One of the largest retail and distribution companies of quality international products and services in Qatar, the Ali Bin Ali Group now contributes to Qatar’s growth through 12 different business streams, and its chairman Adel Ali Bin Ali Al Muslimani attributes much of the success of both the country and some of its private enterprises to both working in synch to complement each other’s goals. Here, he explains how in Qatar the world can see an example of what is possible when well-thought-through, visionary development is allowed to flourish, and the importance of the Katara Cultural Village project.
As one of Qatar’s most representative business leaders, how do you assess the level of doing business in the country? Why is it becoming a more and more attractive market within the region?
Qatar is a very unique case. As a country it has distinguished itself from other countries in the region for multiple reasons. Let me focus on a few of them and let me begin with the visionary leadership that Qatar has been blessed with. Our country benefitted tremendously from the insightful, discerning leadership and governance of the Father Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. He was a transformative head of state. He transformed this nation and elevated its profile, giving it stability and recognition in the eyes of the whole world. A simple comparison of Qatar’s skyline alone, from 1995 to 2016 can tell you an amazing story of growth and prosperity, of vision and future-focused thinking.
Today, that growth trajectory set in motion by the Father Emir is being continued with utmost skill under the leadership of His Highness the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani. So this stability is one of the most critical reasons why Qatar has become an attractive market in the region.
Second, is the country’s strategy and vision. Qatar’s strategy and vision is not only unique, it is also long term. Qatar’s goals have been mapped out with a vision that extends to the year 2030. This isn’t an ad-hoc approach. On the contrary, it is hugely purposeful. This adds a tremendous weight to the attractiveness of the business climate in the country because what is promised is long-term stability.
Another crucial aspect is the very decisive way in which Qatar has pursued diversification. This isn’t a country that is depending solely on oil and gas. With an eye on the future the nation has branched into multiple fields of investment and expansion, education and innovation. Taking that approach is not only wise but it creates an extremely resilient business environment leading to dynamism in the market.
Finally, Qatar has pursued visibility, on a global scale. Through many initiatives, including the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which is fully on course to positively impact the entire region, Qatar has placed itself in the forefront of global awareness. These factors all work together, galvanize the market, uplift and position Qatar as one of the most attractive business destinations. The country not only has the right leadership, it has stability, vision, versatility and resilience – all these are factors that are in short supply not only in this turbulent region but all across the world. So these are the winning factors that make Qatar shine and stand tall, carving out a position for itself as a hugely attractive market.
Certainly, the country has taken bold steps to boost the economy. There is another side as well, which is important to highlight, linked to the social and human development of the country, two key pillars of this country’s National Vision. What do you feel is your role as a leading representative within the Qatari private sector?
To answer the first part of that question - yes it is a benefit to the country’s business eco-system growth has been judiciously planned. But Qatar also recognizes that true development must be holistic. That is why our 2030 vision pivots not only on economic development but it encompasses other aspects. The 2030 vision rests on four solid pillars that range from economic, human, social and environmental development. That gives our country’s growth a comprehensive nature, creating a strong framework with good structures in place to induce and encourage all round growth.
But these structures alone won’t deliver the level of development Qatar aspires to. This is where I see the private sector come in. I believe there must be a united effort between the state and private sector to boost holistic development in the country. I see the role of the private sector as one of partnership. It is incumbent upon us private sector organizations like the Ali Bin Ali Group, to work in synchronization with our national ambitions and plans. We must take the initiative to calibrate our own growth plans with those of the country. That will create an unbeatable synergy.
If I am to speak from my experience as a private sector business leader of one of Qatar’s oldest and largest conglomerates, I can tell you that we have certainly taken on board the direction and ambitions of the country and synchronized our own growth plans to complement the goals of Qatar.
Today, the Ali Bin Ali Group contributes to Qatar’s growth through 12 different business streams. From FMCG to distribution, from luxury and fashion to hospitality, from contracting and property management to medical supplies or travel, information communication technology or publishing, our group has been a hands-on partner who is creating robust opportunities for the development of Qatar. Now, that’s just one example of what can happen when there is a spirit of engagement between the country and private sector.
Moving beyond the Ali Bin Ali Group, let me give you two great examples that can highlight what can be achieved when national strategies are aligned with the power of markets and led by a private sector mindset. Look at two of Qatar’s best known, homegrown, internationally renowned brands – Qatar Airways and Al Jazeera TV. Whether we are for or against it, Al Jazeera is a phenomenally successful global brand. Qatar Airways is another great example. In my opinion, Qatar Airways is the best airline in the world, and I am not saying that because I am Qatari. Ask any CEO, chairman or president of any company who has flown on our national carrier and they will all attest to the world-class standards that the airline bears. What this points to is the space that exists for the private sector organizations, for business leaders, for visionary individuals to partner in the nation’s development.
It must be mentioned here that under the leadership of some key individuals like Their Excellencies Sheikha Moza Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al Misned and Sheikha Al Mayassa, Qatar also strives to preserve its heritage and traditions. Whether its investments in education, healthcare or in art and culture at home or prized international investments across the globe, Qatar is in a front-running position.
At Ali Bin Ali we take the idea of comprehensive development very seriously and we bring it into our day-to-day operations. Similar to the country, our growth plans aren’t tilted only towards economic success. We pursue the development of our people, our community and our environment.
