Hus­sain Al Far­dan was hon­oured with the Life­time Achieve­ment Award at the Qatar To­day Busi­ness Ex­cel­lence Awards. While his achieve­ments in busi­ness are fa­mil­iar and are too mas­sive to be enu­mer­ated here, it is how he lives life that makes him such an in­ter­est­ing per­son­al­ity. Qatar To­day spent a Ramadan af­ter­noon with this self-starter and came back inspired.

“The coun­try should and could have the big­gest mu­seum for pearls. If Qatar does it, no other coun­try will be able to repli­cate this.”

While the younger gen­er­a­tion of Al Far­dans have their of­fices in the “Man­hat­tan of Qatar” (as Hus­sain Al Far­dan him­self flip­pantly refers to Doha's West Bay) in su­per lux­u­ri­ous, glass­clad de­signer tow­ers, the founder and the vi­sion­ary of the Group is con­tent­edly set­tled amid the com­fort of mem­o­ries in his old, but no less lux­u­ri­ous, of­fice on Bank Street, his win­dow over­look­ing the first pearl shop owned by the fam­ily in Souq Waqif. Hus­sain Al Far­dan might be a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire but he keeps his of­fice filled with mem­o­ries; with the pas­sage­way lead­ing up to his of­fice lined with mem­o­ra­bilia, all saved and stored from his early life in Qatar. His of­fice door and his sched­ules are manned by his man Fri­day Ab­dul­lah Kha­tri, an In­dian na­tional, who has been with him for 20-plus years. Even through the dusty hot days of June dur­ing the Ramadan sea­son, this hard-work­ing busi­ness­man comes to the of­fice regularly and looks into day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties. There is one more rou­tine in his daily sched­ule that he rarely for­sakes: dream­ing big. And it is this habit that has sown the seeds of the en­ter­prise that has, through its many busi­nesses, cre­ated a QR16 bil­lion is­land on the shores of Doha, owns a suc­cess­ful public-listed bank, and re­tails the most lux­u­ri­ous cars in the coun­try.

“I dream a lot,” re­veals Al Far­dan, “but when I dream, I dream big. I try to pro­tect my dream by cre­at­ing ideas. I give my dream or my ideas my full at­ten­tion. I keep tar­gets. Once I have put my 100% be­hind my ideas, I will try to make the dream a re­al­ity.”

Adding one more feather to his cap, Hus­sain Al Far­dan was re­cently hon­oured with the Life­time Achieve­ment Award by Qatar To­day Busi­ness Ex­cel­lence Awards.

“I didn't ex­pect this though there have been many such oc­ca­sions when I have been fe­lic­i­tated,” he says. “This makes me proud of my­self, that I have done some­thing to make oth­ers value my achieve­ments. It makes me think about what more I can do. You have to be a cre­ator and a dreamer.”

What's next for Hus­sain Al Far­dan? Now that he has seen the cre­ation and ful­fil­ment of al­most all his dreams, what is he dream­ing about next?

He says, “I have done all I can for my busi­ness. I am sat­is­fied with all the di­rec­tions my life and my busi­ness have taken and my sons are do­ing their best in

con­tin­u­ing what I had en­vi­sioned.” But that doesn't mean Al Far­dan has stopped dream­ing. He prays for good health as he starts dream­ing about the one busi­ness that only he has a strong­hold on.

“I am giv­ing my­self time to go back to my hobby, and my hobby is do­ing a busi­ness that no one knows more than me. I have al­ready started work on it and have pro­ceeded well with it.”

This busi­ness he refers to is a pearl col­lec­tion that Al Far­dan has slowly built and that now takes up a whole floor of his tower. With his pas­sion and love for the art of pearl har­vest­ing, this busi­ness­man has built a col­lec­tion that will one day bring lau­rels not just to him but also to the coun­try.

“Not me, but Qatar has to, one day, be­come the big­gest col­lec­tor of pearls. The coun­try should have the big­gest mu­seum for pearls. If Qatar does it, no other coun­try will be able to repli­cate this,” he says. And if ru­mours are to be be­lieved, the Chair­per­son of Qatar Mu­se­ums, HE Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani is in­deed plan­ning in this di­rec­tion and has vis­ited Al Far­dan in this re­gard.

All what he dreamed did not come true for Al Far­dan by a mere wave of the wand, but through hard work and from tak­ing the grass­roots ap­proach.

“I was a small em­ployee in the first bank in Doha, the Eastern Bank Lim­ited (now the Stan­dard Char­tered Bank) in the 50s. I learnt a lot from that bank. I learnt how to do busi­ness, ac­count­ing and mar­ket­ing from there. It is around this time that I also started dream­ing of own­ing my own bank,” he re­veals.

While he had a trad­ing busi­ness of his own, he was not sat­is­fied with that alone. Al Far­dan soon started the first ex­change house in Doha but even that was not enough for the dreamer in him. “I wanted to have my own bank and I started to work on that plan.”

How cum­ber­some was the fund­ing process in those years, we won­der and Al Far­dan an­swers, “Money is not ev­ery­thing, what is most im­por­tant is to have the will.”

“In those days we did not have money. But I man­aged to find fund­ing sup­port, peo­ple who put in 20% of the cap­i­tal. These friends who be­lieved in me and my dreams are the founders of Com­mer­cial Bank of Qatar. I then placed it for public list­ing. We made sure that the bank was well man­aged by invit­ing Chase Man­hat­tan to man­age us. We were the big­gest bank af­ter QNB, which is the na­tional bank of the coun­try.”

The plan­ning process for Com­mer­cial Bank of Qatar started in 1971, and in '73 it was ready to go live. “It took us two years to come up with the li­cense. In '75 we opened for busi­ness,” he re­veals.

“I worked hard day and night, there were lot of chal­lenges but we dealt with each dili­gently and now am proud when I l ook back.”

His next pro­ject, or his next dream, was the “cra­zi­est” in Al Far­dan's own words. “That area where The Pearl- Qatar is now lo­cated was the best place for pro­duc­ing oys­ters. I had this idea of cre­at­ing a par­adise in this area.”

When asked about the per­ceived im­pos­si­bil­ity of the pro­ject at that time, he coun­ters, “There is no word called im­pos­si­ble once I have made up my mind and started dream­ing.”

Be­ing in Qatar had its chal­lenges and ad­van­tages. “Be­ing in a small coun­try, you can see suc­cess on the screens in front of you. Keep­ing in mind the pop­u­la­tion and by con­tem­plat­ing on the fu­ture pop­u­la­tion you have to make de­ci­sions in­stantly for your busi­ness.”

But the un­prece­dented growth of the pop­u­la­tion and the cor­re­spond­ing in­fra­struc­