Interview with Mr. Abdul Rasheed, Chairman, Islanders Group

What makes Far Horizon one of the three largest importers of timber and plywood in the Maldives?

Far horizon

  • Timber store has been in the timber business for the past 25 years.
  • We were among the first to revolutionize timber business as a total solution by customizing orders and by creating our in-house sawmill. We also invested in machineries and vehicles and started to provide free delivery services to the site or up to the boats in order for them to be transported to the islands and resorts.
  • We also established our outlet in Thilafushi Industrial zone which enabled us easy access to port facilities and made it very convenient to load and unload directly from our sawmill to the boats.
  • Timber store had always remained at the top or within the top 3 in the timber suppliers. We mainly focus on resort requirements and supply them with top quality timber and related products.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the industry? When can we expect the growth to reach pre- COVID times?

  • The Maldives has opened up its borders since mid this year and we are seeing tourist arrivals since then. Tourism has started picking up gradually over the last 03 months. It is still unpredictable how long this situation will last. However, we remain optimistic and are hopeful that with the vaccines on the verge of becoming available soon, this situation will start to reverse back to normal.
  • It is especially noteworthy that when the Maldives opened up its borders, we are seeing that the Indian Market tourism has picked up rapidly over the past months.

What specific provisions did the company follow to cope with the corona pandemic?

  • Covid-19 has definitely affected almost all the businesses across the world. At our company, we analyzed the gravity of the situation and managed our inventories in a timely and realistic manner. In addition, we also engaged the staff in some of the in-house development projects to avoid underutilization of the staff and mitigated the situation by ensuring that we were making at least some progress overall even during the down time

Is it right to say that gaining distributorship and service rights for Grundfos Pumps was one of the pivotal moves you made in 2003? How has the company benefited with the association?

Gaining the national distributorship and service rights for Grundfos pumps has played a pivotal role in the success of our company.

Grundfos pumps have been widely used in several government projects and used even in most of the tourist resorts as the pumps are acclaimed to be the most reliable in the world. Therefore, it has been an immense benefit for the company to be associated with such a reliable brand.

  • We can certainly say that we value our association with Grundfos India, and together we have proved to be emblematic of a very successful international partnership established here in the Maldives.
  • Over the years Far Horizon has been awarded multiple times for performing way beyond the targets, and for being able to capture a significant market share as the most reliable water solution provider and also as the top amongst the high-end pump providers across the country.

From retail, tourism, real estate to education; you seem to have mastered an array of businesses under your belt. What does it take to manage a diverse portfolio like this in the Maldives?

It’s all about teamwork. We believe in our team who are very passionate about leading and taking the ventures to new heights. It is important to have a team who are adaptable and resilient. We are very fortunate in this regard. Whenever it is necessary to change focus, our team adapts and keeps the momentum going and moves with our new ideas.

In Education, Islanders Education is under same shareholding as Far horizon and is a group company that focuses on education. We opened our first school 11 years ago with just 670 students. However, today we have become the largest private education provider in Maldives. Even though we started from 670 students, we now have approximately 4000 students and have established a total of 14 Schools across the country covering all the main cities of the Maldives. We have also established affiliations with Billabong High International, Kangaroo kids International Preschool, and also developed the first Finland international school in the whole of Asia.

Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur. What advice will you give to the young entrepreneurs in the Maldives?

Work with passion and build a trustworthy team that you can always count on. You can only reach new heights with teamwork. At the end of the day it all boils down to teamwork.

India and Maldives enjoy tremendous bonhomie. How do you think both the nations can make an enterprise out of it?

I believe that the Maldives- India relationship has a wide scope and a lot of potential. India being our close neighbor is like a big brother to Maldives. Also, the culture and history of Maldives has regional roots. So, we definitely have a comfort zone with India and have so much in common with the Indian culture, food and etc.

In my opinion to develop better trading partnership it is important to work on improving the logistics and establish more comfortable trading terms between the both countries. We also see some Maldivian businesses source items “manufactured in India”, from Singapore or Dubai simply because their trading terms are more flexible and also because those countries have more frequent and regular shipping.

A message for our readers?

What I have to say based on my experience is that no great success was ever achieved without failures. So, don’t be afraid to try. Not trying is the biggest failure. One must try and succeed even by learning from failures.

Always be passionate about what you want to do.

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