1. Since Jamaica is a tourist location, it’s important to choose where you set up your business. Montego Bay is the heart of Jamaica and its ‘tourist’ capital, hence, making it an ideal place for such business.
  2. You get the opportunity to meet and interact with umpteen number of people coming from different parts of the world, which is a riveting, enthralling experience.
  3. There’s an unfathomable degree of competition between sellers since most Indians working in Jamaica are involved in the retail/wholesale business.
  4. Profit/ Income in Jamaica can be seasonal. For example, your business may do exceptionally well during spring break, however, since Jamaica is vulnerable to being struck by hurricanes in August/ September, you may incur losses since no one visits during this time.
  5. If you haven’t settled down there permanently, traveling back and forth from Jamaica to your homeland, every few months may become monotonous.

Profile Details

Name – Dhaval Shah

Profession – Shop-owner in Jamaica

Gender – Male

Age – 48 years

City – Montego Bay, Jamaica

Industry – Retail Business

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Mumbai and spent most of my childhood there. However, due to an ill-fated occasion, my family and I had to relocate to Vapi, a primitive city in Gujarat. As a result, I did secondary schooling from there. After this, we moved to Chennai for a year and stayed with my mother’s relatives briefly. We returned to Mumbai and I pursued my graduation here.

What is your family background like and who would you say, had a remarkable influence on you growing up and how?

We were a family of five, my parents, my sister and our grand-mother. My father ran a factory and my mother knitted us into a beautiful family. Even when we had financial difficulties, my parents made sure that kids won’t feel a thing amiss. I’d say my family had a democratic atmosphere to it. All of us lived peacefully together and understood each other well. There were seldom any disagreements or predicaments, as far as I remember.

The person who has had a momentous impact on me is my father. Even though he passed away when I was only 14, he taught me valuable lessons. His mannerisms, professionalism, and intellect were just a few elements that grew on me and molded me into the person I am currently.

Please give me a summary of your career in a chronological order, entailing the organization names and your respective roles/designations.

After pursuing my BCom from Raheja college, I started working for a sales organization, “Vaswani Ltd,” to attain hands-on experience as to what it would be like to start my own company in the future. My objective was to sell fax machines, attend to customer problems etc. However, I soon realized that this company won’t survive in the market and my growth will get stagnated as the fax was a dying product. Consequently, I started working with a chartered accountant “KP Shah”. My work was basically related to auditing. Next, I received an offer to work as the manager of a gift shop called “Pineapple” in Jamaica, West Indies and I decided to try my luck. In order to work in Jamaica, I needed a work permit which was taken care of by the company. After a few years, when I was convinced of my potential in this field, I established my own business in Jamaica itself. However, I had to apply for a new work permit because I was starting something of my own. I opened a retail shop by the name of “Giftopia”, where I sold souvenirs and merchandise to tourists.

In 2010, my partner and I opened up a wholesale outlet named, “DVR Crafts”.

Which institutes, according to you, are the best for pursuing this career?

In all honesty, I wouldn’t render much credit to an institute or college for pursuing this career. According to me, a person interested in sales should be proactive and know his way around things. This only happens through practical training, that is when you work with/for someone. So, at the end of the day, the college you’re securing your degree from doesn’t hold much significance.

What is the expenditure associated with the education/training of this profession, approximately?

If you’re pursuing your BCom/B.B.A or any other similar course, you’d probably incur an expenditure of 2.5-4 lakhs, depending on the college you’re attending.

If you’re looking to pursue your masters too, I think you’d spend about 10 lakhs, which is an average figure, because college fee structures range from 6 lakhs to 16 lakhs for masters. This excludes the boarding and lodging expenses. If you’re enrolling yourself with professional tutorials for your bachelor’s degree, it’d cost about 1 lakh for the three years. As for your masters, extra tutorials will probably cost around 1.5–2 lakhs.

If you’re studying in a different city/country altogether, there’d be a whole new set of expenditures like your lodging and boarding facilities, etc. I’m not aware of how much you’d have to spend on these things, but make sure you work everything out before settling on a particular degree and university.

What is the range of remuneration one can expect when starting out in Retail Business?

Starting out — 2.5-4 lakhs per annum

5 years of experience — 8-10 lakhs per annum

10 years of experience — 12-15 lakhs per annum

15 years of experience — 15-20 lakhs per annum

20+ years of experience — 20-25 lakhs per annum

Above figures are in Jamaican Dollars (1 INR = 1.87 Jamaican Dollars).

