It is a matter of fact that chronic poverty and unemployment have long been the twin hallmarks of most Arab economies. While poverty afflicts between 30 to 40% of the populations of non-oil producing countries, unemployment is denying legions of Arab youth a dignified and productive life.

It seems evident, then, that unless innovative and bold solutions are deployed in the fight against these two problems—indeed in the struggle for our societies’ socio-economic progress–they will haunt future generations, much like they have harassed and demoralized past ones.

Now that the Arab world is contemplating a transformative leap, we, in the private sector, must seize the moment, recognize our vital role in the development of our region, tap into our huge reservoir of knowledge and experience and put vision and resources in action.

The private sector is up to the challenge. Long before 2011 turned into a crossroads, we had begun to embrace our civic responsibilities towards the wider community and understand the interests that link our bottom-line to that of society at large. Barely a decade ago, Corporate Social Responsibility was an alien concept to most in our universe. Today, an increasing number of businesses are adopting CSR as a fixture of corporate policy. CSR is clearly trending.

But in addressing the myriad quandaries that continue to confound us—citizens, businesses and governments alike—none more visibly than youth unemployment and poverty, we need to build upon, even transcend, the hard work done in the name of CSR. We need concerted, collective action. We need a movement that positions the private sector at the center of efforts to deliver a decent living for our people.

I put it to you that Corporate Entrepreneurship Responsibility is the movement: the method through which to lobby, mobilize and organize the private sector towards building region-wide entrepreneurship ecosystems. And these ecosystems would be the bedrock of the sector’s developmental strategies and the nexus around which new public-private partnerships would pivot.

At first glance, my proposition seems extraordinarily audacious. But consider this: The latest study of note that canvased Arab youth aspirations concluded that their highest priority is a decent wage and their greatest concern is the cost of living. And every single serious prognosis of the anemic Arab jobs market links the problem to weak educational systems, overburdened public sectors and ill-studied investments that waste rather than nurture our human capabilities.

And yet, precisely because of this discouraging tableau of realities, the groundwork is all set for CER. Small and medium sized companies (SMEs) already dominate private economies, formal and otherwise, providing the most viable route for our entrepreneurial youth and representing the surest breadwinner for them. Formal SMEs in MENA boast an average 30% of all private sector employment. Add informal ones and watch the figure turn palpably more impressive.

Moreover, startups in emerging countries, no less than in the United States, create the most jobs, generating wealth and unleashing talent. Jabbar and Souq Groups are a showcase of such ripple effects. When Yahoo acquired Maktoob in 2009, the creators of the Arab world’s largest on-line community went on to establish Jabbar and Souq Groups, which promptly raised $100 million and formed eight new companies. According to Samih Toukan, one of the founders of Maktoob, the Groups today employ 600, more than double that of the on-line platform.

The Arab world is teeming with aspiring entrepreneurs who need nurturing, guidance, mentoring, financing… That organizations, like Endeavor, Wamda, Meydan, Oasis500, Flat6Labs, Nahdet el Mahroosa, Sherkitna and Injaz, have risen in response to such needs reflects the private sector’s growing awareness of the contribution it is uniquely equipped to make in facilitating a thriving entrepreneurial environment.

We have everything it takes to make a real difference. My blueprint on CER highlights ten areas that require our attention:

Education
Access to Capital
Access to Knowledge – Mentorship
Access to Networks
Advocacy
Building National Databases: mapping and Indexing Entrepreneurship Ecosystem per city
Media
Intrapreneurship
Doing business with entrepreneurs
Building startup communities and spaces
The options I cite under each in the soon-to-be published blueprint are designed to trigger discussions, concentrate efforts and invite country-specific solutions.

Through CER, I am calling upon the private sector to proclaim an active stake in building an inclusive future.

Any individual and/or company could set up a local chapter in order to champion CER. The local chapter’s responsibilities will be to mobilize private sector actors to focus their energies on the ten areas I have outlined above.

To join, interested parties can register on Wamda, which will disseminate instructions for joining local chapters.

