At 74 years, business tycoon Victor Albuquerque still feels that he has a lot to do in life. “What can I say? I’m a workaholic”, he says with a twinkle in his eye. “Besides work, my hobbies are work, work and work”. Coming from a first generation of entrepreneurs, his tryst with his destiny dates back to more than four decades ago when he decided to build the Group with his business partner and longtime friend Anil Counto in 1971. After a successful business marriage which lasted for 27 years, Victor and Anil decided to go separate ways in 1998 to build brighter tomorrows for their children diversifying and expanding their share holdings. Today, Alcon Victor Group is one of the most formidable business houses to reckon with in the state of Goa, with special interests in construction, real estate, health care, hospitality, travel and tourism. The Group’s medical division has two hospitals in South Goa — the 150 bedded Super Specialty Apollo Victor Hospital and Goa Ayurvedic Hospital in Margao. After founding a trust, Victor Albuquerque set up the Victor Medical and Research Foundation College of Nursing in 2005 which was one of the first colleges to impart B.S.c degress in nursing. The Group has also been the pioneers in construction and has undertaken works not only in Goa but also had joint ventures in the Gulf (Bahrain) in the years 1976-83. Victor Albuquerque was appointed the honourary consul of the Russian Federation in 2013 with the consular region comprising the state of Goa. As Chairman and Managing Director of Alcon Victor Group, one can still see him, steering his ship forward, braving all odds, with his two sons Vinay and Varun in tow!
In conversation with Abrahas Lifestyle Victor Albuquerque reminisces about his life, career and the road ahead.
How do you manage such a huge business?
It is pure love to do work. If you don’t have love, don’t do it for money. If do it for money it loses its flavor. When you work for achievement and expanding whatever you have, it gives you pleasure sometimes. It’s like a farmer who sows the seeds, the greatest pleasure is to see the plant grow up and when it bears fruits that’s the beauty of the whole thing.
Tell us about your family, their interests. My wife, Sylvia was a professional lawyer.
She used to practice in the High Court but due to my work I asked her to leave and join me. She looks after the administration, legal aspects, accounts, etc. She always gave me support and never applied the brakes on my dreams. At times although she did not like certain things, she never said no. She always said go ahead. My two sons also help me in the business. My eldest son Vinay has studied engineering and hotel management and he looks after marketing because we have 5 offices in India. We have to market 500 rooms we have in Goa. My younger son Varun looks after the operations laying more emphasis on hospitals.
How did you start the company and take it forward to the present day.
I started Alcon constructions and Alcon Real Estate, with Anil Couto. We were working together in the PWD. When I came back from Daman, I worked in Goa for one year. Then I met Anil and started a long term business relations with him. We were the first engineers to start construction in Goa. We also constructed Hotel Delmon which was our first hotel and eventually we set up the cement ACC plant. Our ideas and wavelengths were almost the same. However at the peak of our careers in the late 90’s we decided to part ways because our children were growing up fast and thought it best for them to take the lead. In life it is a continuous process!
Back when did you face any challenges?
Yes, when we wanted to start our business, banks would not offer us loans. Anil and I decided to pool in Rs 5,000 each and start our business. Out of Rs 10,000 we spent Rs 8,000 and bought a concrete mixer. Out of the balance money Rs 2,000 we bought furniture for the office and other essential and operated from Velho building in Panjim. With the help of the some architect friends, we then began undertaking small constructions of villas, house, etc. and then steadily rose in the construction line.
Goa back then and now… how has it changed on the political and construction front? Would you have hoped that Goa could emulate the Singaporean model?
No, looking at things today, I would say no. It is too late. This could’ve happened in 1961-70 during the tenure of Goa’s first Chief Minister Dayanand Bandodkar and Opposition leader Jack de Sequeira. They could’ve made Goa into another Singapore. But by dividing the community they made it a free-for-all, with a result that Goa now is being flooded by people from all parts of the country. Goa used to be a unique and different part of India which was earlier ruled by the Portuguese. It had a different flavor, different ambience, a different culture and was the best example of a secular state that could have been carried forward. It is too late to reverse the trend. The future generation will have to fight for its existence here in Goa. The cause of migration is simple — if Goans today are unable to take on the onslaught of the migrants, they tend to migrate elsewhere. There is no labour force in Goa now. All white collared people go to the Gulf to work or to the UK. With Portuguese passports they take up jobs abroad which they would not do here in Goa. They would take up the most demeaning job there but won’t do it here. So it is a form of escapism which is very sad.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Only hard work pays off. Good principles do not work today. You have to fight in this muck to survive.
What is your vision?
To achieve as much as possible in this lifetime. Right now my happiest moment is when I can tell people today that I have around 1200 people working for me in different areas. This forms a part of my happiness.
Abrayas Lifestyle Magazine, July 2015