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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

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LOUISE VINE, CEO Inspire Selection

PAGE 9 ENG. ABDUL KARIM AL SALEH, CEO SKM Air Conditioning LLC

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CARVING A NICHE IN A COMPETITIVE SECTOR MICHAEL BOUFARHAT Chairman and CEO, JLW Middle East


P.O. Box 6004, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates Tel: +971 6 514 3333 Fax: +971 6 514 3300

E-mail: info@skmaircon.com www.skmaircon.com


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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019 CONTENTS

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OCTOBER 2019

MAHMOOD AHMADU

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MICHAEL BOUFARHAT

YASSER AL MAAYTAH

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DR. AFSCHIN GHOFRANI

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AHMAR AZAM

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MARK CARTER CEO | Aqua Digital

Chairman | Online Integrated Solutions

Group Commercial Director EMEA | GES Middle East

JO WEBBER

Business Director | GES Middle East

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LOUISE VINE

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ENG. ABDUL KARIM AL SALEH

CEO | Inspire Selection

Chairman and CEO | JLW MIddle East

Medical Director and Founder | Aestheticon

CEO | Leejam Sports

CEO | SKM Air Conditioning LLC

FOR M LINK Managing Director: Photographer: Art Director: Journalist:

FOR KHALEEJ TIMES: Executive Editor: Supplements Editor: Editorial Team: Photographers:

Humair Siddiqi Azizuddin Khusro Asim Rai Zaynab Mohamad Nawal Atiq

Vicky Kapur Suchitra Steven Samuel Farhana Chowdhury Lourdes Handumon Mustafa Khan Deputy Director Advertising: Shekhar Iyer Manager Supplements: Bilal Saeed

PRODUCED BY

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this publication are not endorsed by the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication, which may not be appropriate for the readers’ particular circumstances. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transferred in any form without a written approval of the publishers. Exemptions are granted for drafts used for the purpose of fair review. The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for errors or omissions contained in this publication, however caused.


CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

PAVING THE GOLDEN ROUTE TO AFRICA & THE CARIBBEAN Mahmood Ahmadu, Chairman of Online Integrated Solutions, positions his enterprise to enhance financial inclusion and streamline wealth towards the continent

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Photo: Azizuddin Khusro

ahmood Ahmadu’s journey as an entrepreneur began at a tender age. In secondary school, he had developed a keen interest in business and made the best of his vacations exploring diversified ventures. By following merchant cargo transporting goods from northern Nigeria and Cameroon to sell footwear in different markets, to reinvesting amounts to supply equipment for special events, Ahmadu began to build his portfolio of discoveries and paved the road to become the true businessman he is today. “The turnaround in my field of business was when I bought into SWGlobal (formally known as Socket Works); my focus shifted to digitalisation and technology. In the year 2006, the company was able to secure a loan from The International Finance Corporation (IFC) that supported the company’s e-government and e-education technology programmes under the global digital bridge initiatives. This opportunity helped the company to grow and be recognised as one of the largest leading technology companies in Africa. Today, the direction of our business is in Fintech, whereby we can provide financial inclusion across Africa,” said Ahmadu.

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As the Chairman of Online Integrated Solutions that enjoys a presence in 26 countries, Ahmadu set his focus on Fintech in order to provide financial inclusion across Africa. “I aim for my companies to be the ‘one-stop shop’ for Caribbean and African businesses investment, that is to say, my goal is to be the point of contact between the Middle East and Far East Asia into Africa and Caribbean. Whosoever desires to invest in these two economies, with respect to their business ventures, I intend to provide them with a trustworthy, simplified process and easy access for all business transactions throughout Africa and the Caribbean from start to finish,” he said. This includes providing assistance for flight tickets, visas, start-up company registration application process, and all the necessary information needed to commence business investment. As a pioneer in embracing technology, Ahmadu said that he is very proud to see the widespread use of innovation across the UAE, notably with the upcoming Expo 2020. “I feel fortunate to be a part of this economic development in the region. It provides us with an opportunity to learn technological initiatives on a global scale, to be a part of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for sustainable development,” he said, adding that he is inspired by the UAE’s vision to enhance youth potential and build a cultural footprint in the Arab region. “I fully share my support because indeed the youth today are the future leaders who will shape the betterment of tomorrow,” he said. AMBITIOUS GOALS

