EXPANSION PLANS

Qatar 2019 | RETAIL & LIFESTYLE | INTERVIEW

Abu Issa Holding has plans to launch e-commerce for the Qatari consumer market in mid-2019 by employing its strong distribution network of consumer items.

Ashraf A. R. Abu Issa
BIOGRAPHY
Ashraf A. R. Abu Issa holds a BA from the American College of Atlanta and was certified by the Harvard Business School for the Owner/President Management Program. Taking over the business at 19 years of age, he has demonstrated entrepreneurial and leadership qualities to continue the legacy of his late father Abdul Raheem Abu Issa together with his brother Nabil Abu Issa. Their focus on innovation and customer service are the key factors behind the group’s success. Besides his corporate activities, Ashraf Abu Issa serves on the board of PCRF, a child relief organization, and is co-founder of INJAZ Qatar, a non-profit organization inspiring youth to succeed in a global economy.

What are your plans to boost e-commerce in the country, especially locally sourced e-commerce?

Abu Issa Group was one of the first Qatari companies that started in e-commerce five years ago. However, we did not do it in the Qatari market, because the market is extremely small. We used our expertise in retail to adapt to e-commerce. We started in the US, the biggest market for e-commerce. We opened a flagship store in New York for one of our own-concept brands Mosafer. This store would complement online shoppers, and there was a physical store where shoppers could have direct contact with the product. We plan to increase the number of flagship stores in large cities in the US. After the US, we target two other large e-commerce markets where there is even more room for penetration: China and India. Qatar is early from a consumer perspective. However, we have plans for the consumer market that will be put in place by mid-2019. They will target more consumer products and not luxury brands. We have a strong distribution network of consumer items, which can be used more to establish an e-commerce platform in the country. For example, people will be able to order groceries online.

Through uniPharm, the group is present in the healthcare market. How are you helping advance this sector?

uniPharm is a distributing company of pharmaceuticals, OTCs, home healthcare products, health and beauty aids, cosmetics, confectionery, private label, and seasonal products. The healthcare sector is moving toward more home-based type of healthcare. Service to home will play an important role in the future of healthcare in Qatar. For example, uniPharm is working to provide devices for kidney cleaning treatment. Instead of a patient going several times a week to the hospital, which can be difficult for senior citizens, they can just have the treatment done at home. In addition, given the current direction toward more in-country production, uniPharm is developing capacity to produce basic pharmaceuticals in Qatar.

A solid share of Abu Issa Holding's business is in Turkey. What are your expansion plans?

Our experience investing in Turkey has been great. We have found a dynamic market of 80 million people, which means consumption capacity, as well as the right talent and partners to deliver our offering. We will have a physical presence in Istanbul's new airport, which has a capacity of 100 million passengers per year, and this will significantly benefit our group. Additionally, in 2017 we expanded to South Africa with the opening of two new luxury fashion boutiques located in Johannesburg. To continue our international expansion, we seek to intensify our presence in the US and penetrate China and India. In total, we are currently present in six countries.

What are the priorities for Abu Issa Holding in 2019?

Strengthening our own brands is one of our priorities. Given the current consumer trends, there is no need to be an extremely well-known brand to target high-end consumers. With our brands, we put in a great deal of effort to give them the right perception and features to reach the relevant consumers. Some of our brands include Mosafer, Karisma, or Liwani, which are product and consumer focused. Apart from that, we will focus on distribution to reach more clients in a quicker way.