Vandana Gandhi | CEO and Founder, British Orchard Nursery

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How do you usually ring in the new year?

With friends and family by my side. It’s also a tradition to ring in the new year with an annual Christmas and New Year celebration with my British Orchard Nursery (BON, UAE and UK) and British Orchard Training Centre (BOC, UAE and UK) family.

What was the highlight of your new year celebration?

The blessed opportunity of being surrounded by loved ones.

A personal/family ritual you have for New Year’s Eve?

I like to start the new year seeking the Almighty’s blessings and with a sense of Zen.

One thing you missed during this year’s celebrations?

Our family gatherings, but we made up for that with a lot of Zoom celebrations.

Your most memorable new year celebration?

Our 2020 celebration with my BON and BOC Family. More than 300 staff members from across all our branches attended the event. Many of them showcased their talent through various acts, making the event absolutely unforgettable.

What was the highlight of 2020 for you?

Having my children back home by my side, after having completed their education in the UK. I will always cherish the time I spent with them.

The second was overcoming challenging situations to emerge as one of the first preschool chains and Teacher Training Center to successfully adapt and globalise quality online learning.

Also, the BON and BOC family worked hard through the various challenges to provide online support to our community through our BOC webinars, parenting webinars, and CEO webinar series.

And the low point?

Not being able to see my loved ones. The other was not being able to see our BON staff members and our little ones face-to-face. Thankfully, the little ones are back again.

The major takeaways/lessons from this year for you?

The most important lesson I learnt is to cherish relationships. Second is the value of simple living, high thinking.

Lastly, the startling value that our frontline workers and teachers have in our everyday lives.

To honour this spirit and as a measure of goodwill, we have started BON scholarships and free online learning for our heroes without capes.

The best gift you hope to give/receive in the new year?

To spread quality, holistic education and smiles across the globe. I aim to raise awareness about the importance parenting, teacher training, SEN education, and preschool education have in shaping young minds.

Any resolutions for 2021?

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate! Our new motto is Learning without boundaries. Hello, #newnormal 2021!

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

A holistic approach to education where there is a clear collaborative partnership between the learning enhancement team and parents.

Ajay Antal | CEO, Home Box

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How do you usually ring in the new year?

New Year’s Eve celebrations have always been with family and close friends, preferably at a place that is not too commercial or crowded. If we are not in Dubai, then India is my go-to destination to ring in the new year with the family. Visiting a place of worship on January 1 is something I always do.

Is there a personal/family ritual you have when getting ready for the new year?

Every New Year’s Eve, I experience a mood shift from despair to hope. While I regret all that I did not do during the year that passed, I gradually motivate myself to do my best the next year. It’s quite like a self-audit programme, and it’s also a reason a celebration on New Year’s Eve is important.

One thing you miss during this year’s celebrations?

Not being able to celebrate with family. I truly miss that.

Your most memorable new year celebration?

It was with my family in London. From Christmas to the New Year, the UK is festive, and it was a fabulous experience celebrating the new year with my brother and his family there.

What was the highlight of 2020 for you?

I have never focused on my health as much as I have in the last two years. For at least five days in a week, I go for a 11km run. I’ve also started eating healthy, and this has begun to show results already.

And the low point?

There haven’t been any. I am an extremely optimistic person. When I have a low moment, I motivate myself by focusing on the positive.

What has been the major takeaways/lessons from 2020 for you and how do you plan to incorporate it in your life?

2020 has made everyone take time out for their personal lives. It’s reminded me again that you can’t take anything for granted. It’s taught us how to act at short notice and work to make the best of unforeseen conditions and circumstances. It has also taught us to be grateful for what we have; a reminder to appreciate smaller things in life.

On the business side, one of the lessons I learnt was to embrace innovation. Another was the value of trust. It is at the heart of any successful business and is important to take steps to build and maintain high levels of trust with customers, employees and suppliers. Another major takeaway is to create a business culture where humility is the cornerstone; to have a futuristic mindset and to stay flexible.

The best gift you hope to receive in the new year?

Life returning to normalcy at the earliest.

Any resolutions for 2021?

One is to participate in a half marathon. I’d also want to do something I have been putting off – a skydive. Professionally, I want to mentor and build a team that I would be proud of.

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

I feel 2021 will be the year when worldwide business will rebound with a vengeance. People will try to catch up on the past disruptive year. I hope all countries join hands and push for vaccination for all. Last year we discovered that nature has healed, now let’s not pollute it again, I hope that 2021 reunites the world, people who haven’t met their family and friends would be able to, and normalcy would return quickly.

Rizwan Sajan | Founder and Chairman, Danube Group

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How did you welcome the new year this year?