Looking ahead, Ahmadu plans to structure the organisation’s projects to adapt and support technological policies and advancements in order to improve the quality of life. “My vision from the start has not altered. I’ve always wished to be recognised as one of the most trusted, user-friendly and secure businesses, especially now in the Fintech industry. As with most services, we strive

Having the means to give back to society and providing the chance for others to achieve their dreams is an accomplishment because it encourages positive economic growth, completing the circle of life. — Mahmood Ahmadu, Chairman, Online Integrated Solutions to improve and upgrade efficiency through minimisation of waste, being more innovative and cost-effective,” he said. Furthermore, Ahmadu shared that about 1.7 billion adults do not have access to banking worldwide, and the regions of Africa and Asia make up a large chunk of that figure, according to a report by the World Bank 2017. With this in mind, the entrepreneur is motivated to position his business venture to provide easy financial access for the public through virtual banking. “Moreover, as a turnover, with the use of data security, we will be able to support and enhance revenue for governmental entities, thus strengthening the economy,” he added.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Ahmadu dedicates his success to his loved ones and considers them as an accomplishment closest to his heart. “I have had the good fortune to marry the right spouse. She has been extremely supportive through thick and thin. I have also been blessed with wonderful talented children,” he said. His list of achievements include the establishment of successful global companies in 56 locations across various time zones, a feat he is most proud of; and the means to give back to society, which provides a chance for others to achieve their dreams. He believes that this completes the “circle of life” by encouraging positive economic growth. BUSINESS PHILOSOPHIES

“I have the policy to be a self-financial vendor, taking a risk as a long-term investor I Inject and recoup financial profits for various projects and developments. Secondly, I make it a priority to always give back to the community in whichever way possible, especially in support of education as part of my corporate social responsibility. I strongly believe that CSR has the power to make a significant difference no matter how small the scale.” WORDS OF INSPIRATION

“The first thing I want to mention to upcoming entrepreneurs is not to always focus on low hanging fruits, but they should aim to make a difference in the world through creative and positive thinking. Most importantly, do not to be discouraged by challenges or business hurdles. Instead, these temporary setbacks should be viewed as a chance to improve and upgrade the initial business plan and ideas. “The question is never how to do something, but rather why to do it, and reasons are everything, if your reason (why) is justified, you will always find a way (how). Finally, I would like to give them this sage advice, ‘Aim to solve difficult problems, because that is where the pot of gold is waiting’.”

– Farhana Chowdhury

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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

GES: 10 years of Progressive Exhibitions, Events and Marketing GES Middle East is an efficacious organization with a decade of experience in the exhibitions and live events sector.

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n 2009 they entered the convention and trade show industry as Melville, an exhibition service provider. Today it is a faceto-face marketing partner with complete, in-house services. Their rebranding and expanding journey has been exhilarating. “We invested in growing the UAE market with operations in two locations - one in Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and the other in Dubai - to provide exhibition services to organizers in both venues Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Within its first year GES had delivered 10 exhibitions including three of the largest shows in the Middle East- Big5, ADIPEC and INDEX. By 2015, we had won exhibitions services contracts for DMG, DWTC, Tarsus and F&E. Our next big partnership was with Informa which led us to be the official exhibition service provider for 70+ exhibitions,� says Yasser al Maaytah, EMEA Group Commercial Director and former Managing Director, GES UAE.

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We don’t stop when the project ends; it continues as we prepare for what is next for

our clients.

- Jo Webber, Business Director, GES Middle East

As the ‘WOW Makers’, GES’ mission is to create the worlds most meaningful and memorable experiences, offering the most comprehensive breadth of live event services and technology. Boldness and creativity has made it into the full-service provider for live events. Yasser asserted, “Adapting to the changing business environment, GES expanded its services by acquiring N200 and Poken (now trading as Visit by GES), the data and registration arm of the company, as well as Blitz technical AV services to offer a full service to its clients.” GES partner with each client to offer a full suite of pre-production, on-site and post-production services – ranging from creative design and strategy, to logistics and production, audio visual, live marketing, interactive technology and engagement tools. GES’ value proposition is working as an extension of their clients

marketing teams. The expedition to collaboratively work with its clients to create experiences that excite and engage its customers, while elevating their brand experiences, has made it a preferred partner in corporate business too. “It was the natural progression to develop GES ME in-house account management team to service our corporate clients. We don’t stop when the project ends; it continues as we prepare for what is next for our clients. By uncovering data and producing true insights that are measurable, we help our clients produce the best result possible,” informed Jo Webber, Business Director, GES Middle East. She added, “At GES we intend to create unforgettable events and experiences and technology surely enhances that for our customers. Technological innovation has empowered us to augment brand experiences that resonate, engage and promote change. The novelty of tech has led to great data capture and management