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It is a matter of fact that chronic poverty and unemployment have long been the twin hallmarks of most Arab economies. While poverty afflicts between 30 to 40% of the populations of non-oil producing countries, unemployment is denying legions of Arab youth a dignified and productive life. It seems evident, then, that unless innovative and bold [...]

“Betting on Entrepreneurs” My talk at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit http://bit.ly/QBA0Gg

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I am giving a talk on Enrepreneurship and Society next week… I would love to hear from you on what issues you think I should address and why… short and sweet please :)

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I am giving a talk on Enrepreneurship and Society next week… I would love to hear from you on what issues you think I should address and why… short and sweet please window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", status: true, cookie: true, xfbml: true}); }; (function() [...]

May 28, 2012 2:09 pm

Tea with FT Middle East: Fadi Ghandour

By Michael Peel

Weeks before the start of the uprisings that have turned the Arab world upside down, Fadi Ghandour had a memorable chat with another regional business titan, the Egyptian telecommunications magnate, Naguib Sawiris.

During an onstage interview by Mr Ghandour at a November 2010 event in Dubai, Mr Sawiris shocked the audience by saying that his idea of change in the Middle East would be “if everybody sitting here will overturn the governments we have.”
“I said [to myself]: ‘I am not going to go there’,” Mr Ghandour, founder of Aramex, the logistics company, recalls with a laugh. “I am an activist – but as a citizen, not a politician.”

It’s a philosophy that has served Mr Ghandour well during three decades when Aramex grew from nothing to a more than $700m business, becoming along the way the first Arab world company to list on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange. Now, as he prepares to step down at the end of this year as the company’s chief executive, his mind is focused on the economic side of the political change roiling the region.

“Private enterprise, job creation, youth empowerment are things that I think is what the Arab Spring is all about,” he says in an interview one afternoon in his 23rd floor office, perched above the office parks that are home to Dubai’s media and internet industries. “Yes, political freedom and political expression are important. [But] without economic vibrancy, in any country, democracy becomes an empty promise.”

Mr Ghandour, a 53-year-old Jordanian national, traces his entrepreneurial sense of purpose in part back to his father, Ali. Now 81, Mr Ghandour senior had an extraordinary career that ranged from fleeing Lebanon to Jordan as a political refugee, to helping with the establishment of Royal Jordanian, the national airline. He taught his son “that you have to be on your toes all the time, you have to be alert all the time, maybe some paranoia here and there,” says the wiry and energetic younger Mr Ghandour, who fuels himself with multiple cups of coffee each morning but prefers to avoid it after lunch.

Mr Ghandour was not long graduated from George Washington University when he cofounded Aramex in the early 1980s along with Bill Kingston, a family friend who ran a courier business in the US and spotted a gap in the market in the Middle East. Aramex – Arabian American Express, shortened to be less geographically limiting and to avoid possible anti-Arab prejudice – grew relentlessly towards its Nasdaq listing in 1997, before going private again in 2002 and then relisting on Dubai’s stock market in 2005.

Mr Ghandour sees the whole process of taking the company public as having instilled a discipline essential to any start-up that wants to become a big business.

“We cleaned up the organisation before we went public on Nasdaq,” he recalls. “That was so essential for us for us to become the world class company we are today.”

Mr Ghandour will soon step into the freshly-created job of vice-chairman of Aramex, where he will focus on sustainability, strategy and new investments. The company is expanding through ventures such as Shop & Ship, which uses a network of US and UK post office boxes to pick up deliveries from the many online shopping sites that don’t deliver to the Middle East.

A social media convert from the early days, Mr Ghandour is also hot on maintaining Aramex’s image on the internet. He has a team of about half a dozen people in Dubai and Amman who monitor the web for good, bad and indifferent comments about the company. He says he takes personal charge of, on average, one client query a day.

“Your product reviews are instantaneous and there is a need for instantaneous gratification,” he says, adding that the word-of-mouth said by marketers to affect ten potential customers in the pre-internet era now probably has an impact on thousands. “A client who is in China can say something about your product and someone will hear about you that second in Dubai or Amman and Nairobi. People will monitor how you react – and you had better be prepared for it.”