We had planned to welcome this year enthusiastically but, since circumstances were a bit different this year, we celebrated the New Year’s Eve, keeping in mind all the safety precautions pertaining to Covid-19.

How do you usually ring in the new year?

We usually ring in the New Year by organising gatherings of friends and families, which happens with a string of parties. I feel such events give us time to unwind from the daily hustle with our friends and communities and keep us connected with our loved ones.

The one thing you particularly missed during this year’s celebrations?

Every year’s celebration is different, and this year we celebrated the health and presence of our loved ones. We try to cherish and be thankful for all the good things happening around us.

What was the highlight of 2020 for you?

I was glad to be being able to support my fellow-beings through the One Million Dirham Meal Campaign. We distributed food kits to those who needed it, either because they had lost their jobs during this outbreak or because they required it as they had not been paid salaries.

The low point?

The low point was when I had to take the decision to cut down employees’ salaries by 30 per cent for two months. Although the amount was paid back to them later in the year, it still aches my heart to think about that dreadful moment.

What have been the major takeaways/lessons from this year for you, and how do you plan to incorporate it in your personal and professional life?

One thing that will always stick with me after what I have witnessed over the course of 2020 is that we must always have a contingency plan to face any adversity in life. Danube Group as an organisation was able to recover because we did have one. However, we still learnt a few things that I feel should’ve been there in our contingency plan in the first place. These factors would’ve made us stronger in our ability to withstand the impact of this unprecedented disease.

The best gift you hope to receive in the new year?

I believe I have already received the best gift in advance in the form of the vaccine. I hope that it reaches one and all, and helps things to get back to normal.

Any resolutions for 2021?

My resolutions will be the same as they always have been – to help those in need and do my best for the community. Additionally, I hope to keep a positive attitude and desire to cope with the upcoming uncertainties in a well-constructed manner.

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

Well, the world is definitely going to be more informed and prepared than it ever was in response to something unimagined, I reckon. Also, this pandemic has made everyone realise that we can be connected through digital communication, despite physical distances. So, I hope that people make sure to stay connected with their loved ones and don’t take little things in life for granted.

Faizal Kottikollon | Founder and Chairman, KEF Holdings, and Founder and Chairman, Faizal and Shabana Foundation

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How did you welcome the new year this year?

I reflected on the year that has been and hope to create a positive change in 2021.

How do you usually ring in the new year?

Our usual New Year’s Eve party includes close friends, a few members of the staff and family. There would be around 100 people and we would talk about the previous year – reflect on the good and bad things and discuss what we learnt and what lessons we can carry forward in the new year. We learn from our mistakes.

Is there a personal/family ritual for the new year?

We usually spend New Year’s Eve at home. We have a lovely dinner and watch the fireworks show on television. That’s something we have been doing every year.

What is the one thing you are going to particularly miss during this year’s celebrations?

Meeting with more friends and extended family. Thanks to Covid restrictions, the gathering will be small. We also lost a few very close family members to the virus this year; we will be spending a few moments remembering them.

Your most memorable new year celebration?

It was the year the Burj Khalifa was inaugurated. Watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks display at the Burj was a truly memorable moment.

What was the highlight of 2020 for you?

It has to be my daughter’s engagement. After a courtship of some eight years, she got engaged on December 19. That is the highlight of this year.

And the low point?

Apart from the loss of some of my close relatives, it was the stock market crash in March. We have investments across the world and the crash left me shocked. But I am a calm person and a firm believer that whatever goes down will bounce back. And it did. Just two months later things began looking up again and the stock market went up.

What has been the major takeaways/lessons from 2020 for you and how do you plan to incorporate it in your personal and professional life?

A big takeaway from this year is the importance we need to place on health. The pandemic drove home this valuable lesson – that good mental and physical health is the most important thing in the world. That is one lesson we all in the family have learnt; we now workout on a regular basis; do yoga, meditation and practice some breathing techniques.

Any resolutions for 2021?

To be careful about our health and to be particularly moderate when it comes to food intake. In some ways, this year was good for me because I had a lot more time to take care of myself and I plan to continue doing that. Another thing that is high on my priority list is working on my foundation – The Faizal and Shabana Foundation. I want to dedicate a lot more time on it in the next year and years to come.

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

One thing I realised is how the climate has improved this year – pollution levels have dropped and Earth has healed quite a bit. People have realised that if we all put our minds to it, our planet can be saved from the harsh effects of global warming. The message I would like to convey is that we should be cautious. We need to treat our planet with more respect.

Raza Beig | CEO, Splash

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How did you welcome the new year this year?

In a word, with "Caution". I personally refrained from gatherings, going to public places or having any celebrations at home for family and friends.

How do you usually ring in the new year?

