|Business runs in the family|
Diversity is a key pillar of the economy in the UAE. This is largely driven by the hundreds of multinational conglomerates operating in the emirates and mainly making Dubai their headquarters. Although this type of businesses is strongly attracting C-level executives and competent employees to join its multicultural environment, it is not “one of a kind” in this country. Family businesses in the UAE dominate several sectors and form the backbone of the economy. One of the leading family business in the UAE is Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC (ESAG), a multidivisional conglomerate with 23 companies and a range of diverse product and business interests.
Talking about the prominence of family businesses, Abdulla Al Gurg, Group General Manager, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC told Capital Business: “Family businesses are one of the essential pillars of the economy and incubators for entrepreneurship. Productivity, competitiveness, job creation and sustainability are part of their DNA. They have a valuable role as a reliable and committed driving force for economic growth. Since the global crisis, stability and resilience are considered desirable attributes for a business. Family businesses are resilient as they don’t consider years but generations.”
The success of these businesses relies on many factors. “Family business' strengths are related to their independence, deep knowledge of their market and industry built up over the years, values, and the trust developed over generations inside and outside the business. Downturn tends to be more of an opportunity for family businesses since they are often less leveraged and have lower debts. The long-term vision into the next generation allows a stronger and more consistent strategy within family businesses.”
Abdulla continued, “Family businesses can sometimes be too narrowly focused on their own family and historic business. Traditions are often too strong, making innovation a challenge. Globalization also poses new challenges to family businesses, since the market is more open than before. As services and products get cheaper due to technology, family businesses need to adapt their operational modules.”
Moreover, corporate governance is fundamental for the long-term success of a family business as it provides good solutions to family ownership challenges in line with the succession planning. On this note, he affirmed, “Family firms could benefit from establishing more formal corporate governance structures, ensuring better delegation and providing for a well-structured management team with crucial business skills. This will help keep the focus on growth, strategy and global challenges and ensure business continuity.”
Before joining the family firm, Abdulla started his career in the public sector. From his experience, he was confident to say that challenges differ from a business to another. “I faced many challenges throughout my career especially when moving from a public to a private organization. When you work in the public sector, you feel more secure and tranquil. However, when working in the private sector you need to double your efforts and ensure that clients like you. Thus, in a private business, you learn that customers come first; you need to listen more than you speak.”
As one of the leading business houses in the UAE, ESAG is regional partner to over 370 international brands and principals from across the world. More and more, the group is working towards strengthening the UAE market. “Our company has some of the most long-lasting relationships with international principals such as Siemens, Unilever, Fosroc and British American Tobacco. We are one of the early trading families within the nation and like many other family businesses, continue to play an integral part in the economic progress of the UAE. For the Group, consolidation and diversification into products and services that build on our expertise have been a major strategic goal. We operate in varied sectors that predominantly include building and construction, consumer, industrial as well as retail and lifestyle. Our vision is to double our turnover by 2015.”
Furthermore, the group is looking to expand its retail offering within the UAE and regionally through more product options and services. “Currently, we are discussing collaboration opportunities with some key luxury fashion brands. Our stores such as Interiors and United Colors of Benetton are expanding into the Northern Emirates and Abu Dhabi respectively,” stated Abdulla.
He added, “We are looking to tap into the significant investment in infrastructure. Al Gurg FZE focuses on selling steel to project buyers in the construction and oil and gas segment. Being in Jebel Ali Free Zone allows Al Gurg FZE to access a pan GCC market. The revival of the construction sector has increased the need for value-added products such as welded mesh. Al Gurg Building services is well positioned to offer tailor-made solutions and on time delivery to many of the upcoming residential projects. We intend to double our output by the end of next year.”
Abdulla also mentioned that Scientechnic, one of their flagship companies, has been largely involved with various infrastructure projects in the UAE. “Scientechnic has been appointed as the Road Signalling System (RSG) sub-contractor and will carry out supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the road traffic signaling works and integration of road signaling system with the tram signaling system. We are also coordinating with Dubai Municipality to set up a Potable Water Dispensing System for the Dhow Wharf Development at Deira Corniche at 18 locations.”
In reply to a question about the investment opportunities in the UAE, he said: “The country has emerged as a major access point for foreign investments with many companies using it as a platform to enter the wider region. The UAE’s competitive advantage is related to security and low levels of bureaucracy. The economy has reached the next level of maturity, which represents a key access point for business planners to expand within and beyond the Middle East. With strengths in logistics, tourism, and hospitality, the UAE remains the pocket of power for regional investments in the Middle East. The country also has the advantage of high levels of investment in both road and rail infrastructure.”
Sharing the main aspects of his successful journey, Abdulla advised businesspersons on how to make it happen. “You need an understanding unit around you since you have to compromise on many levels in order to succeed. Don’t t look at short-term decisions but rather long-term resolutions that will allow you to grow your business. Last but not least, principles are important. Thus, we have to always remember how to treat our employees and deal with people that we work with.”
About Abdulla Al Gurg
Abdulla Al Gurg assumed the position of Group General Manager of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC in November 2009.
He was previously Project Director of The Tiger Woods Dubai, where he managed all operational, business, and strategic aspects of the project, while overseeing the development of its private residential golf community. Prior to joining The Tiger Woods Dubai, he held two key positions. As Chapter Development Manager for Young Arab Leaders (YAL), he was in charge of setting up 11 Arab chapters throughout the MENA region for YAL. He also played a key role in Tatweer, managing the CEO Monitoring Unit in 2006.
Since August 2007, Abdulla has been a Board Member of Dubailand Theme Park City. Dubailand is the world’s most ambitious tourism, leisure and family entertainment destination. Additionally, he is also a Board Member of the Falcon City of Wonders.
Abdulla holds a Master’s certificate in Management Concepts from Regis University, Denver, Colorado and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management from the American University of Sharjah.
In addition, he has obtained certificates in Executive Education in ‘Leadership Development’, from the Columbia Business School, and Executive Education in ‘Negotiation & Decision-Making, Changing the Game’, from the Harvard Business School.
Abdulla is a member of the Board of Directors of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Charity Foundation, which is at the forefront of several charity initiatives inside and outside the UAE.