The Continuum Family Business Experience 2016 – Oman and UAE

Visit to Karam coffee
Visit to Karam coffee owned and managed by EGI, UAE.

The Continuum Family Business Experience is a global program designed by the Tharawat Family Business Forum dedicated to allow families to make impactful connections with their peers around the world. The first edition of the CFBE was kicked off with a visit to Milan in March 2016, and in November, the program brought 15 international family businesses on an exclusive visit to Oman and the UAE.

The program consisted of a 4-day visit to family businesses in Muscat, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Participants were welcomed by hosting companies which included prominent names such as W.J. Towell Group, Zubair Corporation, Essa Al Ghurair Investments, Alserkal Group, while paying visits to H.E. Hussain Al Nowais, H.E. Abdulla Aldarmaki, Khansaheb and more.

Check out our photos from the program:

A strong start in Oman

CFBE participants began their journey in Muscat, Oman by visiting iconic centenarian family business WJ Towell Group. Founded in 1866, the Towell Group of Companies is today one of the largest companies in the Sultanate and comprises of seven clusters with members on the board from the fourth and the fifth generation of the Sultan family. The visit to the headquarters was followed by a lunch at the WJ Towell family farm where the family holds its monthly reunions.

Next stop was the Zubair Corporation. In the span of four decades, this remarkable family enterprise has turned into a holding entity encompassing almost 60 wholly-owned companies, subsidiaries and associates that operate in Oman, the Middle East, India, Europe and the USA. CFBE participants were shown around the Bait Al Zubair cultural foundation, which was established in 2005 as the cultural and social arm for the group. Bait Al Zubair displays the family’s collection of historical Omani artifacts and is considered to be the finest privately-owned collection.

Next stop Dubai

After a long trip from Oman, the CFBE group arrived in Dubai and was given a guided tour and presentation of at Karam Coffee Factory established by Essa Al Ghurair Investment L.L.C. (EGI), a private investment firm founded in 2012. Involving three generations of the family enterprise, EGI invests in and operates companies in a variety of industries.

Following the tour, the group found itself at our home base, the Tharawat Space which is located at the Alserkal Avenue to hear from the Alsekal family. Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal Est. was established in 1947 by Nasser Bin Abdullatif Alserkal. Today, the group is a diversified conglomerate with a focus on real estate, general trading, industrial, and engineering projects well as a large domestic and international investment portfolio. In a presentation at the Tharawat Space, the first work and event space focusing on family business and multi-generational entrepreneurship in the MENA, the Alserkal family told participants about their journey and followed up with a guided tour of Alserkal Avenue.

All roads lead to Abu Dhabi

A day trip to Abu Dhabi began with a meeting with illustrious businessman and government official H.E. Hussein Al Nowais, Chairman and Managing Director at Al Nowais Investments LLC. A global industrialist and business strategist, Hussain Al Nowais is the founding member and Chairman of Al Nowais Investments. Al Nowais is also the Chairman of SENAAT, UAE’s largest industrial conglomerate, as well as Chairman and board member for a number of other key private and public institutions. He addressed CFBE participants on pertinent issues about the UAE economy and the importance of processes and structures in family businesses.

Lunch was at the beautiful Emirates Palace attended by a special guest H.E. Abdulla Aldarmaki, CEO of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development. The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development was launched in 2007 to help develop local enterprises, with a total capital of AED 2 billion. The Fund aims to create a new generation of Emirati entrepreneurs by instilling and enriching the culture of investment amongst young people, as well as supporting and developing small to medium-sized investments in the Emirate.

The day in Abu Dhabi came to a close with a guided visit of Saadiyat Island which is devoted to global culture and arts, with unique exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances.

A closing day that opened opportunities

The last day of CFBE began with a visit to Emirati family business Khansaheb which was founded in 1935, making it the longest standing contractor in the United Arab Emirates. Since then Khansaheb has developed into the highly respected company that it is today with experience across all building and infrastructure sectors.

Following the visit, the afternoon was dedicated to a conference in which the international CFBE participants took the stage to share their own experiences and enterprises. Around 20 MENA families joined the Continuum conference to watch presentations from South Africa, and Latin America, which revealed exciting opportunities in those dynamic regions. The South African Sekete brothers, Nkoko and Thabang, spoke about the Buhle Waste management company and shared their vision for a better future. The Otalora brothers from Panama, Omar and Simon, introduced the growth plans of their family company Procomon & Asociados S.A., one of the largest construction companies in Panama.

Finally, CFBE participants were given a guided tour of the Dubai Future Foundation by its COO Dr. Noah Raford. This unique visit was an exclusive look behind the scenes of the Dubai Future Foundation, the Museum of the Future, and the Dubai Future Accelerators, which included a tour of the first 3D printed office and taught the participants about the future technologies that will define our lives for the decades to come.

The Continuum Family Business Visit GCC 2016 was a wonderful experience. Well-thought choice of Omani and Emirati Family Businesses. Excellent eye-opener into the history and significant contributions of family businesses in these economies. Left feeling educated and inspired. A must do for family businesses looking for innovative models for sustainability of the family business.

Antoinette, family business member from Kenya