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Yogesh Mehta

Yogesh Mehta: Traversing the Globe, Succeeding with Petrochem

Knowing what one truly desire is the halfway point to success in life. It provides a sense of purpose and motivation to stay focused on the goals – no matter what obstacles arise. Those who continuously keep on pushing the bar are the ones who achieve top positions, fame, and desired success in their respective careers in due time.

One such story is of a successful business leader, Yogesh Mehta (aka Yogi), the CEO of Petrochem Middle East (PME)—the largest chemical distributor in the Middle East and number 12 in the world.

Founded in 1995 in the Jebel Ali Free Zone by Mr. Mehta, PME has transformed the petrochemical business in the region with its wide range of products and unique service proposition. Today, the company has offices and distribution facilities in the UAE (Dubai and Jebel Ali), India, China, Singapore, Turkey, and Egypt, together with associate offices in London and Antwerp.

In the below story, we will get to know who Yogesh Mehta is, his successful journey in making his company into one of the world’s leading chemical distributors, and his thirst for progress to fulfill customer expectations.

The Great Transition—Dubai

At the age of 30, Mr. Mehta had lost all his savings at young age and had a wife and about a year-old son to look after. But, it is the resilience of great leaders that keeps them moving. With the same spirit, Yogesh decided to come to Dubai to earn for his family and make the best use of his education from back home, Bombay, India. One of Mr. Mehta’s friends, who had an empty apartment for a few months in Dubai, offered him to stay there with the family.

Unlike today, Mr. Mehta remembers that at that time, Dubai, or the UAE, was like a fishing village, and it was a very, very small town. Because of that, there were a lot of opportunities. During the initial days in Dubai, he went to the library to find out who would import chemicals and who would export them. Out of that research work, he made a file so that he could show it to some financier or a financing company, who would support him financially to set up such a business.

Footsteps to the Epitome of Success

From the beginning, Mr. Mehta was determined to become a man of his own venture instead of working as an employee of some company. While reminiscing of his initial days of Dubai career, he puts, “I didn’t wanted to work as an employee, I wanted to be a businessman.”

Fortunately, he met somebody who was interested in setting up a chemical department. So, in the month of June 1990, Mr. Mehta joined a company called MH Enterprises in Dubai and became a 25% partner in it. And it all went well, but on the 1st of August 1990, there was the Kuwait war with Iraq. Since the war was very close to Dubai, people were scared that the war would also come to Dubai or the UAE.

But, Mr. Mehta and his business partners had another perspective. Elaborating more, he expresses, “Well, we thought that this would be a good opportunity rather than a threat because nobody was importing. So, the Middle East crisis of the 90s went on for five to six months. And we imported lots of chemicals in October and November, and the war finished in January.”

Mr. Mehta and Co. did successfully sell chemicals at very high prices because there was so much demand and less supply. The optimism helped the company strengthen its finances even during difficult times, helping the team to get the most out of the opportunities. Since then, Mr. Mehta says, “I have never looked back after that.”

The Foundation of Petrochem

In 1995, as Mr. Mehta grew much bigger and more experienced, he wanted to begin his own venture. However, his then partner was not interested, telling Mr. Mehta to find another investor. Mr. Mehta left the company and went on to establish his own company in 1995, Petrochem, with a British partner.

In 1995, as Mr. Mehta grew much bigger and more experienced, he wanted to begin his own venture. However, his then partner was not interested, telling Mr. Mehta to find another investor. Mr. Mehta left the company and went on to establish his own company in 1995, Petrochem, with a British partner.

The initial days were challenging for Mr. Mehta because of the financial limitations, but he also felt that there was lot of opportunities. He thought it was a good time to be in the UAE-acquired agencies. Expanding on this, Mr. Mehta says, “The cleverest thing we did is that we built from scratch a state-of-the-art distribution terminal. So, our USP has always been to distribute chemicals to stock and sell chemicals, not trade or indent.”