Another increasingly important strand of Mr Ghandour’s professional life is his backing – both financial and rhetorical – for the next generation of Arab entrepreneurs. Mena Venture Investments, a $40m fund he has set up with Arif Naqfi, the founder of Abraaj Capital, the biggest private equity investor in the Middle East, has already put money into 42 companies.

Mr Ghandour – who says prospective entrepreneurs send him three or four business plans a day – has already scored a hit with his investment in Maktoob, an Arabic language web portal bought by Yahoo of the US in 2009. He sees a “boom” in shopping websites such as Amman-based MarkaVIP, which attracts customers with “flash sales”, or short term discounts.

“Maktoob highlighted that you can build an internet business in the Arab world and sell it and make money out of it,” Mr Ghandour says. “The social media explosion in the Arab world has also made people aware of the internet and the possibilities of the internet. So finance will come, I think.”

While Egypt’s Mr Sawiris continues to play a lively part in his country’s politics – including landing himself in hot water last year after he retweeted a cartoon of Mickey Mouse mocked up with a beard and Minnie Mouse with an Islamic veil – Mr Ghandour has carved out a different role.

He praises the infrastructure available for start-up companies in Jordan and says he believes efforts are being made at political reform, in the face of sporadic protests and changes of government over the past year and a half.

“In today’s world you don’t need to be a politician to make a difference,” Mr Ghandour says. “In fact, it’s the other way around: if you are in politics you are limited in what you are going to be able to do.”

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May 28, 2012 2:09 pm Tea with FT Middle East: Fadi Ghandour By Michael Peel Weeks before the start of the uprisings that have turned the Arab world upside down, Fadi Ghandour had a memorable chat with another regional business titan, the Egyptian telecommunications magnate, Naguib Sawiris. During an onstage interview by Mr Ghandour at a November 2010 [...]

Fadi Ghandour interview: Aramex
Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour will this year step down as CEO of the logistics giant he created from scratch. He talks to Arabian Business about the challenges he faced in building a $700m operation, which became the first and only ever Arab company to list on Nasdaq

By Massoud Derhally Sunday, 27 May 2012 8:30 AM

Fadi Ghandour is not much of a yoga person. A one hour swim gets him going in the morning. He lets go, focuses on his breathing and meditates. By 10:00 a.m. Ghandour, 53, hits the ground running, switching gears between firefighting, attending meetings, talking on the phone, reading emails and tweeting to his 14,000 followers.

Thirty years on since he founded Aramex in Jordan before taking it public on the Nasdaq and making it the first and only Arab company to do so, Ghandour is not only a successful entrepreneur but a charismatic, passionate and selfless business leader who wants to share the plethora of information he’s gathered over the years.

Getting to where Ghandour is and where Aramex is was no easy ride. It was a combination of an intuitive ability to gauge the direction of the $200bn global express and courier industry, luck, timing, patience, persistence, and good salesmanship, coupled with strong leadership skills, governance, and the entrepreneurship drive that made Aramex into the largest courier company in the Middle East.

When family friend Bill Kingson came up with the idea of starting a courier company and entering the industry, Ghandour was fresh out of George Washington University and working in a car rental shop in Amman. Meanwhile, FedEx was in overdrive, playing commercials on US television sets on why America needed to deliver their packages overnight and not wait for the post office to do so in three days or more.

“We were talking and Bill said there is this industry coming up,’’ Ghandour recalls. “So we said let’s go and check this out and we stumbled on something that was very important, that these courier companies in the US did not go global and were clearly focusing on their domestic market,’’ Ghandour says.

Thirty years on, and Aramex is worth $700m on the Dubai Financial Market, with latest results showing first-quarter profits for the year jumping 22 percent to $16.6m. Make no mistake, this is a giant in every sense of the word, with 12,300 staff in 353 different locations across 60 countries.

But getting here has been no cakewalk. The key challenge for any start-up and for a company that comes out of this region is competing with giants. From its inception, Aramex’ main competitor was DHL, a global multi-billion-dollar company. Aramex, a small company then, was in a market that was highly regulated. For building a brand and attracting people, talent was critical. Another issue, as with all start-ups was managing cash flow. Aramex’s success came in stages. It found a niche in the Middle East market by selling its services to global express players like FedEx and Airborne Express, where it became the outsourcing arm of these firms delivering their packages in the Arab world instead of them using competitors.

