Michael Mascarenhas, CEO, Desert Group
Visitors impressed by the UAE’s palm trees, verdant golf courses and vibrant greenery are most likely looking at landscaping that is – either directly or indirectly – the work of Desert Group, a Dubai-based organization with some 3,800 employees that specializes in a range of horticultural services.
As a seasoned turnaround specialist, Michael Mascarenhas joined Desert Group as Chief Restructuring Officer in late 2012 to help the firm realize its true potential. He was appointed CEO just six months later. Mascarenhas’s expertise lies in transforming and breathing life into moribund organizations. His energy rubs off on his teams, giving managers and staff alike a greater sense of self-belief, ownership and confidence that all is possible. At Desert Group, he set out a new vision, aligned and flattened structures for quick decision-making with customers in mind, built robust business platforms to support growth, created new revenue streams and brought innovation to the center.
Mascarenhas brought a sense of calmness, reassurance and intellectual capability to the company, creating an environment where individuals could shine. “It’s for organizations and leaders to provide individuals an opportunity and a platform to express and believe in themselves and then to harness that energy to create all-round stakeholder value,” he says.
Mascarenhas, who already had three successful turnarounds under his belt when he joined Desert Group, identified areas of untapped potential for development at the company, including a renewed focus on creating new products and services. “As a company you have to invigorate, invoke, create and provoke your customers to try and buy new solutions. We have shifted our mindset and became more of an outward-focused company,” he says.
The company, which had already helped to transform Dubai’s landscape when Mascarenhas joined it, has now also set its sights on transforming the way horticulture is conducted in the region, and this is a task of real significance. The UAE and its neighbors exist in a desert environment where water is increasingly scarce. Using every drop wisely is important and this is something that Desert Group is working to encourage. “We have developed a smart irrigation system which reads weather conditions, soil conditions and plants’ needs. It delivers just the amount of water that the plants need at the optimal time, and is far more efficient than legacy systems,” Mascarenhas says.
Desert Group is also encouraging change in another often overlooked area of horticulture – the benefits of using local flora that are better adapted to the region’s unique climate and conditions. “We have a national nursery with 265 species of native plants,” Mascarenhas says.
The company has also developed a treatment, in the form of an organic fluid, which can revive stagnant water systems, helping to kick-start a recovery in the ecosystem of ponds and lakes. The organic matter reverses decay and helps oxygenate water, allowing life to return. “My goal is to create an impact so strong that it is felt universally, where unique capabilities are harnessed on a daily basis. That’s the game changing plan,” he says.
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