TBY talks to H.E. Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, Chairman of Al Faisal Holding, about new developments, and strategic priorities for 2021.

What were the main highlights for Al Faisal Holding in 2019 and the first half of 2020 and how do see your businesses evolving in the medium-term?

Over the past year, Al Faisal Holding has conducted a transformation process to redefine our corporate roadmap, introducing a new organisational and operational model which is aligned with our evolving business requirements and which should ensure continuity and growth. In terms of operational development, Al Faisal Holding has achieved organic growth within its existing businesses and has successfully expanded into new sectors. For example, ARTIC, our fully owned subsidiary focused on investments in the hospitality sector with a portfolio of over 28 hotels worldwide, opened six hotels in 2019. Three of these are in Doha (Swiss-Belinn Doha, JW Marriott Marquis City Centre Doha, and DoubleTree by Hilton Doha Al Sadd), two are in Turkey (Sheraton Istanbul City Center and JW Marriott Istanbul Bosporus) and one is in Hurghada, Egypt (Hilton Hurghada Plaza). Our Trading Cluster added Djula Jewelry Qatar to its portfolio, while our Project Management and Construction Cluster welcomed The Qatari Modern Maintenance Company. Elsewhere, our Manufacturing Cluster saw an increase in our investments in Frijns Structural Steel Middle East and other entities. Al Faisal Holding will always seek to fulfil growing market demands by introducing innovative services and products.

Last year you shared with us your commitment to 2030 Qatar National Vision, which is at the core of all Al Faisal Holding's projects and activities. What will be the most exciting projects for Al Faisal Holding in the next few years and how will you contribute through them to the achievement of the four pillars of 2030 QNV?

Throughout our journey over the past 55 years, our commitment to being a leading contributor towards the progress and wellbeing of our community through promoting innovation in education, culture, health and business has remained an unwavering, fundamental objective for me personally and for Al Faisal Holding as an organization. Within our operations are embedded the four pillars of QNV 2030 (economic development, social development, human development, and environmental development). For example, through our Culture, Education, Leisure, and Sport Cluster we focus on promoting high quality education, sports and culture through Stenden University Qatar, Gulf English School, FBQ Sports Academy, Al Faisal Without Boarders Foundation, Al Samriya Riding School, and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museums. We are always looking to empower the people of Qatar to be able to support our country's growth, an approach which requires continuous efforts and investment.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted international supply chains and has forced many businesses to turn their backs on international opportunities and focus instead on their local markets through digital channels. What digital and innovative strategies have you adopted to maintain business as usual during the crisis and how do you balance your expansion strategy between the local Qatari market and international markets in the short-term?

Our businesses have adapted well to the current situation, applying the right measures to protect employees and all stakeholders through social distancing measures, sanitization and increased awareness of safety guidelines. Several businesses under our Company have shifted to online operations, such as hotels where customers have been able to continue to order their preferred food, and Ebn Sina pharmacies which were able to join an online application (Rimads) where customers can order the medicine from the comfort of their own home. In addition, it was truly a pleasure to witness how our education institutions, Stenden University and Gulf English School, were able to deliver a digital education. It is also worth mentioning that we are applying Oracle software technology throughout all our operations.

What in Al Faisal Holding's assessment are the sectors that should lead Qatar's diversification efforts and what will be the role of big private conglomerates to push this strategy forward?

The sectors to lead Qatar's diversification efforts are the non-hydrocarbon industries such as industrial manufacturing, technology and innovative services. Through delivering excellence and innovation, as well as high quality products and services, Al Faisal Holding's diversified business model across eight clusters will continue to contribute to Qatar's diversification efforts as the private sector plays a significant role in diversifying the country's revenue streams and acts as a strong partner to achieve the Government's objectives.

What are your most immediate strategic priorities for 2020 and 2021?

Our immediate strategic objectives for the coming period are to conduct digital transformation among our business operations to ensure efficiency, continuity, and safety. We will also continue as well to explore new opportunities that can add value to Al Faisal Holding and all our stakeholders. I am confident that we will be able to mitigate the undesirable effects of the pandemic by having the right strategies in place. We have a solid foundation and a strong financial position that will help us to navigate the rest of 2020 and 2021 with confidence and resilience.