UAE. He might have become an explosives expert. He could have been a botanist. But fate decreed that he embarked instead on what would become a stellar 33-year career with one of the world’s great retailers, Dubai Duty Free.

Meet Ramesh Cidambi, Chief Commercial Officer at Dubai Duty Free, the special guest in the latest edition of TRI-POD, The Moodie Davitt Report’s travel retail-themed podcast series in collaboration with The SEVA Group.

TRI-POD is hosted by The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie and Roger Jackson, Managing Director of Dubai-based The SEVA Group IMEA and Organico Solutions, the Dubai operation of The SEVA Group.

Ramesh Cidambi: A compelling story of explosives, botany, data metrics, yoga, literature and a stellar 33-year career with Dubai Duty Free

Ramesh was promoted to Chief Operating Officer at Dubai Duty Free in 2016, just reward for his stellar contribution to the retailer since he joined back in October 1988. Later this month he will celebrate his 33rd anniversary with the company.

In this compelling episode Ramesh talks about his formative days in his native India. Born in Chennai, he spent much of his early life in Bihar and West Bengal where his father was a mining engineer, a specialist in explosives. “I grew up with detonators and safety fuses, commercial explosives and things like that,” Ramesh recalls.

After opting for a rather safer though nevertheless unlikely foray into studying Botany, Ramesh moved to the US at the age of 18 to do an MBA.

We learn how he found his first job in a department store on Times Square, before returning to India and landing a role with a data metics consulting firm. Fate took a hand as he was sent to Dubai in 1987 for a consultancy assignment with a then fledgling retailer – Dubai Duty Free. He liked them and they liked him. So much so that on 15 October 1988 he started working full-time for the retailer.

Ramesh talks warmly of his career journey since, in particular highlighting the influence of three Irishmen – former Dubai Duty Free senior executives John Sutcliffe and George Horan, and his boss throughout the past 33 years, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin.

“To work for three Irish bosses, one big advantage is humour right? They can always diffuse any situation you know with their brand of humour, courtesy and geniality,” he comments.

There are lots of surprises – and literary twists – in this fascinating episode. We discover the profound influence of his wife Alpina; of his triumphant qualification as a yoga teacher – and the epic liquid celebration that followed – and of Ramesh’s love of good writing, both in word and song. What tune would he play on our resident duty free desert island? You’ll have to listen to TRI-POD to find out but as a small clue perhaps Ramesh is asking himself while cast adrift there, “How does it feel, to be without a home? Like a complete unknown…”

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