[Podcast] The Origins Story You’ve Never Heard

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Ever wonder how it all started for Tharawat Magazine? Today we are a leading publication for family business and entrepreneurs, but it was a phone call in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis that kicked off our journey.

In our very first podcast, Senior Editor James Lee speaks to Editor-in-Chief Ramia El-Agamy as she shares the story of how Tharawat magazine was created:


Ramia: OK, well let’s get started here obviously a big hello from our studio at Tharawat, I’m Ramia El Agamy, I’m the editor in chief and with me is James Lee whom you’ve already heard. James is our senior editor so we’re basically part of the great team that provides the content here at Tharawat Magazine which has become one of the leading resources and publications in the world on the topic of family owned businesses and multi-generational entrepreneurship.

James: Yeah and this whole podcast is your idea, not mine, I’m just putting it out there.

Ramia: Of course. You just have to do what I tell you, that’s all.

James: I’m just saying that because if this podcast fails, it’s on you.

Ramia: Being part of a family owned business, I’m used to all the blaming and the blame game and the guilt so you can’t shock me, James.

James: That’s good, well in that case, I don’t know if everyone’s aware but Tharawat Magazine in itself is a family owned business

Ramia: Yes, that’s true.

James: And you are a family member of that family business.

Ramia: I am, it’s a little known fact, actually.

James: So what has to break in your head for you to say ‘I want to work with my family’?

Ramia: Well you have to be a little bit delusional and have a clear tendency to overestimate yourself and then basically, you jump in so that’s what happened to us. Seven years ago, we’re talking the end of 2008, beginning of 2009 when we put out the first pilot issue of Tharawat Magazine. We did this in response to what we felt was a huge gap in the market in the sense that we know that there are high-quality resources out there but we felt what we could add to the knowledge pool was maybe a more global take on the topic than what had already been tackled. Most cases and most examples were coming from the Western world at that stage so we felt we would love to bring some more cases of family businesses from other parts of the world to the table as well so this is when we started Tharawat Magazine.

James: Whose idea was this?

Ramia: I want to say mine but I’m going to have to say Dad’s. My father called me actually in 2008, I was still at University and I was in the middle of student life and having the time of my life and the phone rings and dad goes ‘Honey I had an idea, I want a magazine’. And because I always say yes to my dad, I just sort of got caught in the middle of things so before I knew it, I started putting together the pilot issue while I was still doing my degree and the moment I graduated, we published it.

James: So your dad calls you up and says ‘I want a magazine’, and this is the tragic day that you decided to work with your family.

Ramia: We decided to start a print magazine in 2008 when we were starting to see the financial crisis hit the world in waves and we decided to go into print media. You know, family businesses tend to be a little crazy and I think we made our point they’re quite valiantly. So the idea was at that point Dad had been working with hundreds of family businesses around the world for about 30 years helping them when it came to educational needs and development needs and growth needs of their companies and he’s always been a great advocate of education being the way towards growth for any company.

So this means the education of people and talent management and he started working with fast growth economies in the 80s and 90s which was really an interesting time to be in involved with companies from the Middle East, Africa, and southeast Asia. You can see these companies really coming to the surface at an incredible speed and at the forefront of that development were family businesses. It’s a very little known fact actually that these growth spurts that you’ve seen in this massive creation of employment for poor people to rise to the middle class was championed by family businesses of all size. I’m not just talking about the really large ones, I’m talking about all kinds of formats, as we know, the SME sector is incredibly dense when it comes to family ownership.

So at that point I just realized that there weren’t a lot of people talking about it that much but family businesses were a different ball game from other corporations but also were different a ball game depending where you were located and what kind of culture you were part of. So we were at that point dominated very much by theories and literature on family business from everything that came from the west so our whole argument was – Let’s get started and creating some really good content and try to include as many varied perspectives as possible so we can get as many people from around the world to participate in the dialogue and that’s how Tharawat magazine was born.

We tend to get relegated to the Middle East because of our name but really the reason why we chose this name is because Tharawat is a really beautiful word in Arabic, which means ‘fortunes’. And fortunes not just in a material sense but for the fortunes of life basically and we feel like it really encompasses what family businesses really try to stand for and do stand for and that’s why we called it Tharawat. It’s been an interesting journey making people pronounce it properly at the same time.

James: When I first saw it I said I’m not even going to try.

Ramia: Actually you didn’t do that badly compared to other people.

James: It was just a shot in the dark (laughs).