|Ajlan bin Abdulaziz AlAjlan||Phil Malem|
|Alain Bejjani||Renuka Jagtiani|
|Dhananjay Datar||Rizwan Sajan|
|Fatima Al Jaber||Sankha Biswas|
|Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Alajlan||Sima Ganwani Ved|
|Patrick Chalhoub||Stuart Harrison|
Ajlan bin Abdulaziz AlAjlan
Ajlan & Bros Group
Ajlan bin Abdulaziz Alajlan is a prominent Saudi businessman who founded the Ajlan & Bros in 1979, and is currently serving as chairman, which currently has more than 12,000 employees across 65 companies around the world.
Based in Riyadh, the group is one of the leading international corporations operating in the field of manufacturing classic menswear in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, in addition to readymade and winter clothes. Ajlan & Bros is known for men’s headwear, such as Yashmagh and Ghuttra, and for readymade clothes. The company manufactures most of its products in its own factories, which are later sold to wholesalers and retailers in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. The company owns a proprietary sales network, and distributors and agents in Saudi Arabia sell the products to Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Al Ajlan has more than 40 years of experience in commercial, industrial, and investment work. He is a board member of more than 65 companies in Saudi Arabia, Europe, the US, and China.
He is also a member of the Riyadh Regional Council. He has served as the head of the projects’ follow-up committee as well as the economic development committee at the council. He has managed and chaired several private sector development projects carried out in collaboration with different government agencies.
Apart from his duties as the head of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, he is also the chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and member of the board of directors of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
Majid Al Futtaim
Under Bejjani’s leadership, the UAE-based entertainment and retail holding company last year saw revenue surge by 8 percent to $9.42bn, driven largely by expansion and diversification. The firm announced this year that it is collaborating with music producer Will.i.am’s technology company I.AM + to provide voice-based AI powered assistance to shoppers via a device that resembles Amazon’s Alexa.
Bejjani is at the helm of Dubai-based conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim, one of the UAE’s best-known entertainment and retail companies. He joined the company back in 2006, and despite operating in difficult market conditions over the past year or so, the company has adapted tremendously to continue growing the business. Even though the company’s revenues fell by 7 percent in 2020, Majid Al Futtaim Retail’s online sales increased by 188% across all markets, contributing 3% of its total revenue in 2020.
Bejjani oversees Majid Al Futtaim’s operations throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and is also an executive director on the board of Majid Al Futtaim Holding, as well as serving as a co-chair of the World Economic Forum MENA.
The Dubai-based retail giant, which operates 29 shopping malls all over the Middle East and North Africa region, has been commended for waiving rent fees for its tenants for the duration of the Covid-19 government mandated store closures. A recent big success for Majid Al Futtaim is that it opened its first hybrid cinema and family entertainment centre (FEC) in the UAE at Wafi City. Recently, it also opened five physical Carrefour stores, as well as three new fulfilment centres.
Outside of the UAE, Majid Al Futtaim has also formed integral partnerships with the Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN), and Oman National Investments Development Company (Tanmia) to form the tourism complex Al Mouj Muscat. Al Mouj Muscat recently launched a new residential neighbourhood – Murooj Lanes – which has been priced to suit first-time buyers and investors alike.
Al Adil Trading Group
Masala King Dr. Dhananjay Datar is CMD of Al Adil Trading LLC, Dubai. He is a self-made entrepreneur who has carved a unique niche in the retail sector. He was raised in rural India in poverty, which taught him self-reliance, frugality and hard work. He started his business career in 1984 as an intern in a small grocery shop established by his father in Dubai. With honesty, hard work and determination, he carved the world-famous business group Al Adil out of a tiny shop.
Today his group encompasses a chain of 50 spacious super stores spread across Gulf countries, two spice factories, and two flour mills equipped with modern technology and an import-export company acting as an Indian arm. The rulers of UAE gave Datar with a prestigious award and the title Masala King in 2001 for his invaluable contribution to the business sector. Apart from business, Datar, along with his family and business has immensely contributed in philanthropic activities and supported social welfare projects.
