The Pioneers: Business leaders who helmed growth The Pioneers: Business leaders who helmed growth
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The Pioneers: Business leaders who helmed growth

The Pioneers: Business leaders who helmed growth

Six business leaders that have championed growth and navigated their organisations

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CEO's at the helm in 2022

As the year draws to a close, we identify business leaders who have been instrumental in driving their organisation’s growth and success.

Suresh Vaidhyanathan, Group CEO, Ghassan Aboud Group

Suresh Vaidhyanathan is an accomplished business leader, having played key strategic roles with the region’s foremost business conglomerates for more than 25 years. His experience spans across multiple business sectors and countries in Middle East, Asia and Africa. Vaidhyanathan is a qualified chartered accountant and an alumnus of the Digital Business Transformation programme from the IMD Business School. He has completed several management programmes at Harvard, Wharton, MIT Sloan (AI & Blockchain), Chicago Booth School and INSEAD.

In 2012, Suresh qualified as a NACD Board Leadership Fellow (National Association of Corporate Directors, US). In addition, he is a certified board director with the Institute of Directors, Dubai (Hawakamah).

Presently, Vaidhyanathan is the group CEO at the UAE-headquartered Ghassan Aboud Group (GAG), driving growth across a diverse portfolio of businesses that include automotive, retail, food, hospitality, logistics, healthcare and eB2B digital platforms. The group is well positioned for robust growth with several ongoing projects within its core sectors. Vaidhyanathan played a pivotal role the conceptualisation of the group’s joint ventures with the AD Ports Group to develop Abu Dhabi Food Hub – KEZAD and Global Auto Hub – Abu Dhabi as public private partnership projects.

Suresh Vaidhyanathan, Group CEO, Ghassan Aboud Group
Suresh Vaidhyanathan, Group CEO, Ghassan Aboud Group

He also spearheads the group’s digital transformation initiatives that led to the launch of digital platforms and other upcoming transformative projects. The automotive business at the Ghassan Aboud Group is an unmatched platform that includes aggregation of a comprehensive range of automotive products and reaching them to more than 100 countries.

The hospitality brand Crystalbrook Collection is reputed for sustainability and manages a A$1bn portfolio of wholly owned five-star properties in Australia. Encouraged by positive consumer response, the group’s premium grocery retail brand – Grandiose Supermarket, is undergoing a rapid expansion and is set to reach 50 stores by end 2023.

The group’s food distribution and catering companies are also set to expand their operations, delivering exacting standards of nutrition and healthy products. Gallega Global Logistics provides innovative solutions across a diverse customer base including fulfilment operations for digital platforms. The disruptive digital platforms BuyGro (FMCG) and BuyParts24 (auto spare parts) have achieved significant traction in the addressable market within a short period since the launch.

The group CEO’s values are centred around integrity, innovation and prospering in partnership with the community. The Ghassan Aboud Group seeks to engage in businesses that create significant socio-economic impact and promote sustainability. The motto is very simple yet inspiring, “Building a better future, together”.

 

Othman Aljeda CEO – Aramex

Othman Aljeda CEO - Aramex
Othman Aljeda CEO – Aramex

Othman Aljeda joined Aramex in 1994 and fulfilled various leadership roles to strengthen the business across several markets. From 2007 until 2017, Aljeda was instrumental in setting up Aramex’s first regional office in Asia and spearheading its regional expansion plans.

In 2017, he was named the company’s regional CEO for Europe, North America, and Asia. In addition to his regional responsibilities, Aljeda took on the role of interim chief operating officer for six months in 2020 and was appointed CEO a year later.

Under his aegis, Aramex completed the acquisition of cross-border e-commerce enabling platform, Access USA Shipping (MyUS) in October this year, for an all-cash purchase price of approximately $265m, making it the company’s largest acquisition.

The firm recently completed its drone delivery testing in Oman, with plans to broaden the testing across the Middle East region, and in other core operating markets. Meanwhile, Aramex reported $1.19bn in revenue for the first nine months of 2022, while its net profit from continuing operations reached $34.8m. It plans to expand its network to serve more than 550 cities by 2023.

Hosam Arab, CEO and co-founder – Tabby

Hosam Arab - Tabby
Hosam Arab – Tabby

Hosam Arab, the CEO of payments and shopping app Tabby, is a distinguished name across the UAE’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He co-founded online fashion platform Namshi in 2011, which was fully acquired by retail giant Emaar Malls in 2019. The same year, Arab founded Tabby, which has since expanded regionally and is active in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Kuwait.

In August, Tabby secured $150m in debt financing from Atalaya Capital Management and Partners for Growth, which followed a $54m Series B extension earlier this year, scaling the total funding raised to over $275m.

In September, Tabby also partnered with payments facilitator Paymob,  to create a buy-now-pay-later solution for both in-store and online retailers in Egypt. Leading from the front, Arab has steered the company’s momentum, reporting a 10x growth in revenue, 8x in active customers and 3x in active retailer partners in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, over 8,000 global brands and small businesses use Tabby, with more than two million active users in its network.