- the behavioral insights are invaluable to marketeers and help to create immersive experiences that are fun, memorable and play to our natural competitive way to tell brand stories.” So, what’s next? GES aims to continue to innovate and expand its services. With technology being the heart of every business today, GES is developing more insightful analytics into its client’s expenditures at events and exhibitions, ensuring the best return possible. Jo concludes, “Marketers are looking at data to analyze and understand what worked and what did not work at a trade show participation or what the ROI of their event was. We at GES work closely with marketeers to offer the tools and deliver the services required to achieve their goals.”

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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

INSPIRE SELECTION UAE’S TRUSTED HEAD-HUNTING FIRM

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ouise Vine arrived in Dubai 11 years ago and created Inspire Selection in 2012 after garnering nine years of experience in recruitment agencies. Inspired by her role model, Sir Richard Branson, Louise had a vision to revolutionise the recruitment industry by creating a flexible work environment, where the employees were able to manage their work on their own. “Working long days to reach company targets made me realise that there had to be a better way to continue in the industry I love. This motivated me to set up Inspire Selection, a recruitment agency with a team of mature and experienced recruiters, who can be trusted to work independently, so that they can focus on doing their job properly rather than satisfying arbitrary company targets.” Fortunately, Louise was able to find like-minded recruiters, who are capable of identifying the best candidates in the market and focus on providing the best customer service for their existing clientele, leading to the ongoing success of the company. “We work in a consultative manner and have developed strong relationships with our clients over the years. In fact, I have been working with some of my candidates and clients ever since I have been here in Dubai!” In addition to consultancy, Inspire Selection’s main areas of expertise include recruiting across industries specialising in roles in Finance and Accounting, Legal, Sales & Marketing, HR, Admin, Hospitality, Pharmaceutical, IT, Oil/Gas/Energy, Engineering and Emiratisation. The company has a diverse client base, catering to leading blue-chip companies to smaller local businesses

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and has been recognised by the media and independent business awards over the years for its excellence. Louise explained that,“Inspire Selection was voted as Recruitment Agency of the Year in 2017 and 2018, at the UAE Business Awards, and awarded 4th most Socially Engaged Agency in EMEA by LinkedIn in 2018, from a pool of 38,000 competing agencies.” She attributes the company’s success to her team and their commitment to frequently interact with their 100,000+ social media followers, giving them a competitive edge over others. “In an era of digital natives, we go the extra mile to engage and inform job seekers and employers through our social media channels, by conducting regular surveys and sharing our findings. We offer job seekers and employers advice on current market trends such as how to stand out in a crowded market place, updates on labour law/ visa, and embracing diversity.” With Expo 2020 coming soon, Louise sees a brighter future for businesses across the UAE. “I believe that the Expo will strengthen Dubai and the UAE’s position globally and that the positive impact of this global event on the emirate’s economy will be substantial.” Louise stated that she and her team have already noted a

Photo: Dhes Handumon

Inspire Selection CEO, Louise Vine, discusses her company’s success story and future prospects

positive impact in employment for certain industries as they prepare for Expo 2020 and are hopeful for the outcome. “We are looking forward to the business that will develop as a result of a successful Expo strengthening the position in the UAE.” Despite challenging market conditions, Louise claims that Inspire Selection has remained unfazed and grown, year on year, staying focused on doing what they do best – providing quality of service in a crowded market place. “We continue to make more and more placements outside the Middle East, and in the past year with the help of technology, we are looking forward to seeing further growth amongst our existing and new clients in their overseas office.” – Nawal Atiq


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Photo: Azizuddin Khusro

CONQUERING THE HARSHEST OF PLACES Eng. Abdul Karim Al Saleh shares his strategic journey with SKM Air Conditioning LLC to establish cool solutions in challenging landscapes

