World's 100 Most Powerful Arabs - Pioneers
Welcome to the 2014 Arabian Business Power List, our guide to the planet’s 100 most influential Arabs
Mohammed Al Marri
\nDubai Naturalisation & Residency Department
\nA former policeman with 27 years on the force under his belt, Al Marri has been at the forefront at massive change at the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), where a switch to online services, plus a new training complex, have seen a huge improvement in service.
\nWhile many might see the DNRD role as a behind-the-scenes position, Al Marri’s role is actually vital in streamlining the vast numbers of visitors to Dubai, and ensuring that the flow of tourist dollars remains high. In a government reshuffle ordered by Deputy Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the start of 2010, Al Marri saw his responsibilities increased. Already head of Dubai’s Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) since 2007, he was appointed head of the commission for social development, one of five new committees that will assist Dubai’s decision-making.
\nAl Marri’s role at DRND is vital in streamlining the vast numbers of visitors to Dubai.
\nOmnicom Media Group (MENA)
\nUnder Khouri’s stewardship, Omnicom Media Group’s agencies OMD and PHD have led from the front, integrating the digital skill set into account teams more than five years ago. Today, they are developing video-neutral planning and integrating social media activity into TV ratings for a more holistic view of media performance. This is proving very appealing for brands as they find in the Omnicom Media Group’s teams forward-thinking professionals who future-proof their communication strategies.
\nGoing further still, the group moved into data and analytics with ‘Annalect’ and content, be it branded content, production or distribution, with ‘Fuse’. Thanks to these specialist agencies, clients are reaping the rewards of their first mover advantage, proving further still Khouri’s uncanny ability to foretell trends and his talent for capitalising on them.
\nThis approach is clearly working. The group witnessed a double-digit growth in the region, particularly with digital and advanced services. On the back of several new business wins, as well as a strong showing at industry awards, OMD was named Media Agency of the Year by trade title Communicate and Media Network of the Year by Campaign Middle East.
\nThe accolade that possibly means the most to Khouri is the third place in the Great Place To Work Institute’s ranking of the UAE’s best employers in 2014. This is the fruit of years of dedication to putting people first, before product and profits, in order to create a happy working environment and a family atmosphere. Combined with the fourth place at the Arabia CSR Awards last year, in the medium businesses category, for an impressive CSR programme, it is clear that Elie Khouri is a shrewd and accomplished businessman who balances IQ with EQ.
\nAs for the future, the proposed merger of Omnicom and Publicis is likely to be completed this year and most experts are tipping Khouri for an even bigger role in the new set up.
\nOmnicom Media Group (MENA) CEO Elie Khouri is one of the key players shaping the media industry in the Middle East.
Helal Al Marri
\nDubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing
\nWhat a great year 2013 was as Al Marri played a key role in helping win Expo 2020 for Dubai. It all of course means even more work for him as he aims to bring 20 million visitors a year to Dubai. Al Marri previously worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s leading consulting firms. He also worked with KPMG in London, holds an MBA degree from the London Business School and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.Prior to his DTCM job, he was CEO of the Dubai World Trade Centre, and was instrumental in establishing Dubai as a global financial and commercial hub. Al Marri was appointed its head in 2004.
\nFrom Dubai to the world
\nThe DWTC, which is headed by Al Marri, has been instrumental in establishing Dubai as a global financial and commercial hub.
Habib Al Mulla
\nBaker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla
\nAs perhaps the UAE’s foremost lawyer, he made his name by founding the financial free zones concept that led to the launch of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. He then founded his own company which last year entered a merger with US giant Baker & McKenzie. Al Mulla is chairman of the new entity. Baker & McKenzie has more than 4,000 lawyers and 72 offices in 45 countries, raking in $2.31bn in the year to 30 June 2012. Habib Al Mulla’s team is just 40 lawyers strong, but among the most specialised and respected in the Arab world. Key areas of work include dispute resolution, corporate and commercial law, banking, real estate and construction.
\nLaw and order
\nHabib Al Mulla’s team of 40 lawyers are among the most specialised and respected in the Arab world.
Akbar Al Baker
\nAkbar Al Baker has been instrumental in shaping the development of Qatar Airways into one of the fastest growing and most highly acclaimed airlines in the world.
\nBorn in Doha, he is a graduate in economics and commerce and worked at various levels in the Civil Aviation Directorate before becoming Qatar Airways’ CEO in 1997.
\nAl Baker has spearheaded the growth of Qatar Airways, which operated only four aircraft in a regional capacity prior to his appointment. Qatar Airways currently flies more than 120 aircraft to over 125 destinations across six continents.
\nHe is also member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO), a member of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is a non-executive director of Heathrow Airport Holdings.
\nWings of change
\nAl Baker is a member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO).
Ahmed Al Sayed
\nQatar Investment Authority
\nLast year, Ahmed Al Sayed was promoted to the top role at the QIA, after a previous stint in charge of Qatar Holding. He now oversees roughly $115bn in assets, spread all over the world. Since the shift in power to Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the fund’s activities have stayed relatively quiet, but there’s no doubt that Al Sayed has the funds and the firepower to change all that if the right deal comes along.
\nThe QIA, with Al Sayed at the helm, invests internationally and locally in strategic private and public equity as well as in other direct investments.
