Brands of Maldives explores the humble beginnings of Link Serve, the largest IT company in Maldives and its illustrious journey to success
To all those that claim large amounts of capital are needed to kick-start a business, Link Serve Pvt Ltd is here to set the record straight. While it is true that several other noteworthy local companies started off with surprisingly small investments, Link Serve, the largest IT company in Maldives valued at MVR 20 million, started off with an initial investment of merely MVR 70,000 or US 4,529.52.
The company’s reputable position in the Maldivian economy was most recently illustrated by its inclusion in the ‘Gold 100’, a listing of the top 100 companies in the country, curated by local business magazine, Corporate Maldives.
Perhaps most impressive though, is how Link Serve distinguishes itself from other successful companies in Maldives by its debt-free status. All of the investments towards operational expansions, including the cost of upgrading retail outlets, were internally funded.
Link Serve was founded in 2002 by Ibrahim Faiz and his brother Musthafa Faiz, both of whom continue to play lead roles in managing the company. While Mustafa Faiz handles financial affairs, as Managing Director, Ibrahim Faiz is in charge of overseeing day to day operations as well as marketing and advertising. The company also consists of a sister to the two, acting as a silent partner.
Reflecting on the company’s beginnings, Ibrahim Faiz attributed his extensive knowledge of all matters IT, as providing a significant leg-up in the market. At the time, Faiz was working as an engineer at Dhiraagu, Maldives’ first and largest telecommunications company.
According to Faiz, the main difficulty faced during his 19-year period at Dhiraagu was a lack of available equipment. It was the scarcity of engineering related tools and equipment that ultimately served as the main factor motivating the team towards establishing Link Serve.
Faiz reminisced of the first Link Serve outlet that was established in the capital city of Male’, light-heartedly remarking that the company had decided to display the boxes in which the brought in their first equipment, bought with their MVR 70,000 start-up capital.
Over the course of five years, Link Serve became a household name in Maldives. With every new expansion, the company noted significant growth in market presence. Now, the company owns four outlets across Maldives; two located in the capital city and the remaining outlets in Kulhudhuffushi, Haa Dhaal and Addu Atoll respectively.
Faiz, stated that Link Serve was the top local company in the ICT sector with particular popularity in networking and security. “We are not only sellers” stated Faiz. He explained that Link Serve had expanded their services and was now capable of providing world-class security services.
Although operations had started out with two mere workers, Link Serve now employs 85 people and controls 80% of the market.
Link Serve’s winning formula, according to Faiz, is a combination of honest efforts by staff and the Managing Board’s dedication to maintaining company values and principles.
“Our core philosophy is to remain within the fold of business ethics” stated the 52-year-old father of two. Faiz stated that Link Serve provided deception-free service to customers in order to maintain the trust accorded to the company.
Planning, Faiz says, plays a key role in the growth of link-serve, while long and short-term planning and accounting for market changes are vital among the many factors that small scale enterprises looking to diversify must take into account.
Hence, Link Serve has always diligently researched market shifts including technology developments and predicted changes. “We adjusted our business to match consumer demands and made it a point to visit fairs so that we could keep up with changes in technology”, stated Faiz. Despite the company’s dedication to keeping up with the times, Link Serve has a policy of never ceasing to stock products that enjoyed a loyal and consistent demand.
On a different note, Faiz emphasized that employee relations were yet another key focus area that the company prioritized. The business owner expressed his pride in the fact that staff members included those who had been employed for long as 8-10 years. Faiz considers Link Serve’s low staff turnover as an accomplishment and continues to devise strategies to maintain employees.
“I consider my employees the same way I do my customers,” said Faiz, affirming not only does he meets with employees daily but makes effort to ensure that he is an approachable leader who regularly follows up on concerns. “We don’t stop at just paying salaries”, he added, stating that this was probably the reason why employees stayed with Link serve for such considerable periods of time.
With a workforce that is 80% Maldivian, Link Serve is one of Maldives’ few private companies that hire mainly from within the local talent pool. High-level employees in the home office and mid-level staff working at retail outlets are from right here in Maldives.
Faiz stated that within 15 years of running the company, maintaining employees was one of the most valuable skills that he had acquired. He expressed his belief that the secret of leading a company up the rungs is treating staff members with as much kindness as one would display to business partners. He describes Link Serve’s long-serving employees as having played a major role in elevating the company’s position.
Link Serve recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary and the founders look towards the company’s future with unabashed hope. While the company has reached the top of the market in its respective field, Link Serve aims to expand into new fields.
Adapting to the dispersed structure of the island nation, the company has begun efforts to develop a high-quality delivery system, to increase efficiency in transporting goods.
“We are working to establish ‘Red Box’, a company that will create and provide a local delivery network” said Faiz, “Several major agents and customers that have worked with Link Serve are involved with the project”. Pilot studies have already been completed, however, launching the full-fledged application may take another month.
Faiz has high hopes for Red Box, an online business, excited by its potential to provide digitally-based small-scale enterprises with a fighting chance to survive and grow.
“The main obstacle faced by online businesses in Maldives is the lack of a delivery network”, he said. According to Faiz, considerable investments and efforts are being directed towards ensuring the success of the new initiative.
The seemingly missing piece of the puzzle just on the way, armed with an unfailingly loyal team of employees and managers, Link Serve’s future seems to be as bright ahead, as it has been in its journey thus far.