There are only few businesses that have withstood the test of time and in the Middle East, Zahid Group proves that as time goes by, the company continues to flourish and play an important role in developing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure. Zahid Group has been in business for over a century already, establishing a good rapport among its partners through its partnerships, joint ventures and subsidiaries. It is currently based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and offers different services and solutions for several industries, including construction, electricity and water generation, agriculture, mining, oil and gas, power, material handling, building materials, real estate development, travel and tourism, hospitality, and transportation and logistics.
By providing excellent services to its costumers through its products and solutions, Zahid Group has set a great example for other companies to follow. It has now attracted amazing talents in Saudi Arabia and other talented professionals across the globe. With a skilled workforce to support the business, it now aims to “exceed costumer expectations by providing premium products and services through our network of strategically located branches in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
What makes Zahid Group stand out among its competition is its commitment to develop and maintain a sustainable business model. The model is based on compassionate capitalism that looks after its people, its clients, the community and the environment while remaining to be a “viable and profitable business”. It takes pride of its employment inclusivity by hiring men, women and persons with disabilities who can always contribute to the development and success to the company.
In this exclusive interview with the company’s Vice President for HR & Group Affairs, Mr. Amr Khashoggi shares the company’s plans for its future and its latest technologies and discusses how the company continues to support its causes and CSR initiatives. He also leaves an important advice to young engineers all over the world.
My name is Amr Khashoggi. I was born in Abha, in the South and mountainous part of Saudi Arabia. I grew up in the capital city of Riyadh, then moved to an English Boarding School in Lebanon. Then, I completed my studies in the UK and the US, culminating with an MBA from the Yale University School of Management in 1979.
Since graduation I have worked in various companies, mostly in building materials, and today we have a Gypsum factory in partnership with Lafarge Holcim, the largest building materials company in the world, and a few partners, among them is the Zahid Group.
My wife and I, with our 3 children, their spouses and our 5 grandchildren all live in the Coastal City of Jeddah, the Bride of the Red Sea.
Describe your company.
I now work as VP for HR and Group Affairs for the Zahid Group of Companies.
Zahid Group is a privately-held organization representing a diverse range of companies, strategic partnerships, and world-renowned brands. Headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Group is led by an established family whose commercial roots date back over a century.
Headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Group is led by an established family whose commercial roots date back over a century.
Guided by a set of shared values that reflects the culture and beliefs of Zahid Group, we strive to build excellence – in individuals, customer service, products, and the community.
We do this through partnerships with global industry leaders, customers, stakeholders, and employees. These partnerships enable us to offer best-in-class products and services that not only support the success of individuals and businesses, but also the success of Saudi Arabia and beyond.
As an equal opportunity employer, we attract a pool of exceptionally talented Saudis of both genders, including persons with disability, as well as committed professionals from around the globe. Our diverse workforce represents many nationalities, while also representing a high level of Saudization.
For more details about the company, visit www.zahid.com
How big is your company?
We just have under 4,000 employees with 18 branches throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
What are your future expansion plans?
For any company to sustain its growth and expansion, it must focus on its core businesses, which in our case are Heavy Machinery, Transportation, Energy and Investments. But the company must have an effective succession plan that continuously feeds in young blood in the cadres of its workforce, bringing energy, passion and new perspective to how a business should be conducted.
Our company has just done that, where young employees have earned leadership positions after years of working in various roles in the Group companies, learning and developing themselves in preparation for higher and higher ranks in the echelon of management.
How many engineers do you have in your company?
One third of our employees are engineers, including highly qualified young Saudi ladies, with world class technical knowledge that we are proud of, as well as our global partners, who have been impressed with our national cadres.
How do you motivate your employees?
We have a great working environment and we value our employees as our greatest asset. We share common values that drive our commitment to a sustainable business model. This is based on compassionate capitalism, where we care for the environment, for our people, our clients and our community, yet remain a viable and profitable business.
What are the most successful products that you have launched and why was it a success?
Our success is based on helping our clients with the best-in-class products and services in order that they are successful in their businesses.
What products are you working on right now?
a. What technologies do you use in your latest machineries?
As part of our successful implementation in our machines (whether construction machinery, such as those made by Caterpillar, or commercial vehicles), we equip them with sensors that are connected to the GPS chips sending technical data to our centers. Then, we can analyze and send reports to our clients, which improves the operation and maintenance of those units that are sometimes in the remotest of areas.
b. What kind of support do you offer to your clients?
We have mobile units that are always nearby to help our clients, whenever they need our support.
c. Where are they manufactured?
Though most of our products are manufactured abroad, we are increasingly looking at manufacturing whatever components or parts that have a critical mass volume, making local production viable.
LEADERSHIP & ENGINEERING TRENDS
What is the leadership style in KSA or the Middle East?
This is not a fair question, as leadership styles, whether in Saudi or elsewhere in the world are varied, especially when you take into consideration different industries and regional differences.
