Oman UAE Exchange continues to
pioneer new services and products and has grown from strength to
strength over the last 17 years. Visvas Paul D Karra speaks to
its country head Tonny George Alexander, the man responsible for
growing the company to its present successful status
UAE Exchange (OUAEEC), which started operations in the Sultanate
in October 1995, was considered a trendsetter in the money
exchange business since its inception. The legacy continues till
today as the company sees a growth in its business with 38
outlets rolled out so far all over the country providing vital
services to its customers.
A wide range of services and products on offer have also helped
OUAEEC to become the preferred partner in the money exchange
business. The company can lay claim to being the largest
exchange company in Oman offering a wide range of fund transfer
options across the globe. Augmenting its capabilities and
services are the correspondent arrangements with several banks
which enable faster realisation of funds.
Apart from this, OUAEEC acts as a collection agent for
settlement of credit cards issued by Standard Charted Bank, and
is also the largest supplier of foreign currency bank notes at
The company has different modes of funds transfer, like
electronic fund transfer through the company’s vast network of
correspondent banks and instant electronic money transfer
through Western Union and Xpress Money. OUAEEC is the only
exchange house in Oman, apart from banks, who has connectivity
to SWIFT, wherein STP (straight through processing) is effected,
in highly automated banking environments. This enables the fund
transfer in major currencies to be processed without manual
For conventional remittance services, OUAEEC has drawing
arrangements with over 60 banks/ financial institutions all over
the world for demand drafts and telex transfers. There is also a
loyalty programme for regular customers known as the gold card
which gives the convenience of a fast and error-free
Tough early days
All this is a far cry from October 3, 1995 when OUAEEC
opened its first office in Ruwi with a few counters and nothing
else. On the first day of opening, there was no inaugural
fanfare and only one customer walked in. “It was a do-or-die
situation as there was lots of hype, huge aspirations and I
didn’t know how to go about it as we were new to this market,
although I had worked in the parent company UAE Exchange in
Dubai for a number of years,” says Tonny George Alexander,
Country Head, Oman UAE Exchange, the man responsible for the
growing the company to its present successful status.
Alexander joined UAE Exchange in 1988 and worked in various
positions before being chosen by the company to go beyond the
borders of UAE and start operations in Oman.
“One of the probable reasons why I was chosen was that I had
experience in all areas of operations. I never said no to any
job within the organisation, so by the time I came to Oman, I
had a fair knowledge of how to run an exchange house, right from
accounts, treasury all the way up to handling the IT side as
well. One of the things I learned in school from a teacher is
that education is a lifelong process. And I strongly believe in
that. If I find anything new, I jump in and learn. That is one
thing which has helped me in my life,” Alexander says.
Although Alexander was new to Oman, soon he learned the ropes of
the place thanks to a tremendous foresight and keen acumen. At
that time, as per the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) regulations,
there was cap of only five branches per exchange company. But
Alexander had already identified more than five places to open a
branch. In 1997-98, when the CBO allowed up to seven branches,
OUAEEC opened its second branch in Ibra. At that time, no other
exchange house was present in that place. In 1999, the next
branch was opened and later, in Alexander’s words, there was a
spree of opening of branches when the CBO amended the rules and
removed the cap on branches.
Referring to what made the company successful, he explains, “I
can boldly say that we are the trendsetter. We changed the
perception of what an exchange company is. When we came here, a
lot of people asked as to why we need such a big premise because
the existing companies had small outlets. We made a difference
with our appearance, our dress codes and our way of addressing
the customers besides introducing many new features and new
One of the products OUAEEC introduced was the delivery of drafts
to anywhere in India at a very nominal cost of just one rial.
“This became a runaway success,” says Alexander, while adding
that this subsequently brought more customers to them and helped
the company to grow.
OUAEEC does not believe in budging or cutting down on rates or
charges because nothing in life comes for free. Says Alexander,
“We do not charge our customers high rate. For example, if the
rupee fluctuates by 5 paisa per dollar, that will translate to a
rial per lakh of
rupees. That is risky for our business. And if I don’t charge
this one rial to a customer, tomorrow I can go bankrupt. If I go
bankrupt, that will affect the customers because people have
trusted us with their money, and if they don’t get their money,
God forbid on any given day, then we are not doing a good job.”
“So it is better for the customers that we don’t undercut on our
rates because we need the shock absorbing mechanism. Many people
forget this aspect,” Alexander adds.
The money exchange business has intense competition but OUAEEC
has managed to outgrow its competition and is presently the
number one in capital base, network, margins and profitability
and in any other yardstick for that matter. The company
completed 16 years in October 2011.
Service is what sets apart OUAEEC from its competitors, says
Alexander, while adding, “We do keep a close watch on the
competition as we have accepted that competition is here to
stay. We cannot run away from that. There is a saying that if we
have to hit a running dog, we have to throw the stone a few
yards ahead. If we have to conquer the business we have to be
ahead of the competition. But for us, competition is not the
driving force; it is one of the factors. It is the quest or urge
to give a better service to the customers that helps us to
constantly innovate in our products and services.” OUAEEC was
chosen as a Superbrand for the last three consecutive years,
which showcases the brand strength of the company. Augmenting
the company’s position, Oman Observer consumer survey ranked
OUAEEC as the 1st among Exchange Houses and 7th among “180
Greatest Brands in Oman”. This is no doubt the outcome of the
excellent leadership of Alexander, who has been recognised as
one of the “Top Business Leaders” in the country.
Apart from the responsibility of OUAEEC, Alexander is also the
chairman of the board of directors of Indian Schools in Oman,
where he has been instrumental in guiding the board to strike a
balance between the aspirations of the students and parents and
the school management. Whenever, Alexander has spare time, he
spends it with his family. He is also a voracious reader having
consumed books on religion, philosophy, business and biographies
depending upon his mood.
May - 2013
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