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hen Eng. Abdul Karim Al Saleh was appointed the CEO of SKM Air Conditioning LLC, he took hold of its reins as a strategist, who is armed with business and technical knowledge to tackle challenges, and continues to steer the brand towards success. “As the CEO of an industrial company, I love anything to do with industries and sales. It’s my passion, and I love it. I enjoy being in an atmosphere where you are often faced with challenges and have to plan several strategies to overcome those obstacles. When I have meetings with the team, I see everyone on the same level and encourage ideas and discussion from all,” said Eng. Al Saleh. With an ambitious growth plan underway, SKM Air Conditioning LLC is slowly but surely conquering various parts of the globe, with a recent foray into Saudi Arabia. “We aim to be an international player, rather than a local company. This was our mission from the start, but over the years, it has become more focused. We take on prestigious projects, not for the revenue or profit, but for the challenge,” said Al Saleh. Recently, the group had successfully built customised cooling units at the Holy site of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. “Our Haj project is one of those that is very prestigious. It required a specialised unit and a lot of technical and custom-made alterations to fit the customer’s needs. In addition to that, we had to fulfil a bigger role — of completing the project within a short

period of time and ensure results that would let customers experience comfort and feel like a VIP. We were very excited to be a part of this vision,” he exclaimed. Eng. Al Saleh, who holds an MBA in strategy, described the project as one that gave him and the team an adrenaline rush and earned a spiritual level of accomplishment. “With temperatures soaring, SKM were required to complete the project within a short period of time, as the location for Haj is always busy. The feeling of being able to satisfy millions of people in this short time is incredible. And this is what keeps me going. It takes a lot to see a plan evolve and come to life; you need to think about how to make your employees adopt your strategy and vision, so this is what keeps me moving forward, and I enjoy it,” he added.

Competitive edge SKM has had the opportunity to develop quality products and solutions through its R&D facility and engineering set-up in the region and is equipped to cater to different ambient conditions. Furthermore, it has an ISO 17025-accredited laboratory that places a strong focus on the performance testing of electrical appliances, specifically for Package Air Conditioners, Air Cooled Packaged Chillers, and Non-Ducted Air Conditioners. “It also has full capability to support requirements for testing, inspection, verification and certification services for HVAC prod-

ucts that require ESMA, SASO and all other international and regional certifications. We backed that up with our spare parts and service centre for all aftersales requirements from our clients. SKM’s journey to excellence has been quite outstanding, as it was also awarded the Dubai Quality Appreciation Award in April 2019, which is a testament to the fact that they focus highly on performance and quality. With that said, we have ensured that we are the number one choice to customers as a one-stop shop when it comes to all air conditioning requirements,” said Eng. Al Saleh.

Future plans “SKM has set its long-term vision to be a leading air conditioning equipment manufacturer and air conditioning solutions provider in the Middle East region, but also to be a global player as well. We have started an aggressive expansion plan in Africa and in the near future in Europe as well. That will follow with other plans for the rest of the world.”

– Farhana Chowdhury

Since its establishment in 1974 by the late Mubarak Al Hassawi, SKM has been providing a full range of air conditioning product portfolio of all tonnages, the small non-ducted split units, ducted concealed units, VRF units, packages, fan coil units, AHUs and chillers for residential, commercial and industrial markets. It also specialises in customised air conditioning products and solutions tailored to client requirements, especially for oil & gas and EPC projects.

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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

CARVING A NICHE

IN A COMPETITIVE SECTOR James L. Williams (JLW) Middle East remains on top as a sought-after MEP contractor in the region

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Photo: Mustafa Khan

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ith a proven record of quality workmanship, James L. Williams (JLW) Middle East has successfully established a strong foothold in the region’s construction industry. Led by Michael Boufarhat, Chairman and CEO of JLW Middle East, the organisation brings in Australian expertise paired with latest practices to ensure top-notch MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) solutions. “Since our inception in 2008, we have set our focus on the building sector. We are now focusing on infrastructure as well as oil and gas ventures, as we

march towards expansion,” he said. JLW Middle East is a family business headquartered in Dubai and Boufarhat holds 90 per cent of shares. Furthermore, it serves as a regional base for Australia’s largest services contractor of the same name, which has been in operations since 1875.