 

Harish Prithvi, COO – AIX Investment Group

Harish Prithvi, COO - AIX Investment Group
Harish Prithvi, COO – AIX Investment Group

When Harish Prithvi, COO of AIX Investment Group, first came to the UAE in 2012, a mentor told him: “Anyone can aspire and become anybody here”. Prithvi often says that he didn’t truly understand what it meant back then. But after 10 years in this country, he agrees.

According to Prithvi, the UAE breathes entrepreneurship, not just for business owners but also for employees who will often find that organisations here encourage an entrepreneurial mindset.

Prithvi started his career in IT-enabled services at Dell 19 years ago in India. Having learned the ropes of the business, he then moved on to TCS (an Indian IT major owned by the Tata conglomerate), where an insightful mentor recognised his skills of being a people’s person.

In TCS, he joined the transition team, where he was entrusted with customer engagement responsibilities, interacting with clients, understanding their concerns and creating tailored, cost-effective solutions.

In his five years with TCS, Prithvi had the opportunity to meet clients from all verticals and geographies, which led him to enter the consulting space With this, he joined KPMG as a management consultant – Strategy and Advisory, where he worked for three years.

With 11 years into his professional career, Prithvi spent a month in Dubai and zeroed in on the city. Looking back, he feels that he came to Dubai to “learn the city”. This is when he also took a sabbatical to upskill and join the Hult International Business School to pursue his executive MBA (EMBA).

After his EMBA, he and his two friends set up a financial brokerage company that married finance with real estate. He played a key role in shaping the organisational structure of the companies such as CEM Business Solutions, Advance Financial Solutions and Home Bridge Finance. Prithvi first met the founder of AIX Investment Group as a potential client himself. However, his differential thinking, fundamental understanding of structured investment products and logical reasoning led him to join the company as an external consultant. In 2019, he joined AIX as director – Strategy and was elevated to the role of a chief operating officer of the group in May 2022.

Prithvi opines that three sectors are slated to see maximum growth in the UAE – real estate, tourism and finance. For creating a growing business in the UAE, he believes that it should contain at least two out of these three sectors in its core offering. Prithvi says that a true leader can project authority without intimidation and believes in making his peers feel at ease while orienting them into their new roles so that, in the future, all the employees can function independently. Prithvi’s idol is Ratan Tata, the Indian industrialist and former chairman of Tata Sons, a man who remains humble and down-to-earth despite his lofty achievements and great success.

Dharmin Ved, CEO – 6thStreet.com

Dharmin Ved CEO 6th Street
Dharmin Ved CEO 6th Street

Dharmin Ved has built a successful career as the CEO of 6thStreet.com, an omnichannel retailer of high-street fashion and beauty brands across the GCC. A chartered accountant from the UK, Ved landed his first job at Ernst & Young in London. He was also appointed as the CEO of LM Exchange, a role he continues to fulfill even today. Ved made his debut in the fashion retail industry by taking on the role of managing director of the Apparel Group in Russia.

During this time, he operated three brands and opened 30 stores over four years.

In November 2016, he launched 6thStreet.com, which over the years, has rapidly grown to become one of the top e-commerce destinations in the region. Ved developed a strong vision of embracing technology and of seamlessly merging the physical and online shopping experience.

He orchestrated the formation of Dubai’s first ‘phygital’ store of 6thStreet at Dubai Hills mall. The ‘phygital store’ holds seven times the inventory of a regular store, stocking almost every brand the 6thStreet.com app has available in the UAE, such as Birkenstock, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Crocs, Levi’s, Skechers, Adidas, Nike, Dune London, Aldo, Toms and more.

 

 

Elie Skaf. co-founder and CEO – Right Farm

Elie Skaf. co-founder and CEO - Right Farm
Elie Skaf. co-founder and CEO – Right Farm

Born in Jezzine, Lebanon and raised in Abu Dhabi, Elie Skaf co-founded Right Farm in 2021. In his role, he is responsible for managing stakeholders and spearheading the company’s business development efforts with a particular focus on fundraising.

Prioritising internal strategy and growth to ensure a positive and effective working environment, Skaf is dedicated to solving current global food security challenges. To achieve net-zero and sustainable development goals, as well as ensuring food security, Skaf believes supply chain optimisation of the food value chain is crucial to ensuring a restorative and regenerative approach to our economies.

He is also looking to lead the organisation towards sustainable goals and expanding the company’s verticals across the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, Turkey (MENAPT) region. Earlier this year, Right Farm raised $2.8m in seed funding led by DisruptAD, ADQ’s venture platform and Enhance Venture, the venture studio for the MENAPT region.

Skaf’s previous experience includes demand planning and pricing at AstraZeneca, management consulting at PWC; head of business development and partnerships for Careem; and business development for Surkus. In addition, he helped build e-commerce venture, Loop Contacts, where he now sits as a board member.

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