“We told them ‘look you get packages that go global but you don’t know what to do with them, you normally give them to your competitors to deliver them so why don’t you give them to us and we will establish a neutral Middle Eastern network to deliver your packages for you’. That’s how we got to build our network on the back of our wholesale clients,’’ Ghandour says. “From there on like every start-up, everything you plan does not necessarily work and then all sort of opportunities pop up and you learn by mistakes and trial and error.”

Striking a deal with Airborne Express, the third-largest courier in the US at the time, which bought nine percent of Aramex and invested $2m in the company, would prove to be pivotal to its future. Technology makes small businesses more competitive. It helps reduce the exclusivity of markets that may be beyond their reach and the alliance with Airborne Express opened doors for Aramex.
“We were lucky. That’s where we learned our business,’’ Ghandour says. “The biggest alliance we had was with Airborne Express, which gave us the ability to understand technology and have tracking and tracing systems without having to own our own technology. Not only did we learn the business from them and others but because of the strategic alliance, they provided a network of interconnected computers connected to a central mainframe in Seattle that allowed everybody in the strategic alliance around the world to actually have visibility on their shipments and real time tracking and tracing.’’

Working with FedEx and Airborne Express not only allowed Aramex to learn about the courier industry, what the requirements of global companies are, but it also provided valuable know-how related to tailoring customer service, managing operations, and delivering information on time.

“We learned at the hands of the best,’’ Ghandour says.

These were the early days, and then eventually it became about building the Aramex brand in the Arab world and creating a global company through its own physical presence on the ground or through building alliances. In the countries Aramex did not exist, the company aligned itself with similar enterprises and created global strategic alliances to essentially deliver a global service.
Alliances “taught me how to expand without having the cash,’’ Ghandour says. “This was the best way to go global without having to acquire or spend a heck of a lot of cash.’’
To evolve though, the company needed more capital. The partnership with Airborne took the company only so far and angel investing in the mid 1990s was very rare if non-existent in the Arab world especially in a company that was and remains non-asset based and does not directly own transportation infrastructure.
Failing to raise money in the Arab world forced Aramex to go to the Nasdaq in 1997 and Nasdaq, according to Ghandour, is what made Aramex today in terms of its governance, its reporting, its management, its understanding of global markets, responding to investors and their needs.

“Nasdaq was an accidental option,” Ghandour says. “It was an option that we didn’t take as seriously originally as we eventually did. We needed cash to grow the business, we were growing fast like every company even though we had been in operation by that time for fourteen years. But this was not a dotcom era, it was a hardcore bricks and mortar business.”

“Aramex is a continuous story of failures in one place that lead to successes that are much more impressive and more important in our life than the original endeavour,” Ghandour explains. “Nasdaq disciplines you like hell and adhering to SEC standards is like no other. We are a product of Nasdaq. It changed me as a person, it changed me as a CEO, as a disciplined manager. It changed me completely. Nasdaq was the one single milestone. If it wasn’t for NASDAQ everything wouldn’t have happened.”
In March 2002, Aramex delisted from NASDAQ, and returned to private ownership after being acquired in a leveraged buyout by the Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital. “Exiting Nasdaq was important for us because we could be more entrepreneurial and could be less worried about public pressure,” Ghandour says. “Abraaj gave us leeway to be more entrepreneurial, because it was partly a leveraged buyout, it created financial discipline inside the organisation. The minute you have debt on your books you are much more financially disciplined in order to be able to deliver back on your obligations.”

In 2005 Aramex went public again, this time on the Dubai Financial Market. Its IPO was 80 times oversubscribed and Abraaj, which had acquired the company at around $65m in value out of Nasdaq, relisted it on the Dubai exchange at about $290m.