Recognised as an ISO 22000, HACCP, GMP, GHP certified company in 2006, Al Adil Trading, under the leadership of Datar, has performed a key role in bringing more than 9,000 Indian products to UAE. The group also produces more than 700 products within categories as ready-made flours, spices, pickles, jams, Namkeen and instants, under its own brand ‘Peacock’. For the last 36 years, he has been serving authentic, hygienic and secure Indian foodstuffs to the GCC customers. Al Adil Group is actively expanding its presence in other Gulf countries. It has already established special trade routes in US, Canada, Kenya, Switzerland, Italy, Eretria, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
The Expo 2020 Dubai, a global trade exhibition, will be a great opportunity for traders, business persons and entrepreneurs to showcase their quality products, latest technologies, best services and futuristic innovations. Since Al Adil Group is in active expansion mode, Datar has plans to take advantage of this world event.
Fatima Al Jaber
Chief Operating Officer
Al Jaber Group
Fatima Obaid Al Jaber does not lack in achievements, but is probably best known for heading one of the GCC region’s largest and most influential construction companies, Al Jaber Group, which was founded by her father Obaid Al Jaber. As the company’s Chief Operating Officer since 2007, she oversees more than 55,000 staff and manages around $4.9bn in assets, and has presided over some of the country’s most prestigious and iconic construction projects.
Just as importantly, she was also the first Emirati woman to be elected to the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in 2009. She is also a board member of PJSC and Dana Gas, and is the chairperson of Al Bashayer Investment Co.
She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Engineering, following which she enjoyed a successful career working for the Abu Dhabi Municipality in a number of technical and managerial positions until the mid-2000s, specialising in the public works department. Her roles included the assistant undersecretary for technical services at the Abu Dhabi Public Works Department as well as the assistant undersecretary for the building projects section at the Abu Dhabi Municipality. In 2009, she also had a brief stint lecturing female engineers at the Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi.
She has won a number of awards and commendations throughout her career. In 2007, she was voted the seventh most influential woman in the Arab world by Forbes Arabia. In 2008, she was named one of the most influential businesswomen in the Middle East region by the Middle Eastern Economic Digest.
Fatima Al Jaber uses her leadership position not only to enhance Al Jaber Group but to passionately advocate the role of women in the workplace. A staunch advocate of women’s causes, she is actively involved in empowering Emirati women in the business arena, and she has also appeared as a keynote speaker at various conferences themed on women in business.
Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Alajlan
Ajlan & Bros Group
As vice chairman of Saudi classic menswear giant Ajlan & Bros Group, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Alajlan has over 40 years of experience in commerce and trade where the corporation owns the biggest factories in textiles. It is known for men’s traditional head-wear, such as Yashmagh and Ghuttra.
Ajlan & Bros developed from a small shop in Al Deira in Riyadh, into a dynamic company capable of delivering its products to many countries around the world. Four brothers Mohammed, Ajlan, Saad and Fahad founded the group in 1979, turning it into one of the most famous Saudi companies in the line of textile and fabric.
The company is also consider one a significant player in the real estate development, as well as other strategic businesses such as energy, water, food, technology, logistics, hospitality and operation. The company is also known for investing in different sectors around the world. Alajlan is also the chairman of the Saudi Chinese Business Council. He has played a major role in establishing subsidiary companies in China, owing to his extensive knowledge in international investment. He holds several merits and awards from the Chinese government including the Honorary Citizenship Award and the City Key Holder Merit of Xuzhou City which was awarded to him by the People’s Republic of China in Xuzhou province for his active contributions to economic and social development.
He also received the Honorary Citizenship Award of Xuanzong city presented to him by China’s Shandong province and the Honorary Work Merit & Medal from Siang City Government, Jiangsu Region where he was acknowledged for his highly distinguished contributions to the region’s economic structure and commercial project developments. Over the four decades the company has grown to employ more than 12,000 workers and has operations in more than 25 countries.
Alajlan was also listed in the recent Arabian Business’ The Arab Powerlist 2021.
Patrick Chalhoub joined Chalhoub Group in 1979 along with his late brother Anthony and became co-CEO in 2001. The company had been founded in 1955 in Syria, by his parents Michel and Widad. It began with one store and quickly expanded across the region, and the firm moved its main office to Dubai in 1990.
Under his leadership, the group expanded operations and signed exclusive joint ventures with brands such as Christian Louboutin, Christian Dior, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch and more. It also opened its own concept stores, Level Kids and Level Shoes, to further grab its share of the fast growing retail market. Based in Dubai, the group manages over 600 stand-alone retail outlets and department stores within the fashion, beauty and luxury gift sectors.
