You must've seen quite a lot of changes over the years? We started with a small shop at Bab al Bahrain and a smaller store on Shaikh Salman Highway. Now, of course, we have moved into this [the multi-storey YK Almoayyed building on Government Avenue]. And, of course, we built the tower [the 47-storey Almoayyed Tower in Seef] but we never moved there. We were planning to move, but it was the beginning, it was the first big tower and it was full. So, we decided to stay here.
What about the changes you've seen in the business climate in Bahrain? At the beginning, you could get a margin of 30 to 40 per cent on goods, but not anymore. Now you can barely make six, seven or a maximum 10 per cent. wWhat is that down to? Is it competition or suppliers? There're only so many customers. In 1966, there were maybe eight or 10 air conditioner shops, aside from the supplier. Now they are everywhere. There are several dealerships, so they take off the margin also. The business climate generally is really difficult partly because of the introduction of VAT and, of course, the changes in electricity and other costs. The amount people have [left] to spend has decreased. So, 2019 was a very difficult year. What, in your view have been the company’s greatest challenges and achievements? We have been steady going forward. We have never had, you know, a crisis because we don't work with debt. Yes, we are conservative, so we go steadily forward. This is part of my father's advice. It's been very tough for the last couple of years. But, we have always made money ever since my father's times. We're celebrating 80 years and we're marking it with a reception and we'll put the emblem on our cards and our letterheads What do you see as the future? Is there still further expansion to come? Well, now life has become very difficult. In Saudi, you know, there are a lot of obstacles to expanding into the market. Frankly, we are trying but it's very difficult. We had a good operation in Qatar… We are very strong in Bahrain. We are one of the biggest landlords and we are also one of the biggest owners of shares behind the market. We have about 70 or 80 properties, apartments and houses, all over. This side of the business was started by my father who loved real estate. You're on the board of a number of other companies as well? I'm on the board of four publicly traded companies. They are National Bank of Bahrain, which is the biggest bank in Bahrain, and the Gulf Hotel, which is really the biggest hotel in Bahrain, Bahrain Duty Free and Bahrain National Insurance – BNH. I’m chairman of all of them What would be your message to young Bahrainis coming to the work place? The market is very tough now so
people have to work hard. I see a lot of young people turning towards things such as restaurants and entertainment and, of course, social media, which we are not adapted to. Hard work never hurts and actually coming to work, but a lot of young people think they can do things on email. I think it's very important that your staff see you coming in early, working hard and then they work hard. If they don't see you, they start relaxing. Absolutely you must lead by example. You recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Crown Prince's Awards for Entrepreneurship. How did that feel? I feel it’s recognition of my role in Bahrain’s economy and I'd like to thank His Highness the Crown Prince for choosing me for the award. It was a great achievement and a great honour for me and it was very pleasing to receive.
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Vol.24 - Issue 3 - Your guide to a great way of life