The above figures will vary depending upon the location of your business, type of business, size of your business and other macroeconomic factors such as recession, natural disasters, etc.

The location of your business plays an important role too. Since Montego Bay is tourist capital of Jamaica; opening a shop/business here is definitely rewarding. However, buying a shop isn’t feasible since the commercial/real estate prices are prodigious! Hence, renting is the only option.

The cost of living in Jamaica is pretty high, hence, in the initial years one can neither save much nor afford to keep one’s family in Jamaica. It takes a little time for your business to start functioning smoothly.

Please describe your work as a retail business owner.

My typical routine includes handling customers, packing orders and addressing customer complaints. I make sure that the inventory is stocked up and keep a check on the day to day sales. Since, most of my goods are imported from China, Thailand, India, and Indonesia, I have to handle customs and get delivery from the dock. I also source some goods from local suppliers.

On a daily basis, I spend about 8–10 hours at the shop. Sometimes, I have to work more to take care of order, customs, etc.

I work all 7 days, however, on Sunday’s, I just check up on the shop to make sure everything is alright and attend to any extra or unanticipated, last minute orders.

In your opinion, what are some benefits that would encourage an individual to consider retail business as a profession?

This career has provided me with financial security. I don’t need to worry about my family being deprived of anything, which has always been my principle priority.

I spend about 4–5 months in Jamaica, working incessantly. After this, I return to India and spend 2–3 months with my family. During these months, I get to spend quality time with my family and my sole focus is on them. So, I’m able to bring work demands and family time to a perfect equilibrium.

Since Jamaica is a tourist island, I also get the opportunity to interact with people coming from different parts of the world, which is an enthralling experience.

Also, setting up a business in Jamaica is relatively easier than doing so in India because investment is less, and income is more. This I can say confidently because I’ve experienced in both countries.

Can you mention a few challenges that you would want someone to be aware of if they’re considering this line of work?

Firstly, an individual ought to know that this business is seasonal. One shouldn’t expect consistent or predictable income in this line. There will always be ups and downs, especially in a country like Jamaica. Spring holidays are phenomenally rewarding, and the hurricane months bring everything to a standstill. So, it’s vital to be mentally prepared for this.

Also, you should be the kind of person who likes to step out of your comfort zone, taking up an array of challenges and one who refrains from being shy since you have to deal with different sorts of foreigners here.

Every Indian working in Jamaica is a part of the retail/wholesale field, hence, there’s fierce competition. Social relations here are superficial since everyone looks for their own benefit.

The crime rate here is sky-rocketing. I always have to be vigilant and on my guard 24/7.

Traveling back and forth if you haven’t settled there might become exhausting after a certain period of time, too.

What are some relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in retail business?

Online retail is disrupting traditional retail business everywhere, including mine. So, if one can open an online presence of his shop, then sales will increase.

What kind of a person, do you think, would be content in retail business?

Like I’d mentioned earlier, if you have the drive to work, you’ll be able to survive in this line. If you’re ambitious and keep the momentum going, you’ll surely be content doing this. If you’re a people person, you won’t have a problem dealing with the tourists. For some people, dealing with customers, trying to understand and meet their hankerings is not something they’d like or find easy.

However, if your personality type doesn’t fall into the latter, you’d be happy doing what you do!

On the other hand, you get to spend quality time with your family, thus, you enjoy a balanced life. Work and family have their own places and neither gets neglected, really.

A person pursuing this career should harbor patience since this line doesn’t assure immediate growth and a commendable income.

So, if you’re the kind of person whose personality fits with these points, you’re good to go.

Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?

If given a choice, I’d probably pursue a law degree or complete my Masters in ‘business administration’.

I was also extremely passionate when it came to sports, especially badminton!

If I had the resources and the choice to follow my aspirations back then, I think that things would have been different.

I knew I had a lot of potentials, however, after my dad passed away, a lot of responsibilities fell on me and I couldn’t afford to think about my interests. I had an entire family to take care of.

However, as of now, I’m pretty content with the way things are turning out, so no complaints from my side!

What advice would you offer to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?

Do not lose that drive, that passion of yours. If that disappears, you won’t be able to decipher the meaning of the course you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen to pursue this path, stick to it. Yes, there will be hurdles on the way, but if you’re committed to your ambition, you cannot go wrong anywhere.

Always remember, the real world is extremely different from what you imagine it to be. Sometimes, it’s not the path, but the destination that matters.

Liked this article? Check out our conversation with Sanjeev Gulati who runs a retail sports shop in Mumbai.