VENTURES AFRICA – Shafik Gabr, chairman of the ARTOC Group for Investment and Development has been heralded as one of the best businessmen in the world, and appears on rich lists for both Africa and the Arab world. With a net worth of $ 730 million (Forbes, 2012), Gabr heads up a global conglomerate that he has systematically grown and diversified over the years, and is set to continue from strength to strength. Take a look at the advice to be gleaned from his career to date.
Don’t overlook opportunity
Despite being a consummate professional, innovator, and businessman in his own right, Shafik Gabr decided to take the helm of his father’s already established company and grow it to the heights it has achieved today. At its establishment in 1971, the Adel Gabr Consultant Company was a narrow-remitted consultancy business hoping to attract investors to Egypt. Shafik Gabr had a different vision, but knew that the existing reputation and network of his father’s company would be useful to any business growth and endeavour. The lesson? Don’t dismiss an opportunity because it does not meet your expectations yet. Work with opportunity, and it is possible to transform a small Egyptian consultancy into a mega international conglomerate.
Push forward and diversify
At its beginnings, ARTOC specialised in construction projects, and even in its initial growth remained committed to its sector; only expanding within the boundaries of construction projects. For example, the company added the provision of engineering expertise to its list of construction related services. However, Gabr soon realised the error of this method – as the true path to success is diversification. Before long, ARTOC had developed interests in aerospace, automotive, communication, infrastructure, consumer products, publishing, steel fabrication, utility and engineered equipment, real estate development, and energy, with subsidiaries and offices spanning the world. To provide specialist and quality services is imperative – but it is important not to become confined by a start-out sector. To truly achieve success on a global scale it is necessary to push forward, grow the company through risk-taking, and above all diversification is the key to becoming a global heavy-weight.
Take an interest
Gabr is renowned for his excellent networking skills, and easily makes friends in high places. Gabr is widely reported to count the royalty, political leaders and upper echelons of society from around the world among his personal friends. However, Gabr also understands the importance of taking an interest in society, and in certain circumstances these two elements merge together in a vital way. Since the outbreak of civil unrest that has plagued Egypt from 2010 onwards, Gabr has often spoken out about the importance of pushing for regimental change in an orderly, lawful and peaceful fashion – and he does not shy away from using his networking skills to facilitate change.
Covering the rarely-seen sides of the civil unrest, journalist Lloyd Grove tells us of Gabr: “He has become a near-billionaire while walking a fine line—making friends and influencing people in the regime of deposed President Hosni Mubarak while insistently pushing democratic reforms and economic empowerment for ordinary Egyptians.”
Commitment to Community
Even beyond taking an interest in his country’s future and political stability, Gabr is committed to community development, seeing development as another element in achieveing economic progress. In this vein he has established the Mohamed Shafik Gabr Foundation for Social Development, which provides varied social services to the communities it helps; including education services, health services, and community facilities and infrastructure upgrading. Gabr believes that in order for Egyptian – and African – economy to become a world player, local communities must be supported in order to involve the whole of society is stabilising the economy.
Keep a look out
Never take your eye off the prize. Despite being a successful and innovative businessman, Gabr is constantly looking for the next opportunity. Particularly in the Northern African region, under the current climate, the status quo is constantly changing with new opportunities capable of arising at any moment. With the fall of the Tunisian and Libyan dictatorships, for example, a multiplicity of formerly “government”-owned companies have been freed up for new investors. Media reports suggest that Gabr is eyeing up just such an automotive company in Tunisia, and various infrastructure projects as well as a car business in Libya. One wonders what else he has up his sleeve.
Image via Forbes