- AHG Founding Chairman is first Emirati businessman to be chosen by IBPC
- Al Habtoor recounts stories of entrepreneurial success and failure, advises on handling turbulent situations
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of Al Habtoor Group (AHG) was felicitated by the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) at their special event series — ‘Distinguished Doyens & Scions’ — held in Dubai. He is the first Emirati businessman to be given the honour by IBPC.
During an interactive and engaging morning, the outspoken and articulate businessman also held an on-stage conversation, moderated by IBPC Chairman Suresh Kumar, who queried the honorary guest about his life and entrepreneurial adventures, as well as anecdotes from his autobiography.
The event held at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City was attended by IBPC members, comprising Indian and Emirati industry leaders and business magnates, directors and employees of AHG and members of the local media. The session opened with a short video about Al Habtoor’s life, vision and the early days of the UAE.
Celebrating the success of local business leaders, the candid dialogue session took the audience on a journey of learning from Al Habtoor’s life, his work ethic, beliefs and principles that guides him and the next generation of his family in taking his legacy forward. Noting that Indians and Emiratis have worked together for seven decades to build the UAE and its economy, creating great success stories among both communities, Kumar drew out Al Habtoor’s own stories of professional success and failure and the evolving UAE market over five decades.
Regaling the attendees with tales of his humble beginnings and early business ventures — including failed ones in selling refrigerators, setting up a soap factory and his eventual foray into the construction and hospitality sectors. Recounting his close working relationship with the late Sheikh Rashid, one of the founding fathers of the UAE federation, Al Habtoor said: “We are sitting here in the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City today, on this piece of land, because he encouraged my passion to build hotels, which is where the success story of AHG started. He was better than any university on earth, more of a father and a mentor who is responsible for everything I made of myself. The way he coached and guided me is what I try to pass on to my family and employees today.”
Al Habtoor also reminisced about his relationship with India — including early visits to the country, his fondness for Indian movies and admiration for the Indian contribution in the UAE’s rapid and stunning growth, saying: “We are all one family, under one flag of the United Arab Emirates.”
When the floor was opened to the audience, IBPC members came forward not only with their questions but lofty praise for Al Habtoor, with one reading out an Urdu-English couplet dedicated to the doyen, and another praising his extensive charitable activities through the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Foundation (KAHF).
The eminent veteran also presented a word of advice on handling economic downturns and challenging times, such as the present situation surrounding the coronavirus. “We live in a world of turbulence and we have seen crises like the Gulf wars and 2008. But we successfully sailed through them, and it is better to ignore the exaggerations and speculation. As human beings, we are made to face challenges, which is when we blossom and succeed.”
The event ended with a memento presented to Al Habtoor by IBPC, after which members thronged around the pioneer to meet and greet him.
Siby Sudhakaran, Manager of IBPC, said: “From 2020 onwards, our Doyens & Scions series will recognise and felicitate two Emirati and two Indian business leaders annually, aiming to promote business relationships and strengthen cooperation between UAE nationals. When we began the process of choosing our first high-achieving Emirati business personality, Khalaf Al Habtoor was unanimously named, as he is known not only for an entrepreneurial vision but his vocal standpoint on many issues, his humorous take on things and wide altruistic initiatives.”
IBPC is one of Dubai’s oldest and largest representative organisations of Indian businessmen and professionals. With well over 1,000 members and established in 2003, the non-profit body’s mission is to be a catalyst of bilateral trade growth and investment relationships between India and the UAE through such events and activities