Between Nasdaq and the second IPO Aramex grew regionally on the ground and virtually. The internet and the advent of e-commerce changed the way Ghandour and Aramex did business. Out went the conventional means of communication and in came new arenas for dialogue and trade. As products and services were being ordered online rather than through traditional sales outlets Aramex adapted and its business grew in tandem. One very good example is the company’s ’shop and ship’ service, which provides subscribers with a UK or US delivery address and forwards their packages from these locations to customers.

“In today’s world you get instant feedback about everything you do,” Ghandour says. “That means you need to change the way you look at things. That means the front line of business is not only physical, it’s virtual.”
Aramex is not the only company Ghandour helped found. He helped establish and back Maktoob.com, the Jordanian Arabic-language internet venture, which became the largest portal in the Arab world before being acquired in 2009 by Yahoo for about $165m.
In a region where 65 percent of people are under the age of 30, which has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, where the educated emigrate, where 100 million jobs need to be created over the next two decades, where the culture of family businesses and protectionism linger, Ghandour thinks entrepreneurship is key to overcoming obstacles and driving the maturity of local economies.

“People think this is only an Arab Spring story – it’s not. Empowering the youth in the Arab world is the huge story and it has been for years,” Ghandour says. “I think entrepreneurship, and having a generation that creates companies, a generation that employs rather than looks for employment is probably one of the biggest ways of solving productivity in the Arab world. That’s why I think entrepreneurship is essential.”

As he prepares to give up his role as CEO of Aramex, for Ghandour satisfaction comes at having reached a stage where he can share what he’s learned along the way, invest and put his money where his mouth is.

“I experienced entrepreneurship from the ground up and understand what it is to run a business from scratch,” he says. “The struggle of fourteen years in our early days gave me an appreciation for every single person that ventures into that process. That’s key for me. I know how much these people need support and can actually make it if they get the right support,” he emphasises.
Ghandour also serves on the advisory board of the American University of Beirut’s business school and chairs Wamda.com, an online platform for information and knowledge on entrepreneurship in the Middle East. In 2005 he founded Amman-based Ruwwad, a regional initiative that aims to empower disadvantaged communities and help them overcome marginalisation through youth activism, civic engagement and education.

“The best leaders are people who bring in fantastic talented people that work with them,” Ghandour says when asked about what makes a good leader.

“Many times they might be better than they are. If you want to see a good leader today, look at the people that work around them. If a leader talks about himself, it doesn’t work. It’s like a conductor in a symphony, but the people that make the music are not you necessarily.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs Ghandour says patience is as important as determination. “You need to remain patient and you need to be impatient at the same time. It’s a paradox,” Ghandour says.

“You make mistakes because you’re impatient and eventually you learn,” Ghandour says, adding, “Patience also comes from the ability to understand that you don’t know much and you are always seeking knowledge and information and never being satisfied in the sense that I have made it. Whoever thinks he’s made it hasn’t really, because there’s much more to be done if you want to continue in your industry and compete.”

“The way that you know you haven’t made it is by positioning yourself as a human being and as an organisation in a learning position. I have to keep my eyes and ears open all the time. That means not just looking at my industry. What worries me today is what is happening in the internet, in e-commerce, in the retail industry, in manufacturing, these are things that affect how we evolve and how we remain focused on our clients.”

As Ghandour looks to handing his position over to Hussein Hachem at the end of the year after which he’ll focus on angel investing and working with young entrepreneurs, he says he doesn’t really think much about having a legacy.

“I will leave Aramex without leaving,” he says. “It will continue exactly as is with new leaders that will continue to build it maybe in different directions but without necessarily feeling the absence of Fadi but not the CEO. So it continues flowing like a river. You work so hard to build an institution and it’s not about one individual but the collective effort.”
Whether the Aramex river continues to flow smoothly without Ghandour at the helm, only time will tell.

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Fadi Ghandour interview: Aramex Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour will this year step down as CEO of the logistics giant he created from scratch. He talks to Arabian Business about the challenges he faced in building a $700m operation, which became the first and only ever Arab company to list on Nasdaq By Massoud Derhally Sunday, [...]

