Zarah Shah is the chief executive of GM Sports, organisers of the Oxigen Masters Champions League T20 cricket tournament taking place in Dubai this weekend. Born in England, she moved to Ireland as a child, where she excelled in sports from an early age, crowned as an all-Ireland champion in Olympic handball. Ms Shah, 29, is married to the film director Sam Khan and divides her time between Dubai and Mumbai.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
Growing up in Ireland my family wasn’t well off at all in the early years. There was a lot of importance placed on how to deal with money. We were taught how to save it, how to spend it wisely, and only to spend what you had in your pocket. There was certainly no concept of putting it on the credit card. My lifestyle in the UAE is very different, but I still don’t splash out and spend extravagantly. I never want to lose sight of the values I had when I was growing up.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
My first job was at 15 helping out in my parents’ Indian restaurant. I’d work there at the weekends with my best friend; we got around €25 (Dh99) a shift.
Are you a spender or saver?
Definitely a saver. I still don’t think I could ever justify spending Dh10,000 on something like a handbag. Shopping is far less important to me than sport. I only splash out if it’s something I’ve had in mind for a long time and feel I’ve really worked for.
What is your most cherished purchase?
My wedding dress. I had a specific design in mind and worked with a designer to make it really come to life. My mother is Irish, so I wanted to have a mix of eastern and western influences. People said I looked like Princess Jasmine. I don’t know how much it cost because my husband paid for it.
Have you ever had a month where feared you could you not pay the bills?
There’s been a lot of that. As a kid we lived in Tallaght, one of the roughest areas of Dublin, and there were definitely times when we really struggled. It’s one of the reasons I’m a saver; I always like to have a contingency fund so that you don’t get caught out in such situations. When I married, my husband and I moved to India as he is a Bollywood director, where you work from project to project. It’s important to have enough money for the entire year, and not just when you’re on a project.
Where do you save your money?
Just a simple bank account where I just let the money build up.
Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?
Cash, unless it’s my dad’s credit card.
What has been your best investment?
Spending money on my football coaching courses. It’s an investment that lasts and it’s something I get a lot of pleasure out of. It’s not a huge investment but it’s something that sticks with me. I also like spending money on experiences. I went to Anfield a couple of years ago to watch Liverpool play, which was one of my most cherished experiences. And of course my house in Mumbai is something I’m really happy with.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
That saving your money isn’t always the right thing to do. You need to be able to take a calculated risk, like we’re doing with MCL. You can’t just sit at home and wait for things to come your way, you need to go out and take a chance sometimes.
Do you have a plan for the future?
The immediate plan is to make this league work no matter what it takes. In the future I want to get into some sort of football project as well, as that’s my first love. Sport is my calling; it’s something I always want to be involved with.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
Put it towards a house in Dubai; we really want to invest here.
What would you raid your savings account for?
My dream would be to go to the World Cup in 2018, especially if Ireland get there.
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