr Darad was recently appointed as the Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of Morocco in Seychelles, as the nearest Moroccan embassy is based in Madagascar, which posed certain logistical problems for conducting diplomatic liaisons between the North African country and Seychelles.

“The Kingdom of Morocco has deep ties with Seychelles, and we are deeply involved with defence, police, health and with education – Morocco has recently offered 50 scholarships to Seychelles. We are also planning to focus more heavily on other sectors, such as tourism, and we are hoping to facilitate Victoria being declared a Unesco world heritage site, as Morocco already has experience with gaining that status for cities like Casablanca.”

Inspiration and motivation
An individual with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for life, I asked Mr Darad what inspires him to live his life the way he does. His answer was simple: he believes in the ethic of hard work.
“I’m a very disciplined person. I believe in honesty and hard work. Don’t think that someone else will do everything for you. Don’t wait for someone to do something for you – either do it yourself or motivate others to do it.”

Mr Darad believes that when managers are disciplined, the people who look to them for leadership will also display good discipline and values. As an employer, Mr Darad says he believes in treating his staff well and giving them their dues, but also demands the very best in return.

“Sometimes I may seem to be very hard, but I believe that discipline and hard work is the only way for us all to succeed.”

He also believes it is important for businesspeople to move with the changing times to ensure they meet the challenges of what he calls a new era of business.

“The modus of operating a business is changing. Labour laws are changing, the economy is changing, tourism is changing and clients’ demands are changing. So we have to move with the times.
Seychelles is rightly moving with the times and we have to meet the challenges with a positive attitude.”

By Hajira Amla