Welcome to the Emirates Man weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businessmen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week, we speak to Hasan and Husain Roomi, founders of H2R Design. Since its Dubai launch in 2014, H2R Design is now one of the top interior design firms, boasting an impressive brand portfolio within the GCC such as Vida Beach Resort, Parker’s, The Artisan, to name-drop a few. Its progressive and modern approach has bagged the duo and its growing team with multiple award-winning projects across hospitality, retail and F&B industries.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Hasan: Art and, for some reason, history. I wasn’t necessarily the best at art, but the ability to express myself was something I thoroughly enjoyed, and even at an early age, I found it almost meditative.

Husain: My favourite subject at school was physics, it just made sense! When combining that with arts as I progressed, there were stars in my eyes!

What was your first job?

Husain: I have been working on whatever I was able to get my hands on since the age of 15. My first in the industry was with Aedas. I knew very quickly that we need to be doing what we are doing now and have something different to offer.

Hasan: As a kid, I used to work with my uncle in the summer and help him out in the garage, being a tea boy, cleaning the cars, helping with the paperwork, etc. But my first official job was at university when I took an internship at several interior design companies in London. I knew that I had to encapsulate the identity of my own through the different styles and projects that they worked on, which helped shape a lot of my work today.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

Hasan and Husain: As a family, we moved to Dubai in the 2000s, and it quickly cemented itself as a home for us. However, in 2005, we decided to move to London for university and develop our own life in the UK, alongside starting H2R Design.

We didn’t necessarily have the objective of moving back to Dubai at that point, but in 2013, we were approached by the team behind Tom & Serg to design their first outlet here in Dubai. It felt to us like a perfect opportunity to shape a real coffee culture in the region, and due to their success, less than six months after opening, they came back to us to help with the design of The Sum Of Us.

After that, it was one opportunity after the other, and it quickly got to the stage where it was outweighing the opportunities we had in the UK, so almost by no deliberate attempt, we ended up opening an office in the Courtyard in Al Quoz and have been there ever since.


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What inspired you to enter the architectural and design space?

Hasan and Husain: We were always fascinated by cars and the ideology of form follows function. However, the reality behind automotive design is that it is such a niche market that it would have brought our careers to a specific few countries, and so we decided that it was a hobby and passion but not a way of life. However, we both felt that the same ideology was very much encapsulated within architecture and design, and it very quickly evolved into both of our focuses. We love how architecture plays a role in humanity, in society, and in life, and how we can shape that. We love the concept of creating something that has significance and a place in society, whether that’s supporting businesses, lifestyles, or cultures. We looked at each other, and said, “Okay, let’s do this together,” with the aim, after graduating from university, to establish our own design firm that really helps shape environments.

“Very early on we realised that there was a lack of what I would call ‘young creativity’ within serious businesses, and we believed we could create a space, environment, and mindset that helps express innovative design that is disruptive.”

Talk us through the concept of H2R?

Hasan: From the very beginning, the idea was to create a design hub that creates businesses around us, through propagating good design, focusing less on the client, and more on the consumer. Very early on we realised that there was a lack of what I would call ‘young creativity’ within serious businesses, and we believed we could create a space, environment, and mindset that helps express innovative design that is disruptive. Spaces that don’t just develop a design, but also the business, focusing on who the target market is, and their motives, and allowing the space to naturally take shape based on those elements.

Husain: The concept of H2R is to be multidisciplinary. In design, development, mentality, and culture. Our aim is always to provide the quality and professionalism of international corporations in a setting that is inspiring, motivating, friendly (to the staff and clients), trustworthy, and cooperative and we always think long-term.

What are the key elements of your role?

Hasan: In short, a chameleon. I started off being very designed-focused, whether that be the 3D visual aspect or photoshopping, dabbling in all areas that we needed to be, inspiring our team, and pushing them to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. We’re big believers that our team is going to be reflective of the culture and values that we have, and nowadays I’m a therapist, designer, creative, accountant, and administrator — basically, anything it takes to help us grow to the next step.

Husain: At first, everything. Nowadays, inspiring, briefing of design work, business development, financial strategy, and growth.

Talk us through your daily routine.

Hasan: Very variable. Mondays are normally spent catching up with the team, not just on work but also on personal updates of what’s happened over the weekend. And then we begin figuring out priorities for the week and the deliverables that we must make. There’s a fine line between being creative on paper and delivering something that allows that creativity to be experienced, which are two crucial aspects of any design agency. We have a lot of fun during the design processes and then get very serious when it comes to technical elements.

Husain: Being in the position (and region) we are, our days are sometimes very unpredictable. The first thing I do when walking through our doors is check in on everyone. Then, very quickly after noting all the emails that need imminent responses, I move on to having quick catch-ups with key members on how the day is looking and what needs to be done. Get onto the meetings and calls that are on the books, which go through most of the day, and any gaps are filled by responding to the emails that are on the list and checking up on the work that is being developed.


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What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Hasan and Husain: If you’re going to do it, do it young (or as young as you possibly can). Starting a business can be scary, so take one step at a time, it’s a lot simpler to look at what’s in front of you at that moment, rather than worrying about the bigger picture and what may or may not happen in the future. And finally, love what you do and believe in it. It’s this that creates a successful project or business, but more importantly, something that you will be proud of.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Hasan: I remember very early on when we had one or two employees and I was so stressed out about a particular project when a wise uncle of mine turned to me and said “Relax, what’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work, you’ll do something else” All you can do is do the best that you can, and that sentence alone released me from the burden of pressure and allowed me to just focus on giving it all I can, and that is enough. Whenever our team feels stressed, I tell them the same thing, relax, there is always a solution.

Husain: To take criticism as a good thing and a tool to learn, grow, excel, and push hard! Never take any comments/feedback as a negative thing and I never did.

And what is the worst?

Hasan and Husain: We can’t think of the worst, probably because we have a tendency to eliminate anything that isn’t positive toward what we want to do. That in itself is a blessing.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Hasan and Husain: Initially, we perhaps found balancing looking after the greater good of the business while also ensuring the wellbeing of our employees, challenging. However, we very quickly realised that the team must take priority, and making sure that they are encouraged, motivated, and well looked after, develops the business, not the other way around.

What are your future goals and plans for your career?

Hasan and Husain: Just as we always avoid looking back, we also try to avoid looking too far into the future, instead preferring to look right in front of us as to what’s next. We’re excited to see what we can accomplish, and the key thing that excites us the most is when we get something challenging and different. What’s next? we’re not sure, but it must be new, interesting, exciting, and most importantly, painful because that’s the biggest sign of growth.

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