PARTNER OF CHOICE

UAE, Dubai 2015 | MARITIME | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mishal Hamed Kanoo, Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo Group, on the company's philosophy, potential investment opportunities, and the outlook for the future.

Mishal Hamed Kanoo
BIOGRAPHY
Mishal Hamed Kanoo is the Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo Group, one of the largest independent, family-owned group of companies in the Gulf region. He is a UAE national, born in 1969. He finished his schooling in Dubai and holds an MBA in Finance from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas and another from the American University of Sharjah. He started his professional experience at Kanoo Group in 1991 before going abroad to do his MBA. He rejoined the company in 1994, and then had a stint with Arthur Andersen in Dubai as an Auditor before taking up his current position in 1997. He also teaches part time at the American University of Sharjah on the subject of Family Business.

How would you describe the overall objective of Kanoo Group going forward?

Our main concern as a business is to make profit, obviously. I am a business; I am not a charity. However, the point of making money is to safeguard and benefit the people working within the organization. At the end of the day, that is the important thing to focus on. I am only as good as my front people that are interacting with my customers. Therefore, I should ensure that they have a good, safe, and flourishing environment. When that happens, they will be the best ambassadors for the company. The second part is philosophical in that we want to give back to the community. This has nothing to do with public relations. For us, it is important to ensure the community benefits us, and I actually want to make sure that the people within my organization's communities are served as well. The happier they are, the easier their lives and the better they get the job done. It is as simple as that.

What room do you see for opportunity in the industrial sector?

As a business, the tendency we have is to look toward “dirty business," as in things to do with oil and grime. Not a lot of people go for it because it's not a “sexy" business, but it is lucrative if you are willing to put in the time and energy. As a family, that is what we tend to move toward. I can't see my family moving into IT, healthcare, or education, because there are many players trying to get into that market. When I see many people move toward a certain industry that is when I want out. I tend to go to businesses most people want to avoid.

How does the Kanoo Group implement corporate governance practices in order to be a partner of choice for multinational investors?

We have had concepts of governance since the 1960s. We also do perpetual, ongoing auditing. For the longest time, we have also had a separate legal department. My uncle decided that if he was going to compete with the large multinationals from the UK in the 1960s, he might as well have an in-house equivalent. Therefore, he brought in professional managers to do that and we created these splits for governance. This is something we have been doing for a long time and is nothing new for us.

What is your outlook for Kanoo Group in the near term?

We are focused on whatever economy we are in, be it Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or Qatar. The question mark is not on the economical point of view, but the political. I am not worried about the internal politics in the region. I am more concerned with IS. I am interested to see what happens with it and how it will affect us, and the same goes for Syria and Yemen. I am also interested to see what happens between the US and Iran. All of this will either be positive or negative. There will be an immediate positive affect if something good happens between Iran and the US, a huge inflow of cash will come from Iran into Dubai. That is an immediate positive thing. The not so positive thing is that Iran might then start trying to influence the rest of the Gulf. That could be positive or negative, but these are the unknowns for us as a business.