Are all of these developments in various fields, and in which Qatar is taking the lead regionally, serving to bridge the gap between the East and Western world?
Oh, yes – without a doubt. This well-thought-through, visionary development has definitely changed perceptions. Looking at Qatar, the world can see an example of what is possible, that there are nations that can contribute in a very pragmatic way to bridging that gap between the East and the West. Qatar will definitely continue to be a leader in this and I am sure it will inspire other nations in the region to follow suit.
Once again even in this sphere, the responsibility to bridge that gap isn’t something that should be solely the burden of the state. Even private sector entities can play a vital role to lessen this gap.
The Ali Bin Ali Group for instance has contributed greatly in the sphere of fostering relationships between international business entities and Qatar. As a homegrown enterprise we have been doing this since our company was established in 1945! So our roots run very deep. It has always been part of our group’s vision to work in partnership, be it with international brands, or with local products and solutions. The Ali Bin Ali Group has worked at fostering an environment where valuable exchanges of commodities and opportunities can take place in an environment of professionalism and trust. It is this kind of commercial and cultural exchange between nations that has the power to contribute constructively towards erasing a divide between East and the West. And I am proud to say that Qatar has been committed to both.
New generations always build on what has already been achieved, keeping to the followed path but continuing to improve and to innovate within it. Is this something you also agree with?
For sure! This is an example for me and for my sons and daughters. That ability to build on what has already been achieved, to not lose momentum nor discard the accumulated success of the past, to not permit the creation of a vacuum, especially during transition – Qatar is a country that has shown the world how it can be done. It is a magnificent example of wisdom and true leadership. That capacity to plan ahead for the future, to transit from one phase to another seamlessly and without interruption, is a very special attribute.
‘Succession planning’ is what it is called in the business world, and it is the key to continued success, be it a country, a family, a company or a conglomerate like Ali Bin Ali Group.
Moving forward, when it comes to the revamping of Qatar’s cultural heritage, the Katara Cultural Village is maybe one of the most impressive developments in the country. You are in charge of operating Katara Plaza, which will establish Qatar’s brand as a place of luxury together with its cultural aspect, which is also the way Qatar is branding itself in terms of tourism. What do you think will be the impact of Qatar Cultural Village?
Katara Cultural Village is very unique. It is one of the most important brands in Qatar. Coming to Qatar and not seeing Katara is like never having come to Qatar at all!
The Cultural Village Foundation is an exceptional project of hope for human interaction through art and cultural exchange – that is what sets it apart. The Ali Bin Ali Group has been entrusted with a huge responsibility to operate Katara Plaza. The project will reflect the spirit of Katara and uphold its highest ideals. For us at Ali Bin Ali, we took the project as a challenge to create something exceptional. We also looked at it as an opportunity to contribute to a great legacy of Qatar.
To comment more specifically on the Katara Plaza project; uniting luxury with culture is something that calls for a fine balance. Both luxury and culture have its own very distinct attributes and in a project like Katara Plaza we are keenly aware of the necessity to ensure that one will not dilute the other. Ali Bin Ali’s goal when we undertook this responsibility was to operate a one-of-a-kind location – a place that will be as authentic as it is luxurious, a place rich in culture while promoting commerce at its highest, a location that will deliver an unforgettable experience as much as it would entertain. So the impact that I envisage is creation of a location that will draw people from all across the world to celebrate culture while experiencing it.
There are many events and major developments going on in the country attracting global attention, such as building the Qatar Museum of Modern Art and preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With everything that is happening, where do you expect to see the Ali Bin Ali Group and Qatar in 2030?
What you will see in 2030 will be the full embodiment of Qatar’s 2030 vision. That vision has been articulated with great clarity. So, come 2030, what the world will witness is the achievement of our nation’s aspirations. Qatar is well experienced now in managing rapid transformation and growth. Like I mentioned earlier we have some great frameworks in place to facilitate massive growth. I fully expect to see huge expansion of cities, state-of-the-art infrastructure, smart buildings and green solutions, educational, cultural and social growth, cutting-edge innovations in healthcare, technology-driven solutions in every industry, flourishing entrepreneurship, a robust business landscape and an even greater preservation of our heritage.
To me personally, as a citizen of this country and also as the head of a Qatari group of companies, this is incredibly exciting. What we have before us is an unprecedented opportunity to contribute constructively to the massive developments that are currently in the pipeline. The Ali Bin Ali Group has been at the forefront of building the future of Qatar’s infrastructure. Take the development of Manateq. That’s Qatar’s Economic, Logistics and Warehousing Parks project. Even as we speak, The Ali Bin Ali Group has an ongoing direct engagement in building and operating these massive state-of-the-art warehousing parks for Qatar.
As the nation transforms to host one of the world’s largest sporting events, the country is totally overhauling its transportation networks from aviation, rail, roads and ports. These are areas that we are fully engaged in.
Looking towards 2030 if I am to parallel the growth of our group’s growth and the nation’s growth, I see Qatar playing a bigger role on the global stage. The country’s vision would have reached full fruition. There will be massive development all round. As for the Ali Bin Ali Group, I expect to see our organization’s strategic growth in full bloom and that includes a wider geographic footprint. I can fully expect to see us engaged in high yielding operations and with an even stronger network of global partnerships. I can see our group fully evolved into a conglomerate that is equipped and ready for the future be it in term of future focused technology or human capital. I can predict this because we are already working towards these goals.