Ismail Ali: Driving Success With Self-Belief, Discipline, & Passion

Ismail Ali: Driving Success With Self-Belief, Discipline, & Passion

Ismail Ali , CEO

Ismail Ali


No situation or financial status is a hindrance to attaining a feat like success. All that requires is passion, determination, perseverance, and the courage to dare to grab opportunities and stand on your own legs. That's exactly what Ismail Ali proved when he took the helm of Oneclick in 2013.

He comes from a humble family background that has totally no experience in the business world. But despite this, he still dare to pursue his dream of starting his own business and persevered until it became a reality and a success. His journey demonstrates and proves that with hard work and unwavering belief in oneself, anything is possible.

Ismail's professional journey includes a 22-year tenure in government service (The Maldives National Defence Force), but even then, he has always felt a constant yearning to build something on his own. This led him to start looking around for opportunities and finally venture into a Multi Level Marketing Business for more than 10 years. He was actively involved in International Companies from Malaysia and Japan that were dealing with healthcare products. This is where he learned and gained invaluable communication, networking, and social skills as well as how to manage a large network of people working together with him, and most importantly, he also learned the importance of time management. He has also had the opportunity to travel around to various Asian Countries to attend many large scale events, seminars, and training sessions and all these had enabled him to meet and become friends with many established entrepreneurs and successful business people.

Beyond his passion for entrepreneurship, the story behind Oneclick’s inception is also an interesting one. Read the below conversation between CEO Insights Asia and Ismail to find out more.

What led you to establish Oneclick?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, Similarly, the birth of Oneclick emerged from a pain point in daily life. I believe that we all have gone through experiences of missing out on stuff or forgetting something that was asked to pick up by our family members from grocery stores. Most of the time we just don’t have time for it.

One of the driving factors behind starting Oneclick was the difficulty I had balancing work and household matters. I would never have time and frequently forget to pick up items from the supermarket, and realized that many others were likely in the same boat. This inspired me to launch an online grocery store, which was the first of its kind in the Maldives. While starting a business can be challenging, I remained focused and poured all of my energy into making Oneclick a success. Though financial constraints and an intense workload (while I was still working with another firm) made it difficult, but perseverance and wholehearted dedication have finally paid off and now our business is thriving.

How has been your path to success and what has been your success mantra?

Throughout my journey, I have faced various ups and downs in my business, but during those times I have received immense support and encouragement from people who believed in me. Many individuals from abroad, particularly from Singapore and Malaysia, had motivated me and have helped me to stand firm in the face of adversity.

For me, the secret to success lies in having a resilient and tenacious mindset, which I liken to a snowball that grows in size and strength as it moves forward. The people who have supported me have played an integral role in my journey, and their unwavering belief in me has given me the strength to never give up. I firmly believe that with a positive attitude, strong determination, and support from the people around us, it is possible to overcome any challenge and able achieve great things.

How would you define Oneclick as an organization and its current position in the market?

Oneclick was founded in 2013 and started as a retail outlet with an online website that provided groceries with free delivery to households and businesses. It was the first online grocery website established in the Maldives and recognized the value of time in today's busy world. As a result, busy individuals, families, and workers have come to rely on Oneclick to provide high-quality products and deliver them on time.

Over the years, Oneclick has expanded from home delivery to become a leading player in the Maldives' tourism industry, catering to medium and high-class businesses, especially high-end resorts. We are an SME and are one of the fastest-growing companies, with more than 80 percent of the goods imported directly from abroad under exclusive distribution rights. As a result, Oneclick has become the go-to choice for businesses throughout the Maldives, delivering to almost all of the country's islands. Despite being an SME, Oneclick has established itself as one of the fastest-growing wholesalers in the Maldives.

Tell us about your flagship offerings and what value additions customers can expect from your products and services.

At Oneclick, we offer a wide range of high-quality food and beverage products, as well as other fast-moving consumer goods, from world-renowned brands such as Lamar, Devondale, Super-Chef, Fosma, Jonas, OLE, and Atomy. Our exclusive distributorship agreement with three international companies further allows us to expand and enhance our brand offerings.

Our focus is on providing exclusive, quality products to middle and high-end resorts and customers who prioritize health-conscious options. For instance, we import products from Lamar, a premium brand that produces sugar-free, preservative-free, and also plant-based milk giving options for lactose-intolerant customers. This emphasis on healthier options and exclusive, genuine products sets us apart from competitors.

Moreover, we pride ourselves on our exceptional customer service, including prompt and efficient home delivery within 45 minutes in the capital city. Not only that, with over 40 resort islands and numerous retail shops in the Maldives as our loyal customers, we strive to continue delivering the best products and services to meet their needs.

What’s your approach to leading your team?

As a leader in this industry, I prioritize the well-being of my staff, both local and foreign, by treating them all equally and providing them with equal access to accommodation and other company-provided resources. This ensures that everyone has a healthy and happy living environment, regardless of their position. Additionally, our company implements a performance-based salary system that rewards employees who work more and put in more effort as well as punctuality, because it is unfair to treat and reward everyone the same regardless of their dedication.

We Believe That Being Proactive In Our Approach & Staying Ahead Of The Changes Is Critical To Our Success In The Market

Another aspect of my leadership style is encouraging my staff to think about their long-term goals and consider starting something of their own in the future. I believe that this mentality helps to build a loyal and dedicated team that is motivated to work harder, not just for the company, but for themselves. I personally train and communicate with my staff regularly, emphasizing the importance of hard work and dedication, and always encourage them to dare to dream of their own businesses someday. By fostering a culture of equality, motivation, and personal growth, I believe I am setting a good example as a leader that inspires and motivates my team to always give their best at work.

Going forward, what are the changes in market behaviour that you anticipate?

It's great that you asked about market behaviour changes because it's something that we are constantly monitoring and adapting to. As you may know, there is a growing concern among consumers and governments regarding plastic packaging and its impact on the environment. We understand the importance of this issue, and that's why we have already taken steps to address it. We have contracts with large brands that are also concerned about the environment, and we always provide them with feedback on the needs and preferences of our customers. We are continuously exploring alternatives to traditional plastic packaging that are more eco-friendly and sustainable.

What roadmap have you envisioned for the company?

As a company that strives to stay ahead of the curve, we recognize the shift in consumer behaviour toward online shopping. To accommodate this trend, we have already established Oneclick as an online platform with a user-friendly website and both Android and iOS applications. We will continue to enhance our online presence to meet the evolving needs of our customers. In addition, we are exploring innovative ways to expand our product range and diversify our services to remain competitive in the market.

What advice would you give to the upcoming industry leaders?

Based on my experience, I strongly encourage upcoming leaders to have an unwavering belief in their dreams. Negativity from family or friends can often cloud one's judgment, therefore it's essential to stay positive and continue to pursue what you truly believe in. The market is highly competitive and it's common for new businesses to face rejections or lack of support, especially those with low budgets or limited resources. However, self-belief is crucial because no one else can see or picture your dreams the way you do. So, despite the challenges, it's important to stay focused on your goals and always believes in your ability to achieve them.

Ismail Ali, CEO, Oneclick

Ismail's unwavering belief in himself and his dreams has enabled him to strive on his entrepreneurial journey and to continuously pursue greater heights of success in his life. Outside of work, he is an avid fisherman and football enthusiast. He enjoys spending his leisure time pursuing his passions. His journey and achievements serve as an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs and all those looking to pursue their dreams.

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