I never wanted to work for anyone else,” says Moafaq Al Gaddah. “I always wanted to be my own man.”
Now one of the Middle East’s richest men, with a fortune estimated to be in excess of $1bn, Al Gaddah has certainly fulfilled that promise to himself. The chairman of the Moafaq Al Gaddah (MAG) Group now oversees an business empire that stretches from property development to industry, and from car parts to hospitality.
But unlike many of the ultra high net worth individuals living in this part of the world, Al Gaddah had to make his own way in life. He had a tough upbringing in a rural part of Syria, moving to Kuwait aged just 15.
“When I arrived in Kuwait, I realised that I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “I started working in the local souq — and that’s when I found out that I had a gift for selling.”
That knack for sales was to serve the young Syrian well. He started off by working on an unlicensed kiosk, buying clothes wholesale and selling them on to the souq’s customers.
But Al Gaddah also faced a lot of challenges, from Kuwait’s searing summer heat, to stiff competition from other sellers in the market. Last but not least, he also had to keep an eye out for municipality officials, who could have put him in jail for running an unlicensed stall.
“I made some money — in fact I made a lot of money,” he recalls. “I calculated it was three times what a managing director might make in a year.
“How? I had more guts to do things that the other traders wouldn’t do. I took risks. And that is how I was seen in the market — as a young guy who wanted to make something of himself.
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