Mr. Mehta and his team wanted to take positions on cargo stored and then distribute them in the Middle East area, as well as India, Pakistan, and such places, and right up to Egypt. “So, the format was very good, and we set up a state-of-the-art bulk-storage chemical terminal. We built that terminal, and today we are the largest chemical distributor in the Middle East and number 12 in the world,” says Mr. Mehta.

Petrochem has achieved great heights with this business model. It acquired a lot of agencies related to the business, enabling the company to have both supply and a pipeline of supply. It went very well for the company. Mr. Mehta marks, “Today our turnover is in excess of $1.8 billion. I think this year, we will go to a $2 billion turnover.”

He adds, “Our expansion in Egypt was very good because we built two tank terminals in Egypt. One in the south, which is near the Suez Canal, and the other one we built near Cairo. So, we have the north and south covered for Egypt. It is a big, growing market, and we have a huge presence there, which is really helping the growth of our company.”

The Whole World Is Our Stage

Petrochem operates from Dubai, which is its biggest market as well as the headquarters, where the company gets a platform for financing as well as growth. “In Dubai, we have had a good time and a good sort of experience over the years,” Mr. Mehta told us.

Speaking about the worldwide presence and outcomes of the company, Mr. Mehata says, “The whole world is our stage.” Along with Dubai, Petrochem’s offices are also in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, as well as in Europe. Its India and Middle Eastern offices have been key in driving the growth of the company. They helped the company grow more and more.

India is a big market for Petrochem, and it accounts for about 30% of the company’s turnover. 40% of the company’s turnover comes from the Middle East. And the remainder, 30% of its turnover, comes from the various countries like Africa, as well as Europe, the USA, and then the Far East.

“Petrochem is about 27 years old. So, in real time, we have achieved a lot and we are proud of what we have done, but we still have a long way to go before we end up anywhere,” mentioned Mr. Mehta.

Conquering The Challenges

The biggest challenge that Mr. Mehta has faced in his career was acquiring bank loans and bank financing to grow the company’s business. At the time, when PME wanted to make a state-of-the-art terminal, the company had a big question: “from where to source the finances?”

“The banks have a very popular sentiment,” says Mr. Mehta. “You show a bank you don’t want their money, and then they will give it to you. But if you show that you want their money, they will fight hard for you to get the money, which means that if you are doing very well and you have lots of cash flow, the bank will add to your cash flow and give you,” he added.

But in the growing times, the company had to really tighten its belt, and life was pretty hard. “Though we were making money, we were putting it into the company, so banking and banking finance was the key challenge,” Mr. Mehta said.

The other big challenge for Mr. Mehta was to grow the market for the company. The team had to travel a lot as they were expanding into different geo-locations. “It was hard times, and at that time there was just the beginning of the Internet. The Internet came in 1997, but it was only in 1998 and 1999 that one could actually use the internet. There were fax machines, and mobile phones were also very analogue, so there was not enough. But it was a lot of hard work,” expresses Mr. Mehta.

Amidst challenges, there were also opportunities for the company to grow because it could easily acquire the agencies the team wanted. “Between the challenge and the threats, there were opportunities also, and we mixed and matched both. And the key takeaway was that we had to work very, very hard. And they say hard work pays, and it has paid.”

Building a Highly Efficient Team

Mr. Mehta underlines, “Ours is a very technical business, and it’s not just for people who are mildly educated.” Therefore, building a team of highly efficient people was also challenging. The company had to find good sales engineers whose education levels were higher.

“You’ve got to be an MBA, chemical engineer, or a technologist to do this kind of business because it’s highly technical. So, we had to find the talent. We had to find the team, and we did. Today, the strength of Petrochem is the team behind it. I would really like to mention that if it were not for the team we have, we would never have survived,” says Mr. Mehta.

Delivering on Promises

The other constant point of focus for Mr. Mehta has always been the ethics and culture of the company, which includes looking after all its people and delivering fully on promises. “The key to success is to deliver on the promises you have made to your customers. And that cannot be easy because many times occasions will fail you, circumstances will fail you, so you have to take those chances, and we have done so,” said Mr. Mehta.