ENHANCED IN-HOUSE FACILITIES

JLW is renowned in the region as one of the top services contractors, said Boufarhat, notably for the in-house facilities that give it a competitive edge. “When we started the company, we looked at what the industry was lack-


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ing. We wanted to bridge the gap between consultation, design and its execution. By far, we have the largest in-house design capability among any MEP contractor in the Middle East with 115 designers on board,” he added. In addition, JLW utilises state-of-theart innovation, including 3D, 4D and 5D technology to allow full coordination, precision installation, time and cost control, as well as the ability to produce smart building information data and energy analysis. Boufarhat explained that this trend has welcomed a new wave of clients, who put their faith in JLW’s solutions. “Lots of clients now request us to quote a price and take care of the design and delivery method, while their consultants or operators create the brief and concept. We like those opportunities,” he said. DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO

According to Boufarhat, there has been a surge in upcoming projects in the region. “We have been very busy since early January. Our tendering division, is being fully utilised as the market picks up,” he said. The company receives around 20 to 30 tender invitations per month, but is able to respond to around four or five requests at a time due to busy schedules. “We’re positive about the sector in 2019, and hope that it will continue to move forward,” he added. Adding to its vibrant portfolio, JLW is the official MEP Contractor for the Sustainability District at the Expo 2020 site as it works alongside Al Futtaim Construction. JLW is also involved in the Masdar Neighbourhood Housing Project, Al Maryah Central Mall in Abu Dhabi, ICD Brookfield Place in DIFC, The Dubai Mall – Za’abeel Expansion in Dubai and past projects include the International Humanitarian City Offices and Warehouses, Bluewaters Hospitality, and Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Moving forward, the organisation is looking at opportunities to expand

into Saudi Arabia, lined up in its next chapter alongside a UAE developer. RAISING THE BAR

JLW Middle East has carved a name for itself as one of the top contractors in MEP services for its dedication to health and safety. “To date, we have roughly 2,400 employees that are directly employed, and on-site we manage around 6,000 people in total to assist us, depending on the volume of work required for timely delivery. Of course, health and safety is our primary concern. This extends not only to our direct workers, but also to the sub-contractors working with us. We maintain the best records in the Middle East,” he said, adding that the managers of these divisions hail from sectors such as oil and gas, which is known for having standards higher than what is required in the building and construction field. Keeping in mind the welfare of its workers, JLW Middle East provides what Boufarhat referred to as “fivestar camps”. The venues are equipped with recreational facilities to give its workers an opportunity to engage in leisure activities. For the staff and senior levels, JLW organises company-sponsored activities ranging from cricket, football, basketball to yoga and boot camps and encourages participation, these offer numerous mental and physical health benefits to staff as well as boosting teamwork. On an international level, JLW actively sponsors events such as Pink is Punk, a wellness campaign centred on breast cancer; and raises disaster relief funds for affected areas, such as the recent floods in Kerala, to name a few. “While the biggest contributions come from the company itself, our employees are also welcome to donate. These we raise and send to institutions and associations we trust,” Boufarhat added.

REWARDING EXPERIENCE Rewards for me come in the form of client perception and the pride my employees feel to be part of such an organisation. In most cases, if not all, people in the industry share positive feedback about our work and company. That gives me a lot of satisfaction and keeps me moving forward. The fact that JLW Middle East has achieved the highest quality in this field in the past 10 years gives me great pride. It is very rewarding. — MICHAEL BOUFARHAT Chairman and CEO JLW Middle East

– Farhana Chowdhury

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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

Quality is the epitome of aesthetic expertise Dr. Afschin Ghofrani, Medical Director and Founder of Aestheticon, brings German excellence to the UAE with 27 years of experience in plastic surgery and hand surgery

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From Europe to the Middle East

