My Zawya Story: Origins

This post is part of the My Zawya Story series. In the second part of my Zawya story I build on the initial introduction and talk about how I got involved in the information and data business as well as how I identified Zawya as an asset. In 1999 I invested in an IT services company and the founder invited me to the board of directors. Although this company

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Closing the SME Credit Gap

In last week’s article this column laid out the case that the current SME credit gap, estimated by the IFC to be at least USD 260 billion in the MENA region, could not be closed using currently available tools and institutions. There is an argument to be made that the potential exists to close the gap as the SME sector’s

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Operational Value Creation

Many of the PE firms that I have dealt with have had difficulty in deploying an institutional approach to operational value creation post their investment in a company. Most PE firms simply revert to expending a large amount of resources in the pre-investment analysis and due diligence phase and then settle on one or two board seats to manage their assets

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My Zawya Story: Introduction

This post is part of the My Zawya Story series. Zawya, the MENA online business media company, was my fourth private equity direct investment and has been one of my most fulfilling and satisfying active investments, not just because of the 20x cash on cash return but also because of my participation in the leadership of building the company and charting a course to

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Initiating Confrontation is Good Leadership

A good manager learns how to manage conflict when it arises, as it invariably does in any organisation. A good leader learns how to initiate confrontation. This seems counter-intuitive to many people but that is because there is an incorrect presumption that confrontation is bad. I blame tree-hugging hippies for falsely promising a corporate utopia free from confrontation.

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Leadership ≠ Dictatorship

In an executive position that I previously held I was building out my team and the company had a policy of recruiting internally first. This policy appeals to me in principle in that it gives employees the chance to widen their skill set and reduces recruitment costs. In theory I should also have access to superior information on the employee,

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The UAE: Gateway to Emerging and Frontier Markets

عربي As the global economy continues to pick up steam after the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 businesses are looking for opportunities to grow. Ideas for growth have traditionally revolved around three main pillars of government infrastructure projects, tourism and domestic demand. Strong as these pillars are, and an important foundation for the economy, it is unnecessarily short

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My Zawya Story

For those who may not know, I am the founding CEO of Saffar Capital, the private equity firm that invested in Zawya in 2001 taking a 60% stake and then selling it to Thompson Reuters in 2012. I was also the Chairman of Zawya from 2001 to 2011. It was an incredible investment, one that I was actively involved in

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The Future of Investment Banking in the GCC

عربي Investment banking in the UAE in particular and the GCC in general saw an unprecedented jump in activity in the period 2003-2008. After a couple of decades of basic boom-bust IPO activity the explosion of activity in the equity markets triggered a smaller, but no less dramatic, growth of investment banking activity that saw the deployment of new investment

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