A Businessman that Dedicates his Success to Qatar
By Leslie Fernandez
Ashraf Abuissa –the man behind the Abuissa Holding, the family-owned business that operates in 9 countries.
Stepping into leadership and business management at the age of 19 made him the youngest entrepreneur in Qatar. According to Ashraf, it was emergency crisis management and the need of the hour. He took the grip of his business and put the boat on the sail.
Ashraf believes that life is a journey and you’ve to enjoy every bit that comes your way. He took the responsibility quite well while putting a hold on his studies and basketball career, taking one thing at a time. However, after 5 years when his younger brother Nabil finished school and joined the business, Ashraf enrolled back in college and completed his studies.
Ashraf Abuissa’s Recipe for Success!
Ashraf never worked for money. ‘Achieving a successful project’ is the driving force and entrepreneurial spirit is something that he strived for. He aspired to become successful to grow as a team.
Retailing is a competitive business across Qatar. Abuissa Holding always stayed a step ahead of other retailers. That’s why Ashraf is more inspired to create his own concepts and find the gaps in the market. Unlike other retailers that are simply importing brands and concepts, Ashraf generated most of his businesses from unique ideas.
For instance, the company’s very own concept Karisma Cosmetics, a trendy multi-brand beauty concept that operates since 2002 in seven locations all over Qatar. With the latest assortment of affordable prestige brand and trend information for beauty, no wonder ‘Karisma Cosmetics’ is one of the most famous among young Qataris and ex-pats women.
Another travel luggage brand ‘Mosafer’ that not only got Middle Eastern attention but also attracted international fame is totally came from Ashraf’s unique concept of providing personalized travel luggage. Similarly, the brand created an absolutely creative concept through the ‘Arabesq’ brand that is a unique collection of sweets from Arab countries topped with their flags.
Introducing Unique Concepts in Business
Instead of going towards a formal research route, Ashraf followed his gut feelings and put his feet into the customer’s shoes. He found it more effective to check out what works best. For Mosafer, he tested the concept locally and it worked really well.
Surviving Strategy with the Pandemic
Ashraf’s strategy for COVID-19 Pandemic is simple. He kept AIH proactive. The AIH is the first Qatari company to take retail online. Ashraf realized that the whole process is important. From purchasing online to getting the product delivered at the customer’s doorstep –the experience has to be outstanding. That is why AIH became stronger in delivery by creating its own fleet to deliver faster and reliable.
To cope with the Pandemic, AIH launched reusable masks that are also safest to use. The product also brought huge traffic to AIH websites. In addition to it, AIH launched sanitizers that are customized according to Qatar’s atmosphere.
Ashraf said, our readiness in obtaining a labor camp with a high standard and a state of the art facilities leads the government to use it for the Covid-19 positive patients. It just required us to apply speedily strategies to complete the required services where the workforce was trained to follow all the SOPs and carry on a secure environment, from catering to waste management disposal, he added.
Exploring New Possibilities despite Pandemic
Focusing on e-commerce is the recent strategy, Ashraf maintained Omni Channel that is online and inline. He maintained the same welcoming attitude for both his online and inline stores. The websites are user-friendly and provide a swift flow from browsing the products to checkout. Just like warm welcome and guidance customers get while they shop from the AIH stores.
Additionally, AIH created a generous loyalty program “Mozoon” almost 8-years ago that keeps the recurrent buyers happy and strengthens the customer relationship with AIH.
‘Becoming more niche in our offering is what we strive for’ said Ashraf Abuissa. High-quality niche brands that customers don’t see around locally, AIH brought those brands in a personalized custom.
Ashraf Abuissa’s Unique Chairman Strategy
This is something extremely innovative. Ashraf implements an open-door policy for the employees and the customers both. He makes sure that he’s available and approachable to his people so that he can effectively communicate and receive information that helps improve his services and products. This keeps him updated on all of his businesses.
Overcoming Biggest Economic Challenge
The biggest challenge was the blockage on Qatar in 2017. Preparation is always the foremost thing for Ashraf. But the blockage was an unexpected affair for him as there were 118 AIH stores in the blocking countries that needed rollback. That was extremely challenging for AIH. It was a difficult period where AIH has to downsize and take back foot on the AIH operations.
From this challenge, Ashraf understood and learned the lesson to focus on Qatar more. Qatar is my sanctuary of affluence and I’d like to stay in it for some time’, stated Ashraf Abuissa.
However, recently the company extended its pharmaceuticals operations in the Middle East by opening an e-commerce billjumla that’s a wholesale platform for bulk purchases in terms of groceries and personal care goods.
Unlike other businesses that are reducing or on hold during Pandemic, AIH is expanding into media, home appliances, and other projects in the pipeline.
While the other companies are reducing their workforce amidst the Pandemic, AIH was also under pressure to downsize. Ashraf’s strategy is to let go of the strongest employee and let them take their time to search for the new role and help them with a stress-free switch. More often, the company tries to relocate the employees into AIH’s new businesses so that both cost-cutting and recruiting would be achieved instantaneously.
The second challenging part of people management is dealing with generation gaps. Accommodating everyone’s way of thinking in this fast-paced digital era is far important. To understand the gap between millennials, generation Z, and generation X and how to deal with them, Ashraf has a team of assistants that represents their generations so that he can relate and understand the dealings with them.
A Personal Experience that defines Ashraf Abuissa
‘Every challenge I’ve been through made me the man who I’m today’, said Ashraf. For example, adapting with the Pandemic’s SOPs, how to do waste-management, housekeeping, and understanding customized needs of teams and staff that comprised of multiple nationalities made him learn more about health and medical requirements for labor camps.
Education and learning is an ongoing process that shouldn’t stop as you age. Keep learning and keep improving, progressing, and adapting to the new scenarios is what Ashraf strive for.
Also, document what you learn is a must. It’ll make your company grow without repeating the same mistakes. It’s important to transfer your knowledge to the next generation.
Ashraf’s insight on Charities and NGOs
Ashraf Abuissa believes in giving back value to Qatar. He has founded a few NGOs and charitable institutions. We learned some deep insights from him on this genre.
According to Ashraf, we have to separate NGOs from charities. NGOs are a give and take affair. You get knowledge, contacts, and exposure with them. For charities, you’ve to dedicate your time, contacts, and energy to a certain cause that means a lot to you. Moreover, you’ve to do it with passion and keep an eye on how the charity money is spent. If it’s not spent at the right place then it’s not worth it.
Who is Ashraf Abuissa as a father and a husband?
An achiever, award winner, successful business person, and philanthropist –we know so many shades of Ashraf Abuissa. As a family man, he is also the same humble person.
“I always feel that I don’t get enough time to spend with my family. After Pandemic, I understood that you don’t just need to spend quality time with your family, you need to be with your family most of the time. Pandemic pushed a reset button for our family time. Time, in general, is very important to give to your loved ones. Being there for your family most of the time is a different kind of experience and it’s quite interesting.” Stated Ashraf Abuissa.
Inspirational Words to the Aspiring People
People in Qatar and across the globe immensely adore Ashraf’s accomplishment. We asked him to advise the ones who want to follow his footstep to the ladder of success. Here’s what Ashraf replied.
“Life is a journey. You’ve to make sure that you don’t step on other’s feet to achieve your success. You don’t hurt people and yourself. Just enjoy every step of the way as much as possible. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, and your employees. Feel responsible for everybody around you.
That feeling alone will help you set your priorities right. Setting the primacies in life is really important but you don’t have to become selfish for that. Set your priorities well and live your life accordingly.”
Photography: Smile For Profile