Traditional values, new challenges: Family firms in the Middle East

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Osama Ibrahim Seddiqi - CFO, Seddiqi Holdings, Luxury goods retailer, United Arab Emirates

As we’ve discussed in previous reports, family businesses are especially important in Middle Eastern economies, contributing 60% to GDP and employing over 80% of the workforce. Many of the region’s largest companies are family-controlled, and in a sector like retail, some of the biggest Western brands are actually managed as franchise operations by local family firms.

The Seddiqi family has built its own successful legacy and brand; Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons has a reputation as a trusted destination for luxury watches and jewellery in the Middle East, representing more than 60 luxury timepiece brands across 65 locations in the UAE. The company was originally founded in the late 1940s, and four generations later, is still owned and run by the family, with new ventures in education, healthcare, services, and real estate co-ordinated through a holding company.

Osama Ibrahim Seddiqi is CFO of Seddiqi Holding, and first got involved in the family firm during school vacations, working as a sales assistant. “This is where I learned one of the secrets of our family’s success: we treat our customers as long-term friends, not just one-off clients. That’s as important now as it was in the 1950s. That’s why I sometimes make a point of delivering some of the client’s timepieces. That’s part of our culture.” 

Osama Ibrahim Seddiqi - CFO, Seddiqi Holdings

Osama Ibrahim Seddiqi - CFO, Seddiqi Holdings

However, Osama didn’t go straight into the family firm. In fact, he followed a carefully thought-out career plan, beginning with a baccalaureate in Dubai, followed by a degree in Business Administration in Denver, and several years’ experience with the National Bank of Dubai. “This allowed me to develop all the specific skills I needed to take on a senior finance role in my family’s company, and I now sit on Seddiqi Holdings executive committee and Board of Directors. We currently have ten family members actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the business, but we recognise the value of bringing in skilled professionals from outside, and there are many in senior management or C-suite roles.”

Seddiqi boutique, UAE

Seddiqi boutique, UAE

Osama believes that the Seddiqi family culture is one of the principal reasons why top talent comes – and stays: “Our founder wanted us to have a dynamic but family-oriented working environment, and we’re committed to ensuring that continues.  People like the fact that we have a very flat management structure, and decisions can be made and implemented quickly. We also invest in training and developing our employees – we now have over 700 across the whole business.” Family members are also thoroughly trained: “We have a robust succession plan that nurtures and develops younger family members who are interested in joining the firm, ensuring they have the right skills in order to succeed.” 

One of those skills will undoubtedly be digital. Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons was one of the first retailers in the region to see the potential of digital ten years ago, and this technology is now transforming how people shop.  “Digital has to be absolutely integral to every organisation’s marketing and communication strategy. It’s central to every aspect of consumer engagement, whether that’s e-commerce, advertising, consumer targeting, or social media. That’s the future, and it’s happening now.”

Contact us

Peter Bartels

Global Entrepreneurial & Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 40 6378-2170

Peter Englisch

Global Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 201 438 1812

Siew Quan Ng

Asia Pacific Leader, Entrepreneurial and Private Clients, PwC Singapore

Tel: +65 6236 3818

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