“It’s a little easier now that the growth period is over, and it’s time for us to benefit more and more. Rather than just the growth, be able to benefit from the growth, and we are into that phase now,” he added.

The Role of Technology

The technology addition is helping Petrochem to streamline its operations most effectively these days. Mr. Mehta elaborates on the importance of technology upgradation, saying, “Technology plays a very important part. We call it digitalization.” He continues, “We no longer need to spend time on paperwork. Everything is on the computer. There’s a database. We have an ERP system, which is a state-of-the-art computer system. They are far ahead of their time.”

“We also want a back-office management so that we have other people who don’t need to come to the office, and they can operate from outside. And that is also helping to economize the business. We want to be smarter, slimmer, and trimmer, and the internet and artificial intelligence communications will help us to be so,” he added.

Embracing Healthy Competition

Mr. Mehta believes that healthy competition is important for a company to grow in the market. He says, “Healthy competition is good, and we welcome that because it makes us really more on our feet and more vigilant, cleverer, and shrewd as to how we do our business.”

Mr. Mehta always expects that there will be another company or many companies that will do the work that Petrochem does. “However, we also want to achieve a fair market share,” emphasizes Mr. Mehta.

“I believe a fair market share is about 40 to 45%. And ideally, 35% is where our goal is, and we feel that if we get 35%, we should aim for 40%, but not beyond that. And I believe we now have a 35% market share in the business we do, which keeps us on our toes and makes us more vigilant. And our way forward will be to acquire another four or five percent of the market share in the business that we do.”

Guidance to Budding Entrepreneurs

Providing insights about being successful in the entrepreneurial journey to aspiring individuals, Mr. Mehta says, “The most important thing is that you should do the business for which you have a skill set. I’m a chemist by profession and by education, and I should not be in the business of manufacturing steel or manufacturing doors or tires. If I don’t have the skills for what I’m doing, I should not be in that business.”

Mr. Mehta feels that young entrepreneurs or career-minded people should educate themselves. “Education is the key to having a good career. After that, of course, you need a skill set, you need an attitude, you need an aptitude.”

Highlighting the essence of a focused approach to a career, Mr. Mehta advises aspirants that they must be more focused. “If you’re not focused, fortune is not going to come to you knocking on your door. You have to prepare yourself to be fortunate. And to be fortunate, you have to work hard. You have to have a skill set. You have to be a little patient. And obviously, and for every reason, honesty and ethics are very, very important. You need to deliver on your promise. You need to deliver what you said.”

Additionally, he considers that young aspirants should also have the passion and motivation to grow. He says, “You need to have a goal in your life, and purpose is very important. These are very big words, but I have employed them daily in my life. I feel that ambition is very important. I love to be ambitious. I want to be more ambitious but not beyond reason.”

“Ambition within reason is required because that brings you out of bed, and then you want to achieve something. Ambition brings achievement. Achievement will make you achieve your goals, and you will be successful. In brief, my advice for entrepreneurs is to have a skill set, be patient, have great ethics and hard work, and you will achieve your goal,” he explains.

Eyesight On to the Future

The only thing constant is change. One can only predict and prepare for that change to place the company on a growth path. Taking a step towards the changes that are expected in the industry, Petrochem is already actively looking for new skills and a new skill set to go into the next generation for the next ten years.

Mr. Mehta anticipates that Technology will play a major part in industry’s growth in the coming years. He says, “Artificial intelligence is already knocking on our door, which means the world is going to be smaller, shorter, and smarter. Hence, you will have to have more skills than before, and you will have to sharpen your skills.”

He continues, “We will have to be more alert to what new ideas the competition will bring. The glaring statement is that the competition that we will have, say, in another five years, has not even been born yet. It will be a new kind of competition, skills for which we will have to find.”

“That’s why you always feel that with social media, with the Internet, with the AOT, I believe that the world will get smaller, and we will have to find sharper skill sets to survive,” he added.