Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC is one of the Sultanate of Oman’s most renowned business houses. The origin of Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC dates back to over half a century. The proprietary family business was converted to its present form of a corporate entity in 1987. With determination and foresight, the Late Mohsin Haider Darwish established and steered the company to great heights, ensuring its evolution into a highly successful business group today. The company has witnessed phenomenal progress, helped by strategic planning and professional management and has kept pace with the tremendous progress the Sultanate of Oman has achieved under the wise and able leadership of His Majesty the late Sultan of Oman Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
With diverse business interests and varied interests in trading, contracting, projects and manufacturing, Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC has built a strategic partnership with some of the most reputable and desirable brands from across the world which include Land Rover, Jaguar, McLaren, Dell, Michelin, KDK, Mitsubishi Forklift, Ford Trucks, Ashok Leyland, Huawei, Hitachi, CAME, YALE, and Avon among others. In an exclusive interview with International Finance, Areej Mohsin Haider Darwish, the chairperson of Mohsin Haider Darwish who is also one of the foremost women entrepreneurs in the Sultanate, speaks about her entrepreneurial journey, the business challenges facing the company today, succession planning, and her advice for women in business.
International Finance: Tell us about your experience of growing up in an entrepreneurial family and how these experiences molded and shaped you into becoming the leader you are today?
Areej Mohsin Haider Darwish: At the beginning, Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC was a proprietary business. While growing up, I have seen my father persevere to build the company. His attention to detail, determination, and his unique way of thinking out of the box were key lessons for me. I joined the family business in 1994 at the grass root level and gradually developed my career and worked my way up the organisational hierarchy under the tutelage of the founder of Mohsin Haider Darwish Group, my father the Late Mohsin Haider Darwish. Working under him, I learnt the business and gained invaluable real-world business experience and learnt lessons which I still use today in the day-to-day business operations. Having him as my example helped me build my ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ and taught me to manage difficult situations.
Diversification in the Oman economy is an important factor toward achieving long-term sustainable growth. What are your thoughts on that?
Oman has a great deal of potential to diversify and it is considered a strategic objective and a key to economic development in the years ahead. The country has been gradually shifting away from its dependence on oil and continuing its development plans and programmes that are important for the success of the economic diversification policy, achieving greater prosperity for the Omani society and sustainable economic growth.
The focus is on key sectors namely tourism, manufacturing, logistics, fisheries, and education and we have seen significant growth in these sectors since the last few years. In line with the Sultanate’s vision, Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC too aims to move beyond niche segments. We have ventured into logistics, aviation, and education as part of our diversification strategy and besides these sectors, we have our focus on the future growth sectors such as the electric car industry and solar power.
What are the greatest challenges facing the business today? As the chairperson what is your strategy for the company?
We live in rapidly changing and uncertain times and have to adapt to various challenges and compete on a global stage. However, how an organisation faces those challenges determines its success.
In addition to the challenges thrown up by the general slowdown in the economy and the day-to-day challenges in business operations, one of the key challenges that we or for that matter any organisation faces is competition. Due to increasing choices available to the customer and changing preferences, the competition is very intense.
As the chairperson, my strategy and focus is to ensure that the company continues to be successful. We are always looking at improving the growth of the company by expanding our footprint and acquiring more agencies within our existing business areas while also selectively getting into new sectors.
As consumers have the distinct advantage of choosing the products that they like at the moment, it is crucial that we remain connected with our customers and maximise our growth with them. At Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC, we analyse our business achievements and ongoing targets. At the strategic level, we have an in-house team which specialises in identifying and exploring opportunities, new business ventures, and pursuing them through high-level dialogues. At the operations level, our core business team is also tasked with keeping a track of market movements and trends related to consumer choices, technological advancements, and new product development.
What is your business succession plan considering that Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC is a family run business?
Business succession planning is the key to preparing for the future and is a lengthy process. Succession planning keeps the business moving forward during the inevitable changes that come with running a business.
At Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC, we realise the importance of this key aspect and we prepare for all contingencies by identifying, training, and preparing the next generation of leaders to move up.
Since Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC is a family run business, we are grooming and developing our next generation, engaging them, helping them get the kind of skills and capabilities that they need to manage the business in the future. My son Mohsin has recently joined the family business after completing his Masters from King’s College. Since he is an automobile enthusiast, he is redefining the automotive operations and has brought new ideas to alleviate the automotive business challenges. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that our family and business interests are well served.
Besides Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC, you have ventured into your own business ventures. Could you please tell us more about them?
Oman’s retail industry is witnessing a change and it is being driven by the residents growing interest in luxury goods.
Keeping this in mind, I launched two well-known brands which would cater to the Oman market. I first launched a unique concept chocolate shop which has over 50 varieties of chocolate, wedding invitation cards and baby shower gifts. The team at Blessing is committed to providing personal attention to each customer’s specific needs. We come up with a product that perfectly fits every occasion, and that has contributed to our popularity.
My second venture is First Impression which captures the priceless fleeting moments of our life in mesmerising 3D and 2D hand and feet impressions. This is a unique concept as it’s the first in Oman.
What advice would you give to women in business?
It’s commendable to see women playing an active role in society, culture, and now also in business. Over the years, we have witnessed an increase in women entrepreneurs, with more and more women proving themselves in leadership positions across different sectors.
My first and foremost advice to women in business would be that they should believe in themselves and in the goal which they have set to achieve. They should take advantage of all opportunities that come their way. Setting a realistic goal, working towards it with dedication, determination and passion are the critical factors for successful entrepreneurship.
Being an entrepreneur entails taking risks, but they need to take calculated risks. Challenges and hindrances will always be around the corner, but they should not be deterred by them. Instead, they should be persistent and keep moving towards their goals.
Women also tread a thin line as they have to balance their work and family life. It’s essential that they strike the right balance and set their priorities right.