As the Middle East’s largest luxury distributor, cementing relationships with customers will continue to be at the forefront for the company, regardless of whether that is in the digital realm with e-commerce or through traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.
Chalhoub told Arabian Business that building loyalty with consumers has been one of the major take-aways from the global coronavirus pandemic. In January 2021, he revealed that the company’s Muse loyalty programme, which was launched in the UAE in the summer of 2019 and subsequently introduced in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, boasts over 600,000 members and was signing up to 1,500 people per day during last year.
In 2020, as part of the Chalhoub Group’s 2020 sustainability report, group set new targets for its strategy in Saudi Arabia for the next three years, and its goals are in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The five pillars of the company’s plan are leadership, people, partners, planet and impact, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For back-of-house roles, Chalhoub Group aims to boost the number of Saudi Arabian staff to 52 percent in the next three years, up from the current 34 percent.
Serco Middle East
Phil Malem is the chief executive officer of Serco Middle East and is responsible for leading the business across the region, which it has been operating in for over 60 years.
Malem joined Serco in April 2019 and since his appointment he has repositioned the business in alignment with a new strategy to continue its growth trajectory.
Under his leadership, the business has had a strong 2021. Despite the global pandemic, Serco has secured a number of new contract wins through both organic growth and new business with strong financial results.
Serco’s 5,500-strong employee base across the Middle East manages people, assets and data with the support of the latest technological solutions in the transport, defence, healthcare, justice and immigration sectors.
Since joining Serco Middle East, Malem has introduced new service lines, including citizen services to support the vision of the UAE leadership. Serco’s service offering has recently been strengthened through the addition of ExperienceLab, which focuses on creating world-class user-centric experiences underpinned by data and the latest insights.
Malem is focused on the delivery of excellent client service through the sectors Serco operates in, with his commitment focused on supporting the delivery of essential public services and leveraging the team’s international expertise and local market knowledge. In recognition of his commitment to the UAE, Malem was honoured by the government with a 10-year Golden Visa.
Malem’s vision and growth for the business lies in leveraging the latest technology and the best people to continue to deliver best-in-class services for clients. Serco is committed to supporting the nationalisation programmes of the UAE and its efforts were recognised through the achievement of an Emiratisation Award presented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Malem has created a partnership between Serco and Abu Dhabi artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 to promote the adoption of innovative technology by government clients in the Middle East and drive a shift towards data-driven operations. The partnership will combine the resources of both companies in a non-equity agreement. Together, they will target government clients across the transport, aviation, healthcare, smart cities and defence sectors.
As part of the agreement, Serco will use G42’s cloud computing capabilities and AI-centric, cross-industry technology expertise. The companies aim to deliver “fully integrated public services across the region”.
How are you planning to use the Expo 2020 as a business opportunity?
The Expo, combined with Dubai’s Happiness Agenda, has placed the spotlight on customer, user and visitor experience. It’s not just about the event itself, it’s the overall experience of the UAE. Serco’s air navigation teams along with DANS will be managing the skies to avoid delays and our guest experience team supporting Dubai Airports will be the first point of contact for passengers, creating signature personalised experiences and enabling smooth journeys and onward travel. The bar has been raised, and so I see endless business opportunities for our user-centred design and research agency ExperienceLab to support clients who are designing and adapting their services to keep up with these high standards of user experience and service excellence.— Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East
Chairwoman and CEO
For over 25 years, Renuka Jagtiani has guided the Landmark Group’s corporate strategy and grown the fashion and hospitality businesses for the region’s leading retail and hospitality conglomerate in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. A cornerstone of the group’s journey, Renuka was instrumental in creating the high-street fashion brand Splash in 1993.
In her current role as chairwoman and CEO of the Landmark Group, Renuka oversees all retail and hospitality operations, leading strategic growth through expansion into new markets and driving the group’s CSR initiatives. Under her leadership the group forayed into e-commerce and invested in MENA region’s largest privately-owned logistics and distribution hub, with a vision to reach the customers, no matter where they shop.
Landmark chairman Micky Jagtiani, Renuka’s husband, founded the group in 1973 with a single store in Bahrain and has successfully grown it into one of the largest retail and hospitality conglomerates in the region. The couple were inducted into the Retail Hall of Fame at the 2017 World Retail Congress held at Madinat Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai. Last year, the Landmark Group and Jagtiani Foundation committed AED15m ($4.08m) towards accredited NGOs, food banks and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic to provide aid to help local communities where we operate in need directly in the GCC and India.
