For any business to succeed, it is important to set its core values as the foundation to build upon. Having clearly defined values before commencing business results in excellent output and unmatched prominence. It also makes the goal of the business easier to identify.
Nehmeh is a similar example of such an organization that has a strong base of values upon which the business has been built. Nehmeh has been successfully delivering a plethora of industry solutions to several clients since its inception and setting high industrial standards.
Situated in Doha, Qatar, Nehmeh is spearheaded by its CEO, Raja V. Assili. The following extract sheds light upon Nehmeh’s inception and its successful functioning in the International Trade and Development space for more than seven decades now.
Origin of the Extraordinary
Established in 1955, Nehmeh is amongst the oldest groups incorporated in Qatar. The values of its late founder, Antoine Nehme, remain at the heart of its operations: People, Trust, Quality, and Commitment.
Nehmeh is constantly building an organization to last, offering solutions, and building brands that will continue to benefit people, communities, and companies for the next sixty years and beyond.
Extending Excellent Industry Solutions
Nehmeh provides a wide and growing range of Industrial Solutions, which fall into the following categories: (i) Automotive paints and supplies, and equipment for garages, (ii) Tools and equipment for use in construction – Nehmeh represents leading international brands, including Makita, a top manufacturer of power tools; (iii) Heat Transfer Solutions – Nehmeh’s factory produces in Qatar top quality air handling units for commercial and residential applications; (iv) Servicing and repair of goods it sells and also industrial radiators; (v) Woodworking equipment and products; and, equipment rental. All supported by its recognized Service Solutions, Nehmeh group’s aftersales arm.
Nehmeh does not sell second tier. It only sells products that comply with the company’s standards & values, which it calls ‘The Nehmeh Way.’ The company constantly works on bringing and maintaining the best-in-class products and innovations to its markets. The company is happy that it played and continues to play a role in most construction sites and industrial facilities in Qatar.
Journey of the Changemaker
While expanding on his professional journey to becoming the CEO of Nehmeh, Raja said, “My career started in academia, as a university lecturer. I taught a subject that most business students run away from Accounting and Finance. After 6 years, I switched to the corporate sector, working over 20 years for one of Saudi Arabia’s largest conglomerates. I was exposed to multiple sectors in this diverse group, and gained experience in many industries including fast food, telecom, financial services, subscription TV, cosmetics, and perfume retail, to name a few.”
“I moved to Qatar in 2013, joining HEC Paris, a top-ranked business school, as its COO. I enjoyed returning to a university setting, particularly interacting with some of the brightest minds in Qatar who studied there and world-renowned professors. After five years, I moved to Qatari Investors Group, a company listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange, leading it until my very recent move to Nehmeh in the summer of 2021.”
“Nehmeh is a family business, and that is one of its greatest assets and virtues. Its shareholders took the bold step of appointing, for the first time in the company’s 65-year history, a non-family CEO. This adds another dimension to the normal responsibilities of a CEO. My aim is to blend my diverse experience with our board’s vision and guidance to position Nehmeh as a resilient and future-ready enterprise, preserving the legacy of its founders for future generations,” he added.
Towards a Technologically Equipped Future
When asked about his opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies has transformed businesses, Raja said, “When I started my career, there were no mobile phones, no internet, and no Amazon. Fax, telex, paper memos, and fixed-line phones dominated business communications. When I tell this to my 13-year-old daughter, she looks at me puzzlingly. Had I not adapted to and adopted these technologies, I would not have survived in the corporate world. The same principle applies to companies.”
Further expanding on what he thinks could be expected in the near future in terms of modern technology in business, Raja said, “My experience tells me that the progress of technology will continue to outpace the corporate world’s ability to adopt new technologies. How many of us have purchased the latest mobile phone, only to use a fraction of its features? In the corporate world, there are many reasons why this lag happens, a key factor being return on investment.”
“Investment in technology needs to be carefully thought out and strategic, with an expectation that obsolescence will come sooner rather than later. Focus on the value brought by the core benefits and think carefully about the extras. It can also be a drawback to offer products or services that are too sophisticated or complicated for consumers.” Says Raja.
“At Nehmeh, we are strong believers in innovation, and we embrace technology and digital transformation. Among Nehmeh does not sell the second tier. It only sells products that comply with the company’s standards & values, which it calls ‘The Nehmeh Way.’
Nehmeh’s firsts are First Qatari company on the internet, the first eCommerce site for industrial solutions in Qatar, and the first company in the world to develop an app to track tool repairs in real-time. We will continue to be pioneers, blending technology and human interaction to provide a superior customer experience.” says Raja.
We asked Raja what his take was on the current pandemic, and its impact on global economies, and how he was driving the company to sustain operations and at the same time ensuring the safety of his employees, to which he replied, “Our business experienced major disruption last year. We could not access our warehouses due to a strict lockdown. Our supply chain experienced severe disruption.”
“We reacted by launching our e-commerce online store in just three weeks. Thankfully, the authorities in Qatar have managed the pandemic with great skill, striking the right balance between lockdowns and sustaining economic activity. Many lessons were learned from these exceptional times,” shares Raja.
“Our contingency planning is under constant review. At a minimum, we adhere to the recommendations set by health authorities and will not hesitate to go beyond these if we sense heightened risk. We have rolled out technology to facilitate a swift shift to work from home, if necessary. We hope the worst is behind us, but we must remain vigilant,” marks Raja.
Opinions that Matter
On being asked about his advice to the budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the business world, Raja said, “My top five pieces of advice would be:
- Leverage your network and expand it. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for advice from several individuals on the same matter. Do not assume you know it all.
- Watch the downside – always. Entrepreneurs are prone to developing blind spots to the downside. I was once involved in the development of a business in which we were so deeply engaged in getting it off the ground that we ignored what was happening around us. By the time we launched, our service had lost many of its competitive advantages.
- Do not allow an error to become a mistake. Along the way, there will be errors of judgment. Learning from errors is just as valuable as learning from successes. If you don’t, it becomes a mistake.
- Be prepared to accept there is a point where it is better to kill than curing a failing venture. Isolate emotional attachment from commercial reality and end on a positive note.
- If you succeed, scale-up cautiously, not too aggressively, and maintain a healthy financial position for a rainy day or two. Do not drain the value out of your business too soon, always think long-term,” Raja notes.
The Future Foreward
Upon asking about his plans to scale the company operations and offerings in 2021, Raja said, “The short answer is ‘prudently’ and ‘selectively.’ The pandemic’s potential to disrupt has not disappeared, although we know a lot more now than we did in 2020.”
“We are past the half-year mark; therefore, our focus will be on strengthening the company’s resilience through innovation, value, and a little bit of disruption. We are assessing a number of new opportunities that will be deployed in the coming months,” concluded Raja.
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