“I left a stable job because I wanted financial freedom”
Nisha Ramisetty, an Indian entrepreneur of American origin, is the co-founder of Naksha Collections, a Dubai start-up that creates gourmet meal kits inspired by travel.
Launched last November with his business partner Sam Williams at his home during pandemic restrictions, Naksha – which means card in Sanskrit – works with foreign chefs and artists. The start-up has won a spot in the Spinneys Local Business Incubator program, sells in over 40 stores across the UAE and is expanding internationally.
Managing Director Ms Ramisetty, 32, was previously Director and Head of Content at Dubai World Trade Center, after first working at Goldman Sachs. She moved to Dubai 11 years ago and lives in Dubai Hills Estate.
Has childhood influenced your attitudes towards money?
I was born in Hyderabad, India, and moved to the United States when I was three years old. I come from an upper middle class Indian family where education, career and travel are huge priorities.
My mom is a single mom and when we moved she was doing her second master’s. I had never absorbed the concept of money before, so the awareness and understanding of value (in the US) defined who I am today. We also experienced the fun luxury of living in the United States. I returned to India when I was 12, a crazy change again.
Did you make money growing up?
Every American kid has a lemonade stand outside the house. My mom made fresh squeezed lemonade, so I learned the value of having to do things with her hands. It was probably 50 cents (a cup). I put it in my piggy bank. I got some pocket money from my mom, but if I wanted something more I would save. Saving is a priority for our family. Wherever we are, these values were around me.
Was finance part of your first job?
I did an internship in three different sectors – advertising, a newspaper and a bank – because I wanted to understand, to find what is interesting. Can’t say it paid a lot of money, probably enough for gas and food. But at that time, how much was not necessarily important because I was able to learn so much.
I graduated in 2009 and worked at Goldman Sachs in India as a prime brokerage analyst.
What brought you to the United Arab Emirates?
I came for a vacation or an event and it just clicked. I can be close to my family and quickly found a job in an oil and gas consulting firm. They gave me the opportunity to move to Panama for about six months. Maybe it was the first taste of having more than I needed because I was 21, my accommodation was paid, plus my salary. I realized, “Okay, I can start doing cool things with money,” start planning, saving, thinking about ownership.
How did Naksha come to be?
I introspected a lot during Covid-19, thought about what I really wanted. I wanted financial freedom. I didn’t want to be tied to a job that I am dependent on for what I have to do with my life. We had the idea during containment to create gourmet recipe kits that allow people to “travel” to these destinations through food; the concept tries to encompass art, culture and way of life.
Before, we traveled almost every month. I had a little black book and every time I found a restaurant or something that I really liked I would write it down, try to meet the chef. We started using the book as a way to recreate vacations and reached out to chefs, recreated recipes.
Do your employees benefit financially?
The packaging is hand drawn by local artists from these countries. We pay them for the art as well as a royalty for each kit sold. We wanted people to tap into this whole ecosystem, potentially travel to it at some point, exploring other parts of the culture besides food.
What was it like quitting a full time salary?
It is difficult to leave a stable job. I was then working with a government entity. Lots of friends would say, “You’re crazy, you drive a nice car, you bought your own apartment, you bought your mother another apartment, why would you risk all that?” But I want to be totally independent, build something and eventually grow personally and financially.
We launched at Spinneys. We weren’t a start-up yet, it was just an idea, we won a place and I immediately quit my job. It gave us the confidence to launch, invest our own money knowing that there is already a large scale retail buyer for our products. I would focus on this full time and my partner would continue his full time job in London. When you start a business you don’t fundamentally pay yourself, but I’m here for the long haul.
How do you develop your wealth?
I have developed a very balanced approach to my finances. I have been saving money since I was young. I like to invest, find opportunities that have high return potential, but are solid, restructure if necessary. I’m from the finance industry, so I’ve been able to invest in everything from hedge funds to cryptocurrencies and real estate. I have an apartment in Dubai, a property in India and land in Sri Lanka. I invested in a bridge fundraiser with a robotics start-up, which has been multiplied by six.
Is a balanced portfolio important?
Yes. As I get older I very consciously try to create multiple streams of income, some passive, some active. I am constantly educating myself. It’s important to sweat your money, but if you leave it in your bank account, it won’t happen. I am always looking for interesting opportunities, but not necessarily always risky.
What is your most expensive purchase?
An old chest that I bought in Sharjah. He is Indian and reminds me of my perspective on life. It brings my house to life and is a link with India.
Do you have a philosophy of money?
If you don’t have the money, that’s something that makes you miserable. But I don’t think having more necessarily increases happiness by that incremental value. Money, to me, means a certain level of comfort. It allowed me to follow a passion, to create a business. Money is needed to do the things we want to do in life. I find the money interesting, but having a reserve of it doesn’t necessarily mean the fun. This is how the money is used.
Are you good with money?
I hope. I constantly watch videos, I read about it, how people manage their money. I hope to become wiser with age and continue to learn more.
I’m actually quite fluid and free-spirited, so I don’t do Excel sheets of my (personal) expenses every month. I want to live my life. I’m very close to my mom and she manages our assets in India, I manage things outside of India and we do a lot of things together. We have a spreadsheet that tracks everything. We also try to donate to charity.
Have you adjusted your spending habits?
Because we don’t take money out of the business, I pay close attention to expenses. With the Covid-19, going out and eating has reduced considerably. When you look at how much you spend, it’s a lot. Do I regret it? No, because it was a lifestyle choice. But since the company, I have changed my spending habits. I’m not too frugal, but you have to rationalize, “Okay, do I really need this? “
Is there a roadmap for retirement?
The entrepreneurship bug bit me… I don’t think Naksha will be the only business I start. In terms of making sure my finances are planned for the future, my funds and assets will hopefully continue to grow. I don’t want to retire. If I worked for a company, maybe I would at 45. The concept is very different in my head now.
Updated: September 23, 2021 5:00 a.m.