The group’s brands, alongside the Jagtiani Foundation and The LIFE Foundation, have pledged to support and empower affected communities including migrant and garment workers, frontline personnel, low-income families and other vulnerable individuals.
The Jagtiani Foundation is working directly with government hospitals to provide personal protective equipment and masks to frontline healthcare workers, working with Max India to leverage the group’s partner factories in India to channel resources through its existing supply chain and working communities.
He’s called the man with the Midas touch, but he was born and brought up in a middle class family in Mumbai, India, before building his company from scratch, and into one of the Middle East’s most recognised building material firms.
Under the guidance of founder and chairman Rizwan Sajan, Danube Group has transformed since it was founded in 1993. Over the last 28 years, the company has grown from one shop with one employee to a multi billion dollar conglomerate with operations in over 50 locations in 10 countries worldwide, including the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Africa and India, as well as employing more than 3,600 people.
The Danube Group occupies over 5.5 million square feet of land in Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), making it one of the biggest land bank occupiers in the area, while its warehouses across the UAE stock more than 50,000 products.
Sajan believes it is his ability to think differently which has helped build his empire. It was not just his experience but perspective and commitment that established Danube, he tells Arabian Business.
The elements behind his success are simple: “Find the right people then empower them to run the business,” he says.
Sajan has been recognised as one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Indians in the UAE by Arabian Business, and has won awards such as the Most Admired Retailer award by Herald Global & BARC Asia, Real Estate Tycoon award 2017 from the Land Department of Dubai in Mumbai and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Excellence Award, among others.
He also started the Danube Welfare Centre in November 2012. It helps Dubai’s blue-collar workers improve their language skills with a three-month basic English programme. In 2016, over 1,000 workers benefited from this programme and by the end of 2017, that number had doubled.
With a rich career spanning close to 25 years, Sankha Biswas is the primary driving force behind the formation of Nutridor Ltd, a $10m-revenue corporation with presence in twelve countries across the globe.
Embarking on his role as founding member, shareholder and CEO of Nutridor in 2016, Biswas re-engineered its business processes, redesigned commercialisation plan, and instilled urgency for financial discipline driving its success and growth forward.
A subsidiary of Tropical General Investment, Nutridor is a new entrant to the Middle East market but is armed with over thirty years of experience in Africa and Southeast Asia continents and is therefore well prepared to tackle any major hurdles.
Biswas has extensive experience in the dairy industry having spent 12 years as chief operation officer of CHI Limited, a long-life dairy producer, in Nigeria and 10 years as vice president of dairy conglomerate Schreiber-Dynamix Dairy, India, prior to his role with Nutridor.
Biswas received an executive MBA in General Management from Harvard Business School in 2010 and a B.Sc. (Dairy Technology) from W.B Agricultural University, India in 1993.
Asked how Nutridor is planning to benefit from Dubai’s Expo 2020 as a business opportunity, Biswas answered: “We at Nutridor are well-prepared to seize tomorrow’s opportunities and can build on the right portfolio of products and brands to serve our consumers meaningfully in a balanced array of geographies. Preparing for tomorrow is the business of today, for every person at every age.”
“With your constant support, our commitment to social and economic progress, and passion for bringing health through food to as many people as possible, we will continue to generate profitable and sustainable growth now and for many years to come. Expo 2020 in Dubai creates opportunity towards this and we are extremely confident we will be benefiting from it,” he continued.
How are you planning to use Expo 2020 as a business opportunity?
With a visionary goal to bring Dubai’s foreign trade from AED1.4 trillion to AED2 trillion, Expo 2020 is one of the foundation stone for fulfilling that goal. This mega event will open up to almost 100,000 business leaders while creating a solid platform for public-private partnership. We firmly believe this will enhance Dubai’s value proposition and economic competitiveness in line with the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Recent surveys have firmly indicated the overall increase in business confidence is due to growing domestic demand, economic stimulus initiatives and the progress of the vaccination drive. Small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs) were particularly optimistic about Dubai’s short-term economic outlook, compared to large companies serving regional and global markets, the survey showed.— Sankha Biswas, CEO of Nutridor
Sima Ganwani Ved
Founder and Chairwoman
Sima Ganwani Ved is the founder and chairwoman of the Apparel Group, one of the largest retailers in the Middle East, based in the UAE. The multi-billion-dollar company is home to 75+ brands with over 1,750 stores in 14 countries with 16,500+ human capital. Over the years, Ved has been the recipient of professional and personal awards, some of which include The Philantropreneur of the Year, Retailer of the Year, Great Place to Work, Great Women’s Award and Emirates Woman of the Year Awards.
