Nishad Padiyarath meets businessman Thomas George, for whom family values govern his business and approach to life.
Fame, according to American author Erica Jong, “simply means millions of people having the wrong idea of who you are”.
This is exactly what I had thought of Thomas George, general manager of Hussain Fadhil and Partners (HFP), until I had a chat with him for more than two hours at his office in Al Hail.
HFP is one of Oman’s largest construction firms, and has close to 4,000 employees. Thomas’s family also runs On the Rocks Restaurant and Lounge, 360 Degree Restaurant and Vachas Hypermarket, all of which have become household names in Muscat.
He says: “When you reach certain heights in life, people always tend to have this misconception about you that you are not accessible, and there is a change in attitude. But I have always remained humble, thanks to my upbringing. I am easily accessible to all my employees and friends alike. I took your call without delay,” he says with a smile, as we sit down for our chat.
Thomas George’s father George Mathew started HFP in 2006 and since then there has been no looking back. “My father inspired me a lot. As a brand, HFP has grown in leaps and it is purely because of his hard work,” says Thomas.
“Apart from my dad, I am the only engineer in the family. My dad used to take me to constructions sites to teach me the nuances of this business. I learnt a lot from him.”
Thomas completed his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Stony Brook University in New York. He wanted to settle down in the United States but destiny had something else in store for him.
“For me, being in the US was paradise but my family always wanted me return. It was during that time that my dad had an accident and it was a tough time for us. That was when I decided to leave the US. That was one of the toughest decisions but the best I took ,” he says.
Thomas joined HFP as deputy general manager before he was promoted to his current position.
“It was a good transition for me. From New York, which is the most advanced place in the world, I did not come straight to Oman. I worked in Dubai for about two years in a construction company. With the experience I gained from there, I decided to finally come down to Muscat and take charge of my family business. The rest, as they say, is history,” he says.
Throughout the interview, Thomas is warm, obliging and polite, and speaks softly.
“I love to be in the moment. I love to analyse things a bit. Holding on to pressure during challenging times is the key,” he says.
“I start my daily routine very early. I hit the gym at 5.30am and that gives me the much-needed motivation. I come to work at 7.45am and my employees follow these strict therapies such as music and games that is a real stress-buster for my team.”
Thomas is also on the Indian School Darsait management committee.
“I am the convener of the school management committee and handling the job is not easy. There are times when you have to take crucial decisions, and honestly, my experience dealing with 4,000-odd employees at HFP has helped me improve my leadership qualities,” he says.
“When you’re the general manager of the company, everyone listens to you even if your solution is not the best. But when I am dealing with school matters, I am not the only leader. I need to convince everyone in the management committee and take their points into consideration.
“A good leader must be a good listener and I have learnt that from school. This is the school where I studied and being back as a management committee member is an honour. For me, this is a third shift job. I really enjoy it,” he says.
When asked how much time he finds for his family, Thomas smiles broadly, pauses for a moment, and calls his wife Divya on the telephone for the definitive answer.
He hands me the phone handset and she obliges, engagingly, saying: “He is very passionate about everything he does. I often wonder why he puts so much effort in but what I have realised is that he enjoys it. He loves being with people. As a person, he is very driven. He always looks for ideas and inspiration. I think that is why he is successful,” she adds.
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