For the past four years I brought in the new year in Mecca performing Umrah and thanking Allah for all the blessings. Last year was priceless as I managed to take my five sisters along with my wife and kids to Mecca to ring in the new year. When we are in Dubai, new year celebrations have always been about family and friends. Over the years, watching the NYE fireworks is a big thing and since I reside on the Palm with views of the Atlantis, I have friends who bring in their friends and it becomes a huge party. I generally expect about 40-60 people but it would be a much larger crowd by the end of the evening. It is fun to bring in the NY with family and friends. But this year, staying safe is of prime importance at this juncture.

What is the highlight of your new year celebration?

New Year’s is always a reflection of how the year went by and I have always reflected on the good, the bad, the milestones, the achievements, the highs and the lows. And, thereby I plan for the coming year.

Your most memorable new year celebration.

I was about 14 when for the 
first time I went to a New Year’s Eve party near where I used to live in Mumbai. Oceanic on Carter Road, Bandra, had the best party where the rich and the famous used to gather. I somehow got into that party along with friends and I danced like no one was watching. I got everyone’s attention with an impulsive dance on the table top. I made a lot of friends that evening. That, I think, is my best celebration to date.

What was the highlight of 2020 for you?

2020 was a year of reflection of all our actions. While the pandemic hit, I was able to reflect on my health goals, focus on resetting the business model and relook at the value propositions within the business. I actually took the downtime to review my career. I even considered a digital detox and invested my energies on the various aspects of true spirituality.

The best gift you hope to receive in the new year?

Almighty has been kind and I do not really expect or wish for anything specifically. But of course I look forward to the blessings of our customers to make it a shining year on the professional front.

What have been the major takeaways/lessons from this year for you and how do you plan to incorporate them in your life?

The major takeaways from this year is that nothing is permanent. Things can change at lightning speed and Mother Earth is ultimately the superior power. In this year, I learnt that health, which was never my priority earlier, is probably the most important thing. Social life is required; but family is where the heart is. Most importantly, this year taught us the importance of taking care of the people who care and love you. Everything else is secondary. Resetting and reflecting give you a new perspective on life. Professionally, you view your business in a new light and this definitely brings forth fresh ideas.

Any resolutions for 2021?

I take life as it comes, and make the best of whatever life has to offer. I’m a strong believer of "Whatever happens, happens for the best". I really do not have any resolutions, I am content and happy where I am.

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

I would like to see the fear go away. I would like to see a lot of positivity. I would like to see the digital space being used in a better way – more welcoming, heart-warming and hopeful. With more real time interactions and personal connect, I hope to see a better, happier, peaceful world for our future generation.

Anis Sajan | Managing Director, Danube Group

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How did you welcome the new year this year?

A quiet dinner at home with my family and very close friends with some light music. I wanted to keep it simple.

How do you usually ring in the new year?

Over the past few years, we have celebrated the New Year with friends and family on a yacht watching the fireworks. I must say it was a real delight.

The highlight of your New Year’s Eve celebration?

Watching the fireworks. This year’s highlight though is celebrating with my kids at home. It was something I was looking forward to.

Your most memorable New Year’s Eve celebration?

When I was in India during my early years, playing a cricket match on New Year’s Eve was mandatory. I was glad that almost always I was on the winning team and would have made a vital contribution for the team. Being a cricket aficionado, those years still remain the most memorable New Year’s celebrations for me.

The highlight of 2020 for you?

The highlight of 2020 for me has to be the bonds I have developed with my family that are truly strong now, thanks to the great deal of time I spent with them during the pandemic. It has helped build up my mental health to fight the battle against the pandemic and to productively focus more on business reengineering. I feel truly proud that we had the best summer sales in the history of Danube, thanks to us rightly utilising our resources and even hiring more people to the team.

And the low point?

Well, I have never witnessed people losing their lives this way due to a pandemic which indeed is a low point this year for me personally. Many people lost their jobs and due to travel restrictions in place, many couldn’t meet their loved ones.

What has been the major takeaways/lessons from this year for you and how do you plan to incorporate them in your life?

During the lockdown I realised how much the family needs me and I need them as well. Because of our routine life, we never could spend such quality time with each other for long periods. I have realised that nothing can be taken for granted; life is unpredictable, hence you need to be prepared for the best and for the worst challenges, and find opportunities in adversities as well.

The best gift you hope to receive in the New Year?

Better health with better immunity. A pandemic-free world where things go back to normal.

Any resolutions for 2021?

Balance work life and family life well and with more efficiency

What change do you hope to see in 2021?

We all learnt a lot in 2020 and I hope people implement all that they have learnt in this unpredictable year. I wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year and hope we all practise the right things in the future.

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