Mohammed Jaffar: Spreading Ethical Business from Kuwait across the GCC

The aim of the newly-established Faith Capital Holding is to grow local businesses into GGC businesses that have branches across the six countries in the Gulf, by the means of ethical business.

Interview with Mohammed Jaffar, Deputy Chairman & CEO of Faith Capital Holding, Board Member in Kuwait London Company

Mohammed Jaffar, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Faith Capital Holding, Board Member in Kuwait London Company

What are the trends in terms of startups and entrepreneurs taking business into their own hands in Kuwait?

The Kuwaiti culture has had entrepreneurs for hundreds of years. My great grandfather, grandfather, and father were all entrepreneurs. We had a period of time where people became a bit complacent, but now, with young people coming back to traditional entrepreneurship, we see people starting all kinds of SMEs in technology, service, and other industries. We take that as a great sign that we are now heading in the right direction.

Is the globalization of local Kuwaiti brands specific to food and beverage?

Not necessarily. When I saw an opportunity online for a delivery space, my aim was to make a local Kuwaiti business into a GCC business. Being in the Gulf, it is easy for us to expand and have businesses in the region. We speak the same language, look the same, and talk the same. For us, the minimum is to have a GCC based business instead of a one-country based business.

What was the key to Talabat’s success?

The major key to Talabat’s success was God’s blessing. We worked very hard and spent a lot of money on the business, but others have worked just as hard and spent more money than us. We concentrated on doing things in an ethical way. That is very important to my beliefs. I have a very successful father and grandfather that also believe in ethical business. If you do good, ethical business, God’s blessing will come to you in life.

We concentrated on doing things in an ethical way. That is very important to my beliefs. I have a very successful father and grandfather that also believe in ethical business. If you do good, ethical business, God’s blessing will come to you in life.

How did you come to the decision to sell and exit the business?

If you enter a business, there must be an exit scenario. We had several options, either to sell to a private entity or IPO the business. In 2015, the market headed towards consolidation, and we decided to have Talabat be a part of that instead of being an outsider.

What is the current strategy for the company?

We strated Kuwait London Company (KLGTC) in 2008. Our strategy now is to offer these brands throughout the Gulf. The idea behind this is to find companies that have the potential to scale up and become regional companies instead of local ones. The most important aspect for us is to leverage our culture and the way we believe business should be conducted into these small businesses and show how ethical business and ethical growth will lead to success. We want that culture to be spread through the ecosystem of local entrepreneurship in this part of the world. This is why we have the name Faith Capital. We are not a traditional private equity. There is an idea and a culture behind it. We believe in this culture and we believe that this is how business should be conducted, in an ethical manner. This is not something I invented. People have done this for thousands of years and found success as a result. We must remind them that ethically, you should not segregate between people’s races or religions. In the end, if you improve your business, it will encourage others to improve their business. We will work very hard and spend the needed funds to push this vision through.

What is ethical business?

People working in business know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. We are human beings. One of the main things for us is to not segregate based on religion. You should not say you are a Muslim or a Christian or Jew; you are a human being. Secondly, there should be no differentiation between males and females, races, or even the color of your eyes. We work very hard and we do things the way that God intended them to be done. God put us on this earth for us to do things the right way. We should respect other countries and other religions. People want to feel that this is their business, and if you apply that behavior into your business, they will work extremely hard on their own. We do not simply come here and do our job, clock in, clock out, and get a salary. It is much more than that. When we first came in, we were a very small player competing with national corporations and we were able to beat them because we did things this way. It was not because we were super men and they were normal. We did things to get God’s blessing on our side. That is exactly what we teach to entrepreneurs. If you want to do business, this is how business should be done. This is not something that I created. This is something that is written in all the religious books that God gave and it is pure logic and common sense.

Do you want to pass your legacy forward?

Absolutely. I saw my grandfather follow this procedure and he ended up becoming one of the most successful people in the Gulf. He has a huge empire in seventeen different countries, and tens of thousands of people in his companies. He started off from zero. He did not do it because he was a genius. He was smart, he worked hard, he was an extremely good person, and people wished good things for him. That is why he became successful. The same was true for my father. So, why should I come and reinvent the wheel? This is the methodology that really works and we have seen it work for thousands of years. It is about reminding people that this is the way forward.

Are there companies similar to yours in Kuwait?

There are similar companies in the MENA region. What makes Faith Capital Holding different is that we get involved heavily in the investments we make. Therefore, we only make a select number of investments, so we can have enough time and be dedicated to them.

What are your main challenges?

There are many challenges. We are competing not only with competitors, but with technology itself which is changing fast, with consumer behavior, and with trends all at the same time. There is a risk of whether we are able to execute the mission. There are exit risks. Sometimes you may execute great business, but people may not be interested in acquiring it. However, we believe we have what it takes to make it in this space.

We are looking at consumer facing businesses. We are interested in market based concepts and we are looking at GCC based businesses. Our aim is to grow that local business that may have started in one country and over the next couple of years, make it a GGC business that has branches across the six countries in the Gulf. The Gulf is a great place to do business. There is strong consumer spending here, which is a good thing. It is also a safe part of the world.

What are the challenges in communication?

We could very easily take a completely different approach and invest in companies left and right and hope for one or two hits, but that will not give me the chance to spread my message. The message I want to spread is ethical business. If I am successful in something, it is not because I am smart. I am an ordinary person. But, if I do things the way they should be done and as God intended them to be done, then I will have God’s blessing on my side. If I have this, then I must be patient, because God tests people. Then, God willing, success will come. This is our philosophy. I have seen it work firsthand. I was lucky enough to see it with my own grandfather who started out as a foreperson, then he made a huge business, ended up losing that business in the late 70’s, then made it up again in the later years of his life. He never panicked when he lost his business because he knew exactly how he did it the first time. It was not luck. He knew it was not from him. So, he worked in the same approach and God rewarded him even more than what he had lost. But, he had to be patient. It is not about being in a panic, it is about having the will to leverage this knowhow. That gives me the most enjoyment. If that culture is being followed by others as well, in the end, it is going to be to their own benefit and interest.

What is your vision? Where would you like to be in two to three years’ time?

I hope to have the voice I need to show people that this way of doing business will result in success. I would also love to have the chance to do something for my country. If I strive to spread ethical business, that is something positive for my country and my religion. I get very frustrated when I see people and the media classify things like Islam as terrorism. Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. It is a very peaceful religion. Islam means peace. Our religion forbids us from doing harm to anyone. We cannot even harm a tree, let alone a human being. These are all things I want to do and to show for us to move forward and become civilized nations, similar to the Americans and the Europeans. For us to become like the Europeans and Americans, we must invest in our minds and in our business because that is the way forward. We have a great culture in this part of the world. The youth are very enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and they are much better than my generation, which is an extremely good sign. We are headed in the right way in the Gulf. God willing, if I can contribute in any way to that, I will have done my part.


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