Ved was born in Africa and moved to Dubai by her self-made entrepreneur father in the 1970s. She studied in King’s College London to achieve her bachelor’s degree and subsequently an MBA in Business Management. She began her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 20, working in her father’s shopping mall in early 90s as the manager of a department. To her, that set the tone of her value for hard work and business ethics.
Ved is an active member of many world organisations such as YPO and CEO. Her compassion for underprivileged children led her to mentoring her teenage daughter, Sarisha Ved, to launch her own Athleisure brand F5 Global, where 100 percent of the profits from the “Fees for Tees” collection go towards the education of children. She simultaneously mentored her eldest daughter, Selina, and founded a new social e-commerce beauty platform called NESSA.
“When you think about female empowerment, you have a vague figure of someone in your head, but then you meet Sima and you go like, oh wait a minute; that’s female empowerment, that’s what it looks like!”, said Eva Longoria at the Global Gift Gala in Dubai, before bestowing Ved with the Philantropreneur of the Year Award.
Ved likes to reinvent herself creatively. She has written a column for two and a half years in the newspaper in 2000, and at the same time won awards for her play acting. In 2010, she launched her own TV chat show, “Hi Tea with Sima Ved”, on Star Plus International.
How are you planning to use the Expo 2020 as a business opportunity?
Apparel Group hopes to cater to all the fashion and lifestyle needs in the region and is proud to be a part of the incredible “Connecting, Minds, Creating the Future” Expo 2020 event. Our aim is to inspire countries, companies, communities and create a more sustainable future. As this is one of the largest events taking place in the MENA, it is expected to generate huge tangible and intangible economic benefits for the region. Hence Apparel Group will be able expand its footprint into new developments across the Middle East.— Sima Ganwani Ved, Founder and Chairwoman of Apparel Group
Emrill’s CEO, Stuart Harrison, has more than 28 years of experience in technical, operations and senior business roles across facilities management, construction and engineering projects. Harrison has used his expertise in managing critical environments to proactively lead Emrill through the challenge of the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
He joined Emrill as technical director, and was subsequently promoted to CEO in April 2019. This marked the first time the company had appointed this title, demonstrating its ambition to grow and expand its operations regionally. Some of his initial projects included overseeing the first energy performance contract (EPC) pilot project in the UAE, which achieved average building energy savings of over 26 percent.
Under Harrison’s direction, Emrill has worked closely with clients, adapting cleaning methodologies and delivering its usual world-class services to new applications. Harrison has been a confident and competent presence throughout these changes, and clients have provided positive feedback regarding Emrill’s strong foundations as well as Harrison’s leadership.
He has been instrumental in helping the company to enter new sectors and win significant new contracts, while also prioritising the wellbeing and safety of Emrill’s employees, clients and their residents. Some of the major successes for Emrill over the past 12 months include combating the Covid-19 pandemic by allocating specialist teams and equipment to the UAE Government’s National Sterilisation Campaign.
The company has also won major contracts over the past year, with the likes of Aramex Logistics after being awarded a five-year contract for MEP, housekeeping and specialist services across the company’s seven facilities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Another big win for the firm was with Arada after being awarded a three-year facilities management contract for the delivery of MEP, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lifeguard, housekeeping and specialist services for several locations within Arada’s master community development in Sharjah, Aljada. Emrill has also won contracts in new sectors, including hospitality, branded residences, and education.
How are you planning to use large-scale events and the next six months as a business opportunity?
Emrill is no stranger to large-scale events and locations that experience high footfall, providing services to Dubai’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and an international airport. The expected influx of international participants and attendees brings significant potential opportunities for growth within the facilities management industry. Events of this type give us the perfect platform to demonstrate our spirit of innovation, best-in-class standards and progressive methodologies.— Stuart Harrison, CEO of Emrill Services