10 Questions with Saeed Patel

emel magazine

ScreenShot009After graduating with an engineering degree, Saeed Patel migrated to the United States in 1989 from Baroda in Gujarat.

Whilst pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Science, he started working in a computer distribution company. In 1991, he and his friend started Amex Computers with an investment of $20,000.

Amex Computers’ primary business is the distribution of Hewlett Packard notebook computers, as well as selling other brands such as Sony, Toshiba, Acer and Lenovo.

In 2003, Saeed bought his partner’s shares and became the sole equity holder of the company, and in the last financial year posted revenues of over $30 million. The company has offices in Manhattan, and a warehouse in New Jersey. Saeed is passion -ate about social issues; he has helped to establish two schools in Gujarat, and is currently building an orphanage.

1.  How did your education and upbringing have an influence on you?

Education is crucial to being able to bring a different and better perspective to the table. For example, my engineering degree is not necessary for my business, but it does give me much needed confidence in dealing with customers and sup -pliers. Education also sharpens the tools and skills for success that may already be inherent in a person.

2 .  Which people do you admire the most and why?

The person I admire most is Gandhi. Business is all about having an enterprise for financial success, but it requires organisation, and Gandhi was one of the most skilled organisers. The basic principles of economics are sup -ply and demand, and for successful enterprise, one needs to match supply with demand. Gandhi saw the demand for fairness, justice and equality, and saw the supply as the masses. With his extraordinary organisation skills, he was able to help the masses deliver independence to India, which was the success in their eyes. As we can see, Gandhi was quite the entrepreneur, and one can successfully apply many of his principles to business today.

3 .  What was your biggest break and was there an element of  luck involved?

This was the opportunity that my friend and I had to start Amex Computers back in 1991. We had both put down $10,000 each, even though the type of business that we wanted to run required a lot more capital. Many of our closest friends advised us to abandon the idea, saying that the industry that we wanted to go into was too saturated and too competitive for us to make any decent levels of profit and for it to be a worthwhile opportunity. We knew they meant well, but we had youthful ambition. We did not mind that we would be the ones that were loading trucks and making deliveries, even though many of our peers were working in corporate high-rise offices. At the time, we felt that every-thing we did was going well for us, and any deals would always work out to our benefit and advantage. Looking back, we felt it was a time when we could do nothing wrong. Unfortunately, this feeling of invincibility did lead to feelings of arrogance, which is not a good quality to have.

4 .  What has been your biggest failure and how did you recover?

Just when you think you can do nothing wrong, you start making mistakes, and we made some big mistakes. Back in 2000, when the dot-com bubble was at its all-time high, we were persuaded by a friend to invest in his internet company, which we happily did. But the bubble burst, and all our money was gone. At the same time, my business partner had also heavily invested in a stock and ended up losing that investment too. This took a massive financial toll on our company, and we almost went under in 2002.

My partner decided to leave the company, but we worked out a deal where I would assume his share of equity in Amex and work towards recovering the company. I first paid off the banks, who were demanding the money that we owed them, and I was able to do this by the middle of 2004 by selling off some real estate that I had bought during the high times. Since 2007, we have been growing every year, and hope to continue this trend. In 20 years, we have tasted success, we have tasted failure, and now we are on the second innings of success. I can also say that failure taught me my most important lessons in life, whereas success hardly taught me anything.

5 .  What motivates you to continue with your work/business?

I enjoy the smell and feeling of success in business. I thoroughly enjoy the work that I do, and we have a very friendly atmosphere in our office with plenty of camaraderie amongst my co-workers. I appreciate the feeling of being independent, as well as being able to make friends with customers and suppliers. If I am away from work for too long, I genuinely miss it and cannot wait to get back in the office to start making deals again. I can confidently say that I can see myself doing this until the end of my days on earth.

6.  What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

My mother once told me that I should never deal with interest. But when I heard this 15 years ago, I dismissed it as I assumed she was saying it out of blind religious convictions, and that it cannot be practical to avoid interest in this day and age. But having gone through the downturn and having dealt with the banks and financial institutions, I have come to the conclusion that interest is a weapon and tool that the rich and powerful use to keep the masses working for their benefit. I see it as a modern day slavery imposed on the people to serve the rich and powerful.

If a human being truly wants to be free, they have to get away from all kinds of interest and financial charges. Since I had this revelation, I have consciously started to move away from the follies of interest. If I had listened to my mother’s advice all those years ago, I would be a lot more successful than I am now.

7.  What are the enemies of success?

Anything negative—this can be negative thinking, talking in a negative way, having a negative approach, or a negative vision—any of these are enemies of success. The only way to be successful is to be positive.

Low self-esteem can also be another enemy of success. If you want to be successful, you need to have high self-esteem. In fact, I believe that the higher the self-esteem, the higher the success.

8.  How do you give back to the community/society?

I am a keen proponent of fairness and justice for all, and have always been involved with social causes where I am able to make a difference in helping the underprivileged.

My family in India is involved in a school and orphanage project, and my mother heads up the initiative.

In ten years, we have gone from a small project of providing a school bus to our village, to now having two schools, adult vocational training classes, and the launch of an orphan-age with excellent facilities.

9.  How do religious values play a role in your work/business?

I am proud to be a Muslim. When I visited Makkah and Madinah for the first time in 2007, I was struck by the sheer spirituality and simplicity of these holy places. I come from a family where religious values are quite deeply rooted, and I believe that being fair and just in my business deals is a part of my faith.

10. What would you say to people when it is time for you to leave this world?

You must be at peace with your -self in whatever you choose to do. Always, always stand up for fairness and justice, and help the underprivileged when you can. L


Saeed’s company posted revenues of $30 million in the last financial year.


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