John Iossifidis, Group CEO of Al Ghurair Investment
Family businesses have been fundamental contributors to and enablers of the ambitious change in the UAE since the formation of the country.
Woven into the very fabric of the nation and firmly at the heart of the UAE’s economy, these local family businesses can trace their roots back to the pre-oil days, when pearl diving and fishing were the mainstays of the economy. Over the last six decades, they have continuously transformed, reinventing themselves to align to the changing economic climate, industry trends, and in alliance with the vision of the country itself.
This cultural and mercantile heritage is preserved by Emirati family businesses to this day – consistently upholding the core traits that have enabled them to survive, and thrive: agility, innovation and adaptability.
It is these very traits that will be driving forces of the economic recovery and sustainable post-pandemic growth. With neither drumroll nor fanfare, local family businesses have embarked on a mission that will see the economy not only rebound, but rise to new heights.
The stewardship of a family business is, invariably, about building, nurturing and passing down an enhanced legacy to future generations. As businesses with a heart, priorities go far beyond the bottom line; they are driven by purpose.
In accordance with the UAE’s leadership, family businesses have been – and remain – visionary proponents of the country’s prosperity and success. They have proven their commitment to longevity through adapting and diversifying holdings, growing at a pace that outstrips their Western counterparts. With a dogged focus on diversification, they now dominate key industry sectors, from food, to retail, to hospitality, putting them far ahead of their global equivalents.
But how do family businesses drive economic recovery and sustainable post-pandemic growth?
Purpose-led family businesses often outperform markets due to their focus on the long-term, demonstrating resilience and aptitude for growth. Family businesses need to develop rigorous efficacy tests and well-defined proof of concepts, with the ultimate aim of safeguarding and building on an existing, solid legacy. Due to the bottom-line-focused quarterly reporting cycle in public companies, this extent of innovative thinking – and breathing space – is rarely possible.
According to a PwC survey, 88 percent of Middle Eastern businesses have a clear sense of agreed values and purpose. As businesses and families grow throughout generations, it is crucial to keep these guiding beliefs that drive business continuity and legacy intact. The power of family values is also a key strength for attracting potential talent and employee retention. Moreover, consumers have an increasing preference for value-driven brands that are aligned to their personal ideals and priorities. In this way, upholding consistent values can boost customer loyalty and build brand value, while, on the internal side, common values and a shared sense of purpose cultivate a family business that transcends generations.
A business’ desire to innovate is key to a post-pandemic recovery. Thanks to the agility and adaptability of their core business models, family businesses have an innate ability to move faster than large multi-nationals. As the government embarks on the journey towards building a diversified, productive economy laid, in line with the UAE Centennial 2071 vision, UAE family businesses remain ideally placed to support and enable this transformation.
With the pandemic continuing to put stress on the global economy, family businesses are rising to the challenge and, not only adapting to, but embracing the changing market forces – putting them on the path to becoming the secret engine of post-pandemic recovery. Now, as family businesses are called upon to drive the next phase of development, Al Ghurair and other family businesses, must build on their legacy, and embrace digitalisation and innovation.