\nThe growth of the UAE’s second mobile telco, du, has been nothing short of astonishing.
\nAs CEO, Osman Sultan’s role in the company’s story has been vital. Sultan was behind the launch of the highly successful Mobinil in Egypt in 1998, and in 2007 was behind the launch of du, which is 40 percent owned by the UAE federal government, 20 percent by Mubadala Development Company, 20 percent by TECOM Investments and 20 percent by public shareholders.
\nSultan was behind the launch of the highly successful Mobinil in Egypt in 1998.
\n“Nobody wanted us; everybody assumed that we would fail.’’
\nThat’s what Adel Ali told us when we asked him about the launch of Air Arabia, the low-cost carrier he helped found. “Some people felt that our life would not extend beyond six months. All those comments were fantastic because you prepare to die but not to fail. I’m glad they did that because if they had said ‘fantastic’ we would have relaxed.’’ No-one could accuse Ali of relaxing; from a standing start, Air Arabia has become one of the region’s biggest brands, offering affordable transport from all corners of the Arab world. It is the Middle East’s first and largest listed carrier, operating from its home base of Sharjah, as well as secondary hubs in Egypt and Morocco.
\nUnder CEO Adel Ali, Air Arabia has become one of the region’s biggest brands, offering affordable transport from all corners of the Arab world.
\nCEO and Managing Partner
\nInvest Group Overseas
\nSpend a couple of hours with Dr Anas Kozbari, and you’ll soon become very familiar with his personal mantra: ‘the process is the product’.
\n“Don’t be fooled by the suit and tie,” the Syrian-born managing partner and CEO of Invest Group Overseas (IGO) told us recently. “Most of my time, I have my working boots on and my helmet by my side.”
\nAfter putting the brakes on a $1.7bn project in Syria, IGO returned to Dubai in a big way last year with the announcement of two projects in the Meydan area of the city worth $545m. Kozbari is also working on further sites in Dubai, as well as a megaproject in Texas and a new hospitality concept based on the Orient Club in Damascus which he’s hoping to take to the world.
\nKozbari has played a prominent role in promoting business ties between the UAE and Syria.
\nBadr Jafar is an Emirati impact entrepreneur who serves as managing director of the Crescent Group, a family business group, operating in the UAE for over 42 years.
\nThe group today consists of two main companies: Crescent Petroleum, the first independent and privately-owned petroleum company in the Middle East, of which Badr is president; and Crescent Enterprises, the company’s conglomerate operating across several industry sectors of the global economy, of which he is CEO.
\nWithin as well as outside of the family business, Jafar has extensively explored social enterprise and joined and founded initiatives which focus on how business affects society and its reciprocal effect.
\nJafar founded the Pearl Initiative, a venture between the private sector in the Middle East and the United Nations Office for Partnerships to promote a corporate culture of transparency and accountability.
\nHe sits on the Global Board of Education for Employment (EFE), is a member of the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) Programme Board of Governors and is a founding board member of Endeavor UAE, an initiative encouraging entrepreneurship in the Gulf region.
\nMaking a difference
\nJafar is a founding board member of Endeavor UAE, an initiative encouraging entrepreneurship in the Gulf region.
Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi
\nLakhraim Business Group
\nHe is the chairman and founder of the Lakhraim Business Group (LBG), a dynamic and highly respected group of companies with investments and ventures in various market segments across the Middle East & Africa. LBG has already grown significantly since its inception and now holds a diverse range of interests across hospitality, F&B operations, investments in service-related businesses and real estate.
\nAs founder, president and CEO of Millennium & Copthorne, Middle East & Africa (MEA), Alzaabi has created one of the region’s fastest-growing hotel groups with 17 operating properties and over 30 properties in the pipeline.
\nAlzaabi has created one of the region’s fastest-growing hotel groups with 17 operating properties and over 30 properties in the pipeline.
\nSaif Belhasa Group
\nSaif Belhasa heads up a large diversified holding company in Dubai. Belhasa started his prolific career after obtaining degree in Business Management from the Al Ain University in 1988. With 18 years of diversified experience in the field of business and entrepreneurship, Saif Ahmed Belhasa embarked on a number of commercial ventures in the Middle East which led to the birth of Saif Belhasa Group of Companies.
\nThe firm is now a household name, not just in Dubai but around the region. Approximately 10,500 staff are employed internationally by the group’s 19 operating entities which import from and export to most of the world’s major trading nations.
\nWheels of fortune
\nSaif Belhasa has decades of diversified experience in the field of business and entrepreneurship.
Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim
\nParis Gallery, under the leadership of Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, has evolved into a dynamic and diverse enterprise with a growing portfolio of iconic brands reaching consumers across the region through its retail, franchising and distribution channels.
\nOver the past seven years, Paris Gallery’s shareholders have enjoyed steadily increasing annual returns. 2011 was the most successful year in Paris Gallery’s almost two-decade-long history of retail and distribution, with revenues crossing the $1bn mark. The steep growth curve of 2011 continued into 2012 with steadily growing profit margins.
\nScent of success
\nParis Gallery’s shareholders have enjoyed steadily increasing annual returns thanks to CEO Mohammed Al Fahim.