Archives for the month of: February, 2011

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 [...]

Yet we have millions of very productive expatriates. Why ? Is it the job type, the salary, culture, what is it that prevents our youth from taking these jobs ??

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Yet we have millions of very productive expatriates. Why ? Is it the job type, the salary, culture, what is it that prevents our youth from taking these jobs ?? Tweet

http://bit.ly/gIIZDf

How I Did It: The CEO of Aramex on Turning a Failed Sale into a Huge Opportunity
by Fadi Ghandour
The Idea: Fadi Ghandour has built one of the most successful entrepreneurial enterprises to emerge from the Arab world, Aramex International, overcoming rejections, cash-flow crises, and naysayers in every country where he tried to do business. Read the Executive Summary
In 1984, two years into building the express delivery company Aramex, I was preparing for the most important meeting I’d ever had. My partner, Bill Kingson, and I were hoping to persuade the Seattle-based Airborne Express to buy 50% of Aramex for $100,000.

At the time, out of a modest office in Amman, Jordan, we had launched several other small offices in the Middle East, hoping to become the first courier company based in that region. Our operations were tiny (we hadn’t yet exceeded $1 million in revenue), I was personally playing a range of roles from chief salesman to occasional delivery guy, and the cash flow was uncomfortably tight. We were what I would describe as a guerrilla setup—a scrappy, hand-to-mouth business.

The Middle East was not yet seen as a growth opportunity for global courier companies: Skirting civil wars and complex political relationships was an enormous logistical and bureaucratic challenge. In addition, in some countries the business market wasn’t yet demanding courier services; in others those services were monopolized by companies or the postal authorities. We thought that such an investment from Airborne, along with the explicit endorsement of one of the world’s most respected logistics companies, could seal the future of our start-up.

Bill and I did get in to meet with both the CEO and the COO of Airborne Express, but they swiftly turned us down. Airborne was just starting to explore expansion outside the U.S. and wasn’t ready to invest in a small market like the Middle East, let alone in a start-up. That was a huge disappointment to Bill and me. But we left the meeting with a valuable consolation prize: the promise of some business. At that time Airborne was occasionally asked to courier packages to various Arab countries; it would use either a competitor or some small London-based company to deliver in the region. Because the Middle East was such an insignificant part of Airborne’s business, there would be little risk in giving those packages to Aramex. But to us it meant the largest and most important account for a long time. Our pitch had been that we could reliably handle whatever business Airborne acquired in the region—so it wouldn’t have to turn to a competitor. We could be a neutral partner, acting on its behalf.

I realized immediately that Airborne’s offer would give us an opportunity to learn from one of the world’s most successful courier companies—and, more crucial, to take advantage of its technology and global reach. Instead of getting a 50% owner, we would get a master class on how to grow our own business. That partnership would make the difference to our survival—and provide us with the rapid learning curve to set our own ambitions high. Nineteen years later, when Airborne was sold to its former archrival, DHL, not only had we learned everything we could from it, but we were ready to be a global leader in our own right.

“We Are Airborne Express…and Federal Express…and…”
Business from Airborne gave us enough credibility to knock on other doors. I realized that the prime competitors in the logistics and courier business feared one another more than they would fear us. So we sold our services as being provided by safe, neutral hands. We would call clients and say, “We are Airborne Express,” or “We are Emery”—whatever company we were representing. We wore many hats and customized our services to suit whoever gave us business. If you looked back at the global offices of some of the major package-delivery companies in the 1980s and 1990s, you’d find some recurring addresses. Those were actually Aramex offices.

After knocking on the door at Federal Express time and time again, we finally gained it as a client in 1987. Aramex thus acquired its single largest account to date, because FedEx had more packages going into the Middle East than all its competitors combined, giving us a healthy monthly infusion of cash.

But our first serious relationship was to be our most significant. Airborne Express started to build a global alliance of regional courier companies like Aramex in order to offer customers service in every corner of the world without having to run or acquire all those operations itself. We were among the first of what would eventually be roughly 40 companies in the alliance—which was called Overseas Express Carriers (OEC)—whose responsibilities included establishing common operating procedures, rates, and quality assurance. Because Airborne provided its package-tracking technology to all its OEC partners, we had an enormous competitive advantage at a very low cost. (We also acquired e-mail early on, achieving a quantum leap in management efficiency.) Previously Aramex had relied on faxes and telex machines for tracking and tracing; we didn’t have the resources or the expertise to create our own system. Suddenly we were part of a sophisticated global operation. We’d been given access to similar systems from FedEx and Emery, but without permission to use them for our own Middle Eastern customers. Airborne’s system elevated us to a whole new level of service.

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http://bit.ly/gIIZDf How I Did It: The CEO of Aramex on Turning a Failed Sale into a Huge Opportunity by Fadi Ghandour The Idea: Fadi Ghandour has built one of the most successful entrepreneurial enterprises to emerge from the Arab world, Aramex International, overcoming rejections, cash-flow crises, and naysayers in every country where he tried to do business. Read [...]

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/676e0f42-3df5-11e0-99ac-00144feabdc0.html

My comment on this article is that it is too general and the writer does know what is really happening on the ground in the region … bearing in mind that;
Rentier state mentality is the domain of certain groups who got intoxicated by it … solution is a better education system, and showing our youth how to own their future, through entrepreneurship and building their skills for better chances of employability, to liberate them from rent mentality and state dependency

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http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/676e0f42-3df5-11e0-99ac-00144feabdc0.html My comment on this article is that it is too general and the writer does know what is really happening on the ground in the region … bearing in mind that; Rentier state mentality is the domain of certain groups who got intoxicated by it … solution is a better education system, and showing our [...]