However, having said that, young Saudi men and women are returning from studying abroad on Government and private scholarships, bringing with them new styles of management and leadership. The country would surely benefit.
Are there any pioneering engineering stories in the Middle East, perhaps famous inventors and scientists?
I am sure there are, but I can tell you from our experience that our young engineers at our truck assembly plant in King Abdullah Economic City have come up with great incremental small (some may say tiny) improvements that have resulted in greater efficiency in our operation. I am proud of them, as much as I would of a compatriot who invents an earth-shattering well-engineered product.
What are the current trends in your industry?
I think the most important trend is the application of technology. The World Economic Forum calls it “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, and technology and miniaturization have invaded our lives and the way our industry works today.
What latest trends or innovations are you currently working on?
We are fully aligned with the Saudi Vision 2030, and as such, we are raising the bar in terms of technical and vocational training. We need to develop our youth to be technically savvy and to have the engineering capability to rise to the challenge that our country needs to transform itself from being an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based society.
What do you think will the future of your industry look like this year and by year 2020?
This year will prove challenging for the construction and transport industry, but we expect stability in 2018 and growth in 2019 and 2020. We will continue to look for products that are environmentally-friendly yet more efficient and relying on alternative or hybrid energy solutions. We will continue to train our employees to be more technically savvy and more customer driven.
SOCIAL IMPACT & CSR
Describe the CSR history and philosophy of the company?
As I said above, our philosophy and CSR strategy is to become a social enterprise. What we mean by that is we will still be profit-driven but everything we do is driven by the impact we have on the environment, employees, customers, and the society in which we thrive. We believe in compassionate capitalism.
a. What is your company’s cause?
We focus on the men and women of Saudi Arabia. Those include young and old, as well as persons with disabilities. All our programs aim to achieve equality and fairness in our efforts to achieve true inclusion.
b. How many employees are involved?
We encourage all our employees to participate in voluntary initiatives such as “the neighbor for the neighbor”, where we help our neighbors especially during natural disasters, such as floods. Other initiatives include “the skill factory”, where we ask our employees to dedicate a few hours per month to teach poor kids from our neighborhoods in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam a course in English, Computers or basic mechanics or electric engineering, depending on the kids.
We also have a program, called “Contractors of The Future”, where we fund young unemployed Saudis and turn them from being job seekers to becoming job creators. We train them on how to operate our machinery and trucks, and then we help them by arranging subcontracts with our major customers. This program is 4 years old and is very successful with no defaults. It has grown to more than SAR 150 Million a year in transactions
c. When did the company start?
Zahid has been socially responsible for more than a century, though the programs and initiatives vary, such as Amira Family Park and Faisal Zahid Sports Park, both in the poorest area of Jeddah and were done jointly with Friends of Jeddah Parks and the local communities.
We have just marked the milestone of 25 years anniversary since we founded Jeddah Institute for Speech and Hearing (JISH). 4 years ago, we were one of 6 founders of Qaderoon Business Disability Network, which aims at including persons with disabilities in the work force. This was established in association with the Ministry of Labor & Social Development and the Human Resources Development Fund.
d. Who pioneered the CSR initiative?
As I said, there were many CSR initiatives that were underway, but were a bit fragmented. In the last 10 years or so, we started developing our CSR strategy to focus on the youth, persons with disability, women, and localization of technology, best practices and jobs so our nationals can benefit to the maximum.
Do you support economic, political, educational, and environmental causes?
All our initiatives are geared to help the community and the environment. Through our Zahid Learning Institutes, we plan to continue on growing our technical and vocational trainings, working to turn our Saudi Communities into a knowledge-based society.
Which organizations or individuals do you support? Do you have a partnership with other non- profit organizations, government, international agencies or schools?
Yes, we work closely with other NGOs, NPOs, and charities as well as the chambers of commerce in order that we work in tandem to achieve our common goal of helping our country and citizens.
How do you make your CSR initiatives successful?
For initiatives to succeed, you need champions to take ownership of them. In that, we have succeeded to achieve our goals.
What are the social impacts of your CSR initiatives?
I will mention only Qaderoon here – when in 4 years, we have been able to include more than 2,000 persons with disabilities in the workforce of our member companies.
What are your future CSR initiatives?
Shhhh … it is a secret! Just joking.
I think we will continue to stick to our successful CSR initiatives but we will refine them as we learn the best practice locally or globally.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ENGINEERS
I would advise the young men and women of this aspiring generation to focus on 3 things:
(1) improve yourself in every way by expanding your horizon and knowledge in various topics
and not just the subject or industry you are interested in
(2) eat healthy, exercise and see the world
(3) each one of you has a circle of influence, and as they say sharing is caring, together you and your circle will grow in knowledge, as well as open many windows of opportunity.
A chance meeting between our then Chairman, the late Sheikh Yousuf M Zahid, and a Caterpillar salesman and engineer, at the Jeddah airport in 1950, led to a strong, thriving and lasting partnership that continues to this day.