Archives for category: Aramex

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.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012. You may share using our article tools.
Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Google Buzz
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 [...]

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.

Google Buzz
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 [...]

I posted this piece with my good friends at 7iber …

http://www.7iber.com/2010/10/letter-from-aramex/

مسؤوليتنا تجاه البيئة
بقلم: فادي غندور
انطلاقاً من التزامنا بمسؤوليتنا اتجاه جميع شركائنا – بمن فيهم المجتمعات التي ننتمي إليها، وعملائنا، ومساهمينا، وشركائنا التجاريين، وموظفينا – وكنتيجة للتغيرات المناخية المرتبطة بمشاكل الاحتباس الحراري والتلوث البيئي التي شهدها كوكبنا في ال 20 سنة الأخيرة، فإننا نعي حجم التلوث الناتج عن قطاع النقل الذي شكل جزءأ لا يتجزأ من عملياتنا ونلتزم بمسؤوليتنا اتجاه البيئة، حيث تشكل الانبعاثات الغازية الناتجة عن قطاع النقل وحده 14% من نسبة التلوث في العالم. لذلك فقد قمنا بوضع أهدافٍ طموحة على الصعيدين الداخلي والخارجي، للحد من الأثر البيئي لعملياتنا ولترشيد استخدام الطاقة وايجاد مصادر طاقة بديلة.

فعلى الصعيد الداخلي لأرامكس، قمنا بتحويل مركباتنا لتتناسب مع أعلى المعايير العالمية؛ حيث تم تحويل 78% من أسطولنا الى مركبات ذات انبعاثات خفيفية، 44% منها مطابقة للمعيار الاوروبي EURO 4. كما بدأنا في عام 2009 بتحويل مركباتنا للعمل على الغاز الطبيعي أينما توفر في مناطق عملياتنا، كما في مصر والهند، وسنستكمل هذا التحويل خلال الأشهر القادمة. أما في الأردن فقد كناَ أول شركةٍ تستخدم السيارات الهجينة في أسطولها، وبدأ مكتبنا في لبنان بتزويد عملياته بدراجات هجينة لخفض معدلات الانبعاثات الكربونية. وفي الهند فقد بدأنا بتحويل أسطولنا من الدراجات النارية الى دراجات كهربائية ذات انبعاث كربوني يعادل الصفر. ونتيجة لهذه البرامج فقد تمكنا من تخفيض استهلاكنا للوقود لكل شحنة بما يعادل 21%، مما أدى الى تخفيض انبعاث الكربون لكل شحنة بنفس النسبة.

وفي نفس الإطار، وضعنا اجراءات استراتيجية للتقليل من استخدام المواد البلاستيكية في عملياتنا، حيث قمنا باستبدال مغلفات الطرود البلاستيكية بمغلفات مصنعة من مواد عضوية قابلة للتحلل. أما في مجال استهلاكنا للورق ومنتجاته، فقد اتخذنا اجراءات لتقليل وترشيد وتدوير الورق، وقد أدت هذه الإجراءات الى توفير ما يعادل 100 طن من الورق، أي ما يعادل 1,700 شجرة على مدى 3 سنوات.

أما على الصعيد الخارجي، فنحن ندعم ونشجع المبادارات الريادية التي تنشر الوعي البيئي وتحفز على تطبيق الممارسات البيئية الفاعلة. ومن أمثلة هذا الدعم، مشاركة متطوعين من أرامكس ومؤسسة رواد للتنمية في زراعة الأشجار في منطقة المفرق في الأردن، كجزء من فعاليات “أسبوع حبر الأخضر”، أحد نماذج المبادرات الريادية الواعية لأهمية الشراكة المجتمعية للحفاظ على البيئة من خلال التواصل مع أفراد المجتمع عبر الشبكات الاجتماعية على الانترنت.

وفي الختام، نود أن نؤكد على دور كل من القطاع خاص، والحكومات، والأفراد، كلٌ على حدٍ سواء في دعم وتشجيع مثل هذه المبادرات، كما وندعوهم لاتخاذ منحى جديدا تجاه الخيارات والسلوكيات البيئية التي يتبعونها، للتعلم من الأخطاء، والتكيف والتأقلم مع التحديات الجديدة، والالتزام بالمحافظة على البيئة، من أجل العيش والبقاء في هذا العالم.

*المؤسس والرئيس التنفيذي لشركة أرامكس

Google Buzz
I posted this piece with my good friends at 7iber … http://www.7iber.com/2010/10/letter-from-aramex/ مسؤوليتنا تجاه البيئة بقلم: فادي غندور انطلاقاً من التزامنا بمسؤوليتنا اتجاه جميع شركائنا – بمن فيهم المجتمعات التي ننتمي إليها، وعملائنا، ومساهمينا، وشركائنا التجاريين، وموظفينا – وكنتيجة للتغيرات المناخية المرتبطة بمشاكل الاحتباس الحراري والتلوث البيئي التي شهدها كوكبنا في ال 20 سنة الأخيرة، فإننا نعي [...]