POWER PLAY

Qatar 2015 | RETAIL & LIFESTYLE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hani Al Bast, Group CEO of Transind Holding, on the progress of the group, challenges in the market, and e-commerce.

Hani Al Bast
BIOGRAPHY
Hani Al Bast is the Group CEO for Transind Holding. He started his career in 1992 with Arab Jordan Investment Bank, and then moved to another two banks before moving to Qatar in 1998. He brought his extensive banking experience with him to help build the Auditing System in Doha Bank. After this, he held a series of commercial and business management roles in the bank, and in 2012 he decided to move into the private sector as Group CEO for Transind Holding. The main assignment at that time, which was agreed with Sheikh Jabor Bin Abdul Rahman Bin Jabor Al Thani, was to build the holding group to be one of the top five groups in Qatar, reflecting positively on the business environment.

What are the key values that drive the group's progress?

Our values are very clear. We demonstrate a can-do attitude, we are accountable for our decisions and actions, we promise what is deliverable and deliver what we promise, we respect others' time, we take on tough challenges and make them happen, we set achievable goals and achieve them, we value teamwork, and we are forthright, direct, and honest. These are our values, and there is no option for comprise.

What are the main challenges to doing business here in Qatar?

A crucial indicator is inflation. However, inflation today doesn't reflect the state of this business because the authorities use items to calculate it that haven't increased in value for the last 50 years. Therefore, inflation doesn't reflect reality. The real issue is the significant increase in salaries and rent. If the company was being established today and not in 1979, we would need a lot more money; this is the face of the story. However, on the positive side, we know that there will be more than 1 million sqm of office space coming onto the market in the upcoming five years. I believe this is a great decision, and it will take businesses in the right direction again. Still, for the next two years, everybody is going to continue suffering because of rental costs. Another positive, however, is the zero tax policy in Qatar. I have to pay taxes in Oman, but I pay zero taxes in Qatar. That gives us some answers as to why rent is expensive. Furthermore, Qatar today boasts the highest average income per capita, meaning that people are willing to spend. This is a healthy market for an investor to be in. When looking forward, we don't use 2022 as a benchmark because it is not the benchmark for Qatar. It is an event, albeit an event we are very proud to have. Our benchmark today is the Qatar Vision 2030, and we are working on this and implementing our strategy based on its principle aims.

E-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon here in Qatar. What is the strategy of Transind Holding in that field?

Today, e-commerce is the right way to go if you want to future proof your business. We have already established our e-commerce framework in terms of food, beverages, and sport. However, we still aren't happy; this is not the final stage. Yes, we are the leaders, and we generate 12% of our total sales through e-commerce; however, we want to keep on growing in this area. Still, we don't have a clear road map for Qatar, and this is not just our problem; it is a problem for everybody. Mapping for Qatar is under way, down to house numbers, street names, zones, and everything else. I understand it should be fully implemented before December 2014, and could boost e-commerce rates two- or three-fold.

How do you assess the government's efforts to support local SMEs?

There is a clear vision from the government to enhance and encourage family businesses to become organized businesses. To do this, it decided to look at the SME market. In order to formalize a business, a lot of work is required in terms of documentation, policies, and procedures. The largest change is to develop a structure for the board of directors. This means that it is no longer your personal money but your shareholders' money, and you are responsible for generating a healthy profit for them. You will also sit at a general assembly where they will ask you the motivations behind your decisions. Today, the SME sector is a benchmark for any economy if you want to develop. For this reason, the government has decided to go for the SME market, which I am quite sure will be a healthy market in a couple of years.