“Living in Qatar is an addiction. You do not want to leave this country. You cannot get this comfortable life anywhere in the world. You are free, fearless and frank here.”
This is how an Indian expatriate has summed up his experience of living in Qatar for about 60 years.
Seventy-six-year-old A K Usman from Kerala has made good fortune here and has also been paying back to his community.
A veteran businessman with a humble nature, Usman recently recollected the well-cherished memories of his long stay in Qatar during a recent interview with Gulf Times. He recounted how he started; flourished, and paid back while being in Qatar, a country he calls the best.
“I reached here in September 1961 when I was just about 18 years old. From Kerala to Mumbai, I travelled by train in three days. In Mumbai, I got visa for Qatar issued by British Political Agency’s consulate in Mumbai. My voyage to Qatar took nine days as we stayed in Karachi as well. After our ship anchored at Mesaieed, we took boats to get to the shore.”
Usman came to Qatar with education and professional skills such as shorthand and typewriting that he obtained along with his studies during college. “I came to my elder brother who was working for a bank here. I joined Arabian Insurance Company which provided insurance to vehicles, on the third day of my landing in Qatar. I then moved to Darwish Automobiles. Later, I worked for Jaidah Motors from where I initiated my successful business of rent-a-car. I got married in 1969 and all my children were born in Qatar.”
Speaking about the Doha life in general during his early days, Usman said that there was not much development and infrastructure. “There were no concrete slabs. The houses were small. There was no electricity and people used to sleep on roofs. There were no TVs, radio or newspapers. There were no high rise buildings. Oasis Hotel and Doha Palace Hotel were two prominent hotels. Bismillah Restaurant was the place where expatriate communities used to gather in the evening or on the weekends.”
As far as means for entertainment were concerned, Usman remembers there was scarcity of entertaining activities. “The management of major oil companies used to arrange cinema for their staff. Some companies took their employees to Bahrain for cinema and other entertainments. There were no sports activities and clubs. I used to visit some friends either in Mesaieed or in Dukhan to spend the weekend.”
Usman, who owns and runs Al Muftah Rent-A-Car Company – the first-ever rent-a-car company in Qatar, also shared how he started the business and became successful. “My successful business journey in Qatar started when I set up the company in 1971. It all started when I was working with Jaidah Motors. In 1969, I opened the doors of my new venture of rent-a-car with the help of my brother-in-law Abdul Hameed after taking a Buke special car on rent from Jaidah and giving it to Intap Company on a rent of QAR1,500. Then with the help and support of Abdul Rahman al-Muftah, I set up the company, started my own business and quit my job. The company is still blooming and is taken care by Abdul Hameed’s son and my son.”
After establishing himself as a businessperson, Usman got involved into community activities. “I am a founder member of Indian Community Benevolent Found started by 17 people in 1984 to help our people here. I am also a founder member of Indian Cultural Centre. Further, I am also a founder member of MES Indian School.”
The longtime resident spoke high about his stay and life in Qatar. “Had I known that I would have to stay for 60 years in Qatar, I would have run back to India. My initial plans were to stay here for four to five years. However, I have made a very good fortune here and stayed for 60 years.
“Living in Qatar is an addiction. You do not want to leave this country. You cannot get this comfortable life anywhere in the world. You are free, fearless and frank here. You enjoy the freedom in Qatar the most. If you are a law abiding citizen, you have nothing to fear about.”
When asked to share some piece of advice for young expatriates coming and living in Qatar, Usman said: “If you want to start a business and be successful, start it from scratch and build it up slowly and gradually. Do not try to imitate others. One needs to be honest and a God-fearing businessperson.”