An Entrepreneur on the up-and-up | Huzam Ismail
Huzam Ismail about his story of success and how he never wanted to work for “the man”. Sharing advice for budding entrepreneurs, and dishing the ugly truth about entrepreneurial ups-and-downs.
Originally from the Galle region, Huzam Ismail represents the quintessential story of the modern self-made businessman.
When first meeting Huzam, his casual clothing, laid-back attitude and reserved personality shine through, coupled with his incredible business acumen – making him one of The Entrepreneur Online’s most interesting interviews, to date.
Having tried his hand at the corporate game, working for “the man” – Huzam eventually realised his dream of being “the man”, telling the Entrepreneur Online “I always wanted to find my own way to do things, so working for someone else didn’t make sense. This is when I started to venture into business for myself”.
Using his experience in the apparel industry, Huzam started here, supplying fabrics to factories, eventually working with global clothing giants such as Marks & Spencer and Next.
After completing his studies in Japan, he returned to Sri Lanka in 2011 as tourism began its upward trend in growth. With a renewed passion for travel & tourism, Huzam turned his personal interest for travel into a venture that, to date, he considers one of his many successes – Tour Blue. A Destination Management Company (DMC) which is rivalled by many local and international DMCs, considering it one of the most comprehensive brands with the most effective online presence for foreign travellers.
Huzam has since then gone on to successfully strategise and implement some of Sri Lanka’s most successful corporate ventures. When asked if his ventures were created to fill a market gap, he explained “All business and industries, in present time, are very competitive. Market gaps are really minimum at the moment. So through each venture, I try to push the envelope within the current market and challenge others to innovate. If we continue to do this, we can create such strong industries within Sri Lanka, that we can elevate the nation’s presence globally whilst uplifting our nation’s economy from within”.
With this mantra at the core of all that Huzam has built, he realised the lack of innovative digital and IT support within the travel & tourism industry, which then led to his third expansion – into IT and software development. “I prefer to not have to depend on other companies, so it was a natural progression to start my own venture here, where we could work at the pace at which my team and I were comfortable with”.
However, his latest and fourth venture combines both his business acumen and love of coffee. “I love coffee, and as a result, Bellissimo was a passion project,” noted Huzam. This venture, although adds to the already thriving Food & Beverage industry in Sri Lanka, holds itself unique for its quality and range of international coffees and hospitality.
As an entrepreneur, Huzam explained that there are daily challenges, and believes there is no retirement plan. “No matter how long you’ve been an entrepreneur, no matter how many businesses you have, every day is fraught with challenges. But my advice is, in order to overcome these challenges – you need to have the vision to make your own decisions, you cannot look to others to give you the right advice, all the time. You may have to sacrifice a lot, but keep your eye on the ball and don’t give up.”
Huzam admits that whilst he started his business at the tender age of 21 years old, many of his colleagues who also dabbled in entrepreneurship opted to give up when they were faced with hardship. “It isn’t smooth sailing. There are so many ups and downs, along with your successes. Take the challenge. Each and every one of my businesses were fraught with difficulties in the first 2-3 years, but I kept my morale up and stayed the entrepreneurial course.”
Concluding Huzam said “I am driven by challenge. I want to experience something new and that’s probably why I diversify into so many businesses and industries”.