So Arabnet is here. If you are a regular visitor to the Beirut conference you are going to see a very strong Jordanian presence. For a country with less than 6 million people, few god-given natural resources, in a mostly desert kingdom, with very little water, Jordan is a superstar of entrepreneurship in the Arab world. So how did this happen? What is the story of Jordan and tech entrepreneurs? How can other countries learn from Jordan’s approach?

Here is my take as a Jordanian, an Arab that roams the world, and an angel investor that has been doing business in every single Arab country for the past three decades:

1. There is no safety net. When you know someone is going to pick catch you (hint: government) you have no incentive to jump. Strange, no? Well, entrepreneurs are risk takers. When risk is minimized and we are dependent on the generosity and grants of others, then we have no incentive to make it happen. “Father knows best” does not work here.

2. The private sector leads, thinks and drives the story. The public sector plays only as an enabler… this formula works and works very well!

3. Political will and policy are driven by clear vision. Back in 1999, a group from the private sector presented HM King Abdullah with a blueprint for launching the IT industry in the country, called the “REACH Initiative.” He adopted it and pushed his government to facilitate the plan, and the rest is history. When there is a will there is a way. Yes, the private sector can work with the public sector, and yes, good things can come of it.

4. It has open systems and no web censorship. Believe me, if you sensor heavily, you drive people away. Don’t even think about it. Innovative eco-systems require open systems. And Jordan does not censor!

5. Competition exists in the telecom sector. Jordan has a totally open and deregulated sector with an independent regulator. This drives prices down and brings service levels up, and thus broadband is available at reasonable cost. This is an essential element for driving the IT industry; without it you cannot compete nor start a business.

6. There are no foreign ownership restrictions, and Jordan boasts a free trade agreement. Being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is important for any country with few resources, and in Jordan, it enables Jordanian companies to start in Jordan, learn, and make mistakes, then go global.

7. There is a substantial support community. Angel investors, mentors, incubators, venture capital, and Y-combinators like Oasis500, Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship, Endeavor, IV Holdings, I-Park, and Meydan among several others work to support entrepreneurs.

8. Last but not least, there is Maktoob, where it all started. A company launched out of Amman became the largest Arab internet company later to be sold to Yahoo, making it the largest deal of its kind in the region. This exit allowed many Maktoob employees to start companies afterwards, and the success story made other entrepreneurs feel that this industry is moving forward, so they could take the plunge and start a company.

The result is that now, in the spring of the Arabs and awakening of regional empowerment, Jordanians are busy building companies and finding markets, building and nurturing talent, and exploring the world.

These are my reasons. Please add yours, and feel free to disagree.

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So Arabnet is here. If you are a regular visitor to the Beirut conference you are going to see a very strong Jordanian presence. For a country with less than 6 million people, few god-given natural resources, in a mostly desert kingdom, with very little water, Jordan is a superstar of entrepreneurship in the Arab [...]

A Lesson in Leadership: my talk with Tony Fernandes of Air Asia

He walks in to greet us and starts cracking jokes. Full of passion and charisma, his knowledge of every single detail of his company is evident. Spending time with Tony Fernandes, the founder of Air Asia, is an education in leadership and management of a unique kind.

I ask him what is it that makes this company so different, so successful, and so passionate about everything it does, creating a culture that shows on the faces of every single person in the company. He says, “Our corporate culture is it. It’s what makes us.” And it’s what makes this such a powerful story; Tony Fernandes is not an ordinary CEO and Air Asia is not an ordinary company.

Walking with him across the one floor where the company exists is like walking with a rock star getting ready to go on stage, except that every single person he says hello to is not a fan but part of the band (or brand for that matter). Management sits on one huge stage in an open space office, where the chief pilot has a corner desk looking at the operations team, which is right next to the flight attendant team, which is right next to the reception area, and where there is no call center but an online chat customer service team.

(Tony says that he shut down the call center because there was no use for it and it was not doing what it is supposed to do. So his website, where the client comes, books, pays, and complains, or rejoices, is one big happy floor– all connected, all visible, and all orchestrated by Tony).

If you did not know this was an airline, you would think you were walking into a dot com company, with a chief evangelist living in Kuala Lumpur, not in Silicon Valley.

