The goal: Take his family’s business to the next level, including leading an initial public offering
The challenge: Transform a commoditised personal hygiene business into a premium international wellness brand
The result: A change in the management culture, and new products
Elia Nuqul, 28, is the third generation of his family to work in Nuqul Group, a Jordanian conglomerate with more than $1bn in annual revenues and approximately 6,000 employees across a diversified group of more than 30 companies in 78 territories. The largest of these is Fine Hygiene Holdings (FHH), the biggest hygienic tissue and diaper producer in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which is being transformed into a wellness company.
Elia, who has worked in the family business for three years, is currently a director within the group and a new category manager at FHH. He is focussed on transforming the modus operandi of the smaller subsidiaries. With support from his father and FHH’s US-born CEO, he is gaining experience to eventually take over as chair of Nuqul Group.
At FHH, Elia is concentrating on diversifying the business and service offerings, launching new products to “help enhance the lifestyle” of its customers and transforming the company from a hygienic company into a wellness company. The personal hygiene market has become fiercely price driven, and customer loyalty is weak. Wellness is a broader category with greater potential to create premium brands. Elia also wants to internationalise the business, which today earns 70% to 80% of its revenues from the MENA markets.
“I’m being pushed to my limits to make sure that I continue what’s been done, but more importantly to take the business to the next level.”
Nuqul Group is also undergoing a cultural transformation, and Elia and the group’s CEO are championing a meritocratic, performance-driven and diverse management culture. The focus is on digitising operations to enhance efficiencies (i.e., applying technology as broadly as possible) and embarking on new projects that will set the companies apart from their competition. Elia is driving the launch of a new FHH herbal beverage in the US and has played a leading role in FHH’s 30% acquisition of Nai Arabia, a Middle Eastern brand of an all-natural iced tea that is low-calorie and low in natural sugars.
Elia says his main challenges have been accommodating the differences in management styles across the generations (with the more modern style focussed on outcomes rather than strict observance of traditional formalities) and the risk appetite in the younger generation; also challenging is the ability to balance his role as a salaried employee within the corporate reporting structure with his status as a shareholder and family heir.
However, he says he has the full support of his father to push ahead with the transformation of Nuqul Group and to gain the experience he will need to become its chair. In addition to his role at Nuqul Group, Elia is also a cofounder of a fully integrated laundry service startup, WashyWash, a founding partner of an F&B Investment Club and a scout investor for BeyondCapital, a Jordanian venture capital firm.
“I’m being pushed to my limits to make sure that I continue what’s been done, but more importantly to take the business to the next level,” he says. “My grandfather started the business in 1952 as a Palestinian refugee, my father institutionalized it and grew it from a group of four companies to more than 30, and right now I want to take it even beyond that.”