Dr. Ghofrani garnered a strong reputation in the industry for his skills

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Strong industry reputation

Photo: Dhes Handumon

orn and raised in Germany, Dr. Afschin Ghofrani studied medicine at the RWTH Aachen. “I was always interested in medicine. During my study, I used to work in an intensive care ward to earn extra money. I thought I wanted to become an anesthesiologist, but I’d realised my true calling in plastic surgery after seeing its scope through my doctoral thesis in the field of plastic surgery,” he said. His studies and career blossomed after extensive training at the Department of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, Hand Surgery and Burns Trauma Center at the RWTH Aachen, one of the largest university hospitals in Europe. During this period, he completed his doctoral thesis on the topic of skin substitute for severely burned trauma patients. His success story has seen him journey from Aachen to Cologne and Giessen, near Frankfurt, where his double-certified specialities in plastic surgery and hand surgery earned him respectable positions and a long list of clienteles ranging from politicians and business leaders to celebrities. In Cologne, he had worked alongside one of Germany’s most eminent plastic/ aesthetic surgeons for five years, while in Giessen, he had earned the title of the Head of Department in Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery at the very young age of 36. Dr. Ghofrani had also successfully run a private practice while heading a hospital department, a rare occurrence at the time, which gave him an insight into the world of entrepreneurship.

in bringing aesthetic solutions to patients. Upon reaching the pinnacle of his career, he was fuelled by a desire to explore new ventures. Thus, came the establishment of Aestheticon in 2012 in Dubai, a center for invasive and non-invasive procedures, focused on plastic surgery, hand surgery and well-being. “In Germany, I had a very good life, but I found myself asking ‘What’s next?’. Being passionate for medicine and entrepreneurship I yearn for new challenges every five to seven years, so I’d decided to move to Dubai in 2010 to set up a practice and develop a brand for future expansion,” he shared. Blessed with financial security, thanks to his successful career in Germany, Dr. Ghofrani took his time to find the perfect location and started his new venture in Jumeirah Lakes Tower, Swiss Tower.

Dr. Ghofrani is a firm believer in quality over quantity. “At my clinic, we make sure that the procedures we offer are safely achievable and in the patients’ best interest, even if it means sometimes that the initial patient request has to be altered. This approach rewards us with the highest patient’s trust. For this reason not only my German patients fly all the way to Dubai for treatments, my patients come from all over the world,” he said. Dr. Ghofrani possesses a number of accolades, however, he stresses the importance of the retention rate Aestheticon has secured “There is a huge number of service providers in the same field in UAE. You distinguish yourself by the quality of your work. The retention rate of our clinic is 95 per cent, the same as I used to have in Germany. Furthermore, roughly 70 per cent of our new patients are referrals by word-ofmouth, which demonstrates the appreciation we receive through our work,” Dr. Ghofrani said. With the clinic built on quality and reputation, Aestheticon has catered to several thousand patients. Looking ahead, Dr. Ghofrani plans to introduce more specialties at his clinic centered on its core business to give patients a 360°-service and he works on franchising his clinic concept. Furthermore, he will put his passion for teaching into action by setting up a training center for young surgeons and he wants to expand his networking reach as the Area Director of Business Network International (BNI®). – Farhana Chowdhury


INFUSING FITNESS INTO LIFESTYLES

Leejam Sports promotes positive health through its large state-of-the-art network of fitness centres

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a u d i - b a s e d Leejam Sports Company operates under the brand name of “Fitness Time”. Currently one of the largest network of sports and fitness centres in the region, it emerged in 2006 to encourage healthier and active lifestyles, correct eating habits and promote a health-conscious population. With a presence in 24 cities in Saudi Arabia and four in the UAE, the organisation set its roots in fitness and recreational sports, and offers seven separate brands of men and women-only centres in the region. The multi-facility centres are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, such as full range cardio machinery, weights, cycle and spinning studios, basketball, squash and volleyball courts, football pitches, indoor running tracks, as well as on-site floor and personal trainers to facilitate member workouts and enhance experience. Specialities also include extreme fitness featuring high intensity workouts, boot camp classes and boxing. All Fitness Time centres have swimming pools, hot and cold Jacuzzis, steam and sauna rooms. “Leejam is aligned with the Quality of Life 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives and programmes and aims to strengthen its business on a national and CSR platform,” said Ahmar Azam, CEO, Leejam Sports Company. Azam has been leading the company for the last five years, initially as the CFO to lead the corporate transformation and a successful IPO, and now as the CEO. He is an honors graduate from the LSE, UK and an FCA from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW). He is also an honorary board member of the

Photo: Supplied

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Audit Committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a member of the Advisory Board of the ICAEW.