So what is this corporate culture that changes lives and makes this company one of the most successful airlines in the world? It asks the question, “Hierarchy, what hierarchy?” Tony is a leader and a manager, but he is one of the team also. So his office is smack at the heart of the company, with no walls and no doors. Everyone sees him and he sees everyone. He is Tony to everyone and he is in his polo shirt and with his famous baseball cap. His only vice is that he gets a special parking slot right next to the door of his building, for his two-door white Peugeot.

Stepping out of his car to his office, which is next to the passenger terminal, he is stopped by clients who want his autograph and to take a photo with him. He talks to them, carries their bags, checks them in and walks the aisles of the plane.

So, can corporate culture be the only competitive advantage of a company? You bet it can. In a business of people, people make and break companies, and their happiness is what matters most. You can buy the best airplanes in the world and they will cost you hundreds of millions of dollars, but if you do not have the people to make this investment in your planes worthwhile, you’re going to vanish. The airline industry is filled with brands that one never thought would not exist today. Yet Tony, with his simple idea that people matter, and his ability to walk the talk, has created the ultimate people’s company, with billions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of million in operating income. How many companies could achieve such incredible margins, and how many airlines could run 100 aircrafts, with over 300 takeoffs and landings a day, and still make this much money? It’s a rare commodity by any rubric.

Tony Fernandes throws Michael Porter’s theories about the airline industry into disarray. Tony defies MBA theory, and gravity, just because his corporate leadership and management is one that makes working for an airline as cool as working for Google or Zynga or Facebook.

After 4 hours with tony, eating airline food with him at the open air cafeteria with every single trainee, captain, and ground handling staff, I walked away thinking that I just went to leadership school, and learned what I have always known: walking the talk is not a theory, it is life itself in the corporate world, in the leadership world, and in the consumer world, where customers rule through instant feedback on Facebook, Twitter, and everything in between.

So while we may continue to look West to learn, sometimes the real lessons occur where East converges with South, mixes with “down to earth,” and is energized by the magic touch of a leader who makes working a pleasure and puts a smile on every face.

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A Lesson in Leadership: my talk with Tony Fernandes of Air Asia He walks in to greet us and starts cracking jokes. Full of passion and charisma, his knowledge of every single detail of his company is evident. Spending time with Tony Fernandes, the founder of Air Asia, is an education in leadership and management [...]

A poem to live (and survive) by, written by James Baldwin

Some days worry
some days glad
some days
more than make you mad.
Some days,
some days, more than shine:
when you see what’s coming
on down the line!

Some days you say,
oh, not me never – !
Some days you say
bless God forever.
Some days, you say,
curse God, and die
and the day comes when you wrestle
with that lie.
Some days tussle
then some days groan
and some days
don’t even leave a bone.
Some days you hassle
all alone.

I don’t know, sister,
what I’m saying,
nor do no man,
if he don’t be praying.
I know that love is the only answer
and the tight-rope lover
the only dancer.

When the lover come off the rope today,
the net which holds him is how we pray,
and not to God’s unknown,
but to each other – :
the falling mortal is our brother!

Some days leave
some days grieve
some days you almost don’t believe.
Some days believe you,
some days don’t,
some days believe you
and you won’t.
Some days worry
some days mad
some days more than make you glad.
Some days, some days,
more than shine,
witnesses,

coming on down the line!

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A poem to live (and survive) by, written by James Baldwin” Some days worry some days glad some days more than make you mad. Some days, some days, more than shine: when you see what’s coming on down the line! Some days you say, oh, not me never – ! Some days you say bless God forever. Some days, you say, curse God, and die and the day comes when [...]

فادي غندور يناقش ريادة الأعمال في الحقبة الجديدة I am really interested in your feedback

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فادي غندور يناقش ريادة الأعمال في الحقبة الجديدة I am really interested in your feedback window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", status: true, cookie: true, xfbml: true}); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement("script"); e.async = true; e.src = document.location.protocol + "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js"; document.getElementById("fb-root").appendChild(e); }()); Tweet

In this age of revolutionary change, when overnight nothing is the same, when humble role models in remote areas of the world become more powerful in their symbolism than the most feared of systems, citizens all over the world feel a sudden empowerment, the urge to do, the urge to conquer the world.

