Kuwait, 22 April 2015: "Be focused on your goals, be prepared to take measured risk, know your customer and the marketplace inside out, and above all work hard to create sustainable business partnerships built on trust.” Those were some of the lessons for young entrepreneurs that Mohammed Alshaya, Executive Chairman of M.H Alshaya Co, shared with an audience of 500 gathered in Kuwait for the 8th MIT Pan Arab Conference & MITEF Startup Competition Awards on 20th and 21st April.
Responding to the overall conference theme of ‘Driving Growth & Sustainability in an Evolving Landscape”, Mr Alshaya made his comments in a keynote interview during the opening session of the Forum in which he described how Alshaya, a company founded in Kuwait in 1890, had grown from a small trading business into one of the world’s leading retail franchise operators. Today Alshaya operates over 2,800 stores and 70 of the world’s most recognised retail brands including Starbucks, H&M, Mothercare, The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret.
In an in-depth interview session with Hala Fadel, Chair of MITEF Pan Arab, Mr Alshaya drew on examples from the company’s past to illustrate his points. He described how hard work and a commitment to quality and customer service has been fundamental to Alshaya’s success as it pursues its vision of growth. His number one piece of advice was to remember the importance of building strong relationships with customers, employees, business partners and local communities based on trust and integrity. “There is so much opportunity for dynamic young Arabs who are prepared to set high standards and work hard for success – they represent our future and I hope my comments help them as they strive to fulfil their aspirations,” he stated.
As well as encouraging the young delegates to ‘think big’ about their future, Mr Alshaya also spoke about his concerns for the region, describing how private sector companies such as Alshaya have an important role to play in supporting skills development and encouraging a results-based performance culture. ‘Government and employers have a shared responsibility to create a sustainable environment in which talent can flourish”, he said, referring to initiatives such as the Alshaya Retail Academy in KSA as one example of how public/private partnerships can tackle the issue.
MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region Forum, is an annual conference which unites some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs from across the Arab world together with leaders from government, industry, finance, and academia. With a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation in an evolving Arab world, the event also celebrated the winners of the 8th MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition.
In concluding, Mr Alshaya stressed the importance of a strong work ethic, and re-emphasised the critical contribution that young entrepreneurial people can make to a dynamic private sector.