GROWING MEMBERSHIP

Fitness Time has a segmented market approach that is tailored to fit different budgets — from the executive-level Fitness Time Plus; the flagship Fitness Time; the more economical Fitness Time Pro; and Fitness Time Ladies. According to Azam, the recent exemption for females to drive in Saudi Arabia has given them the advantage to spend more time in fitness centres, leading to a paradigm shift as 50% of the population opened up for the fitness industry. “What makes us unique is our understanding of the local culture and delivering fitness the way our members like it. People come to fitness centres for many reasons, but only stay when they feel they are part of the tribe and when they get results” said Azam. To deliver on this, Fitness Time offers both all the standard facilities of a full-service gym, as well as many boutique concepts. “Personal training is thriving in our centres. We are now bringing HIIT and other new innovative concepts.” LEEJAM 3.0

Azam explains the last 12 years of the company from start-up stage to corporate transformation and a successful IPO as Leejam 1.0 and 2.0. The entire organisation is now marching towards the realisation of Leejam 3.0 in 3 years to make Leejam the Top 10 fitness company in the world and an Employer of Choice in Saudi Arabia. To achieve this objective, he

has identified six key drivers. They are; enhancing customer experience; investing in people; leveraging technology; ensuring an open door policy; improving corporate governance; and growing the business. “The entire organisation is fired up!” he adds. To some these plans might sound overly ambitious but those that know Azam well enough will not doubt that it will be done, with time to spare. – Farhana Chowdhury

Achievements • 2015 winner of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award. • Three-year exclusive partnership with FC Barcelona • 15th largest fitness chain in the world and is expected to become one of the 10 largest fitness centre operators in the world in the next three years. • A large number of active fitness members in the region with 250,000 members, and has the largest database of over 1.2 million members. • 50% + increase in company value since IPO in September 2018. • No. 1 pick in midcap companies in KSA by various institutional investors

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CEO LEADERSHIP 2019

Building strategies to deliver value from a community of 900 million users

Photo: Dhes Handumon

Aqua Digital harnesses the power of the WeChat ecosystem to enable brand engagement with Chinese nationals and tourists for UAE businesses and brands

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he UAE is fast growing as a sought-after destination by Chinese tourists, which opens up portals to several business opportunities. Taking this into account, an aspiring Mark Carter set up Aqua Digital where he bridges the gap between tourists and organisations with China’s popular mobile application, WeChat. “With operations in DMCC free zone and an office in JLT, Aqua Digital is able to offer a platform for businesses, brands and organisations to engage

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with Chinese nationals, who reside in China and visit the UAE,” said the CEO. Harnessing an audience of over 900 million monthly users on WeChat, Aqua Digital is notably involved in all aspects of brand engagement in order to incentivise Chinese tourists once they enter the UAE. WeChat is an integrated application that supports social media, interactive games as well as payment functions, which gives users purchasing power. Aqua Digital creates accounts and builds campaigns infused with the right cultural influences and language to target audiences. “We work with organisations on a consultative basis in terms of what they want to achieve in the Chinese market. With a sophisticated insight tool and geo-fencing, brands can dynamically categorise objectives based upon different criteria,” he added. Aqua Digital further focuses on development and growth, and aims to help brands build better relationships with consumers. Speaking about challenges, Carter said that the organisation is constantly conjuring strategies to articulate the WeChat proposition to potential clients in the UAE. “The prospective clients we talk to believe in the vision and the opportunity that we present. In the end, it all comes down to results. Fortunately, within the platform of WeChat, there

is access to a lot of analytics to help show and prove the result of each campaign as it develops. It further helps you tailor and tweak initiatives such that it continues to be relevant and engaging with those consumers,” he said. Looking ahead, Aqua Digital plans to diversify and establish a regional presence. “We want to grow and develop our business here locally. There’s a lot of successful concepts in various stages of development with a lot of smart people. I see Aqua Digital growing organically here in the UAE through either partnership, acquisitions and the right talent. The government is doing their part to support businesses such as ourselves, and the strong digital technical focus in the region helps us attract bright minds,” he concluded. – Farhana Chowdhury

Aqua Digital offers clients a range of dynamic options to secure brand engagement through WeChat. These include advertisements, video content, eStores, promotions, vouchers, offers and customisable mobile games within the eco-system of the application.


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