Gradualism does not work anymore; evolutionary change needs to be a bit more revolutionary, a bit more insistent… Society as a whole must be involved. Individuals are voting with their feet every day, people with an agenda and people without food on their table and people who just feel the need for change are coming together and forming a global tribe of change makers. Twitter, Facebook and other virtual connectors are bringing the long tail of the Internet into every home and awakening something that one thought was in deep sleep.

Not one of those people voting with their surfing connectivity and their feet knows what will come. But they all feel that whatever it is, it is better than what they have. Their sudden feeling of ownership and belonging is more powerful than anything they have felt before; and when something is yours, you protect it and shape it.

Entrepreneurs, the private sector and enterprising individuals have to understand this because it has serious implications for them more than they think. This is not about governments or democracy alone; it is about governance and dignity. It is about society rebelling and wanting a better life. It is about society saying we are not asleep and our wellbeing matters. It is about society saying this status quo cannot go on and we need to do something about it. It is about society saying we are citizens, and we want to be able to shape our future.

Entrepreneurs, more than anyone else, should be able to understand this. As it is that same sense of ownership and that same refusal of the status quo that lead them to venture into their own endeavors. It is that same reason that inspires a business man like Maher Kaddoura to work relentlessly for safer roads in Jordan rather than wait for the government to do so. In 3 years, the results are astounding: 32% drop in fatalities in traffic accidents and a massive 46% drop in serious injuries from car accidents in Jordan.

The same is true for Yasmina Abu Youssef, a young lady who runs her family business in Egypt. When she visited a slum in Ezbet Kheirallah in the heart of Cairo, where illiteracy, poverty and malnutrition are a fact of life, she decided that change is needed and that this area is as much her home as the rest of Cairo. So she opened a school: “Khatawat”. Her school has more than 150 children, and it is quickly transforming into a community center, where children and parents learn not only to read and write but skills that will allow them to make a living.

Upon her graduation from the American University in Cairo, Raghda al Ebrashi felt that it was up to her to find a creative way to help marginalized communities in Egypt. She established Alashanek Ya Baladi, an NGO whose activities range from nurturing skills among disadvantaged youth, linking training with employment opportunities and providing microfinance to small businesses run mostly by women.

While some entrepreneurs and corporations have rebelled against the Milton Friedmans of this world (those who only believe in profit maximization as sole goals for businesses) by investing in their communities and aligning their corporations’ values with that of their societies, many others have not.

There is still much for us in the private sector to learn from this. We have to understand that this is also about us; about how we manage our businesses, how we treat our people, how we care about our environment, how we invest in our employees, how we treat them and empower them. It is not about corporate social responsibility and its PR shallowness; rather it is about corporate values and their total integration into the needs of the society these companies operate in.

Companies living in societies that are not well will not last. These companies are not sustainable and will perish sooner rather than later. The private sector has to wake up and reflect hard on its missions, its vision and its responsibilities. It has to finally grasp that profits will only last as long as they live in a society– their small society of employees and the larger society of citizens- that is happy, affluent and empowered… and that its wellbeing has a direct and powerful effect on the wellbeing of shareholders and quarterly results.

So to all my friends in the private sector, wake up and smell the Jasmine. Stop sitting back and thinking that development is someone else’s responsibility, that education is something to complain about and that pollution is a theory.

Embrace the citizens that have decided to make a difference on the ground.
Put your skills, expertise, resources and networks at the service of citizens and partner with them.
Look at the partnership opportunities that are creating shared values for both your business and society.
Use your creative mindset to develop innovative solutions and inclusive models of development.

Opportunities across the region are ample, and citizens across the region are reaching out… I hope that you are listening to them.

Get Engaged

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In this age of revolutionary change, when overnight nothing is the same, when humble role models in remote areas of the world become more powerful in their symbolism than the most feared of systems, citizens all over the world feel a sudden empowerment, the urge to do, the urge to conquer the world. Gradualism does not [...]