Categories: People

Things They Don’t Tell You: Ameer Jumabhoy, co-founder of UTU, on travel and solving problems

Things They Don’t Tell You is a weekly online column that dives deep into the lives of Prestige 40 Under 40 class of 2020 laureates, where they share little-known stories and offer insights on things that go under-the-radar. This week, we get candid with Ameer Jumabhoy, co-founder of UTU, a digital rewards platform.

While pursuing my MBA, my co-founder and I found that our skills were complimentary in realising his vision of a mobile-first, B2C tax-free shopping experience for tourists. So, we started a company.

We are driven by a user-centric ethos and a mission to make the make the lives of tourist shoppers easier. Releasing the UTU Tax Free App, a first B2C tax-free shopping solution, was a monumental achievement for my team and I. Tax-free shopping is a must-do activity for tourists to Europe but is riddled with manual processes that have worked against tourists. To have figured out how to unlock trapped consumer surplus and release it via an authentically mobile experience is our greatest achievement. Along the way, we have also managed to reaffirm through an inquiry with the Italian antitrust, the tourist’s right of choosing their preferred refund operator in Europe rather than one pre-assigned to the tourist by retailers.

As an avid traveller myself, I am passionate about driving people to have the fullest experiences while they’re away from home. Travel is as much about self-exploration and discovery, as it is about discovering new cultures and having a good time. Tourists today are empowered to self-determine the experiences they want to have and what they want to spend their time and money on. At UTU, we are on a journey to solve a problem that imposes a big time and monetary cost on travellers in 52 countries across the world: long lines, arduous manual processing and exorbitant fees on their tax-free shopping. We are driven by a mission to liberate consumer choice and to harness the value of rewarding consumers with more of the things and experiences that they truly care about.

The best thing someone had said to me was how we at UTU actually understand the customer and have managed to crack the structural issues in our industry through digitisation and business model transformation — two elements that haven’t been previously put together in addressing market needs.

I’m so sick of hearing people say, “I hope travel resumes in the next 5/10/15 years so we can use your technology”.

I know it is difficult right now but sometimes, being in a totally foreign environment and partaking in another’s culture is exhilarating.

That said, Singapore is where my family is and that always means that I’m home.

(Image: Ameer Jumabhoy)

I think we live in a truly amazing time where we are seeing a plethora of entrepreneurs and leaders navigating the challenges of the world while also exercising compassion as they go about their work and create social and economic impact at scale. Someone who does this well is Brian Chesky of Airbnb.

Up till a couple of months ago, I would have said marrying my wife is my greatest achievement on the personal front, but I’m going to pivot and say it’s the birth of our first child! He has brought so much joy and happiness to all who have met him in this difficult year.

I’d rather be shot than to support any other football team than Arsenal.

If I were to pick two of my strengths, I would say that I have quite a good grasp of solving problems on a macro level and that I can see the big picture. I also tend to be a loyal friend and will sacrifice everything for relationships that mean a lot to me.

I can be a little impatient and have a short attention span. I have been trying to work on it. There’s a running joke in the office that the larger my cup of coffee (which will inevitably be in my hand during meetings), the longer I’ll be able to focus because it’ll take me longer to finish!

I wished I had developed an interest in coding, math, and technology a lot earlier — it would have served me better in a digitally driven world.

God forgive me, but I overindulge in chocolate.

I think compassion starts at home. Compassion and love for one another is something that can be taught to our children and those close to us who will be more receptive if they can see examples of compassion being exercised.

Fear is natural. Leaning into and navigating through our fears sets us up to better handle challenges thrown at us.

How we deal with failure speaks volumes about character. We are not always going to get it right but approaching failure with a positive attitude and embracing them as speed bumps in life helps reframe failure in a different light. Failure also creates the ongoing ability to problem solve too.

Life is a journey and there are many different roads that lead to Rome. It is all about making right decisions that bring positivity to those around us and in greater society.

It’s so important to be able to find happiness in times of darkness. Spend time with those you care about and tell someone close what they mean to you.

(Main and featured image: Prestige Singapore)

Crystal Lee

Prestige Singapore's Digital Editor wonders if she's better with words or numbers. Some days she thinks she's terrible at both. But most of the time, she's pretty good at eating, drinking, admiring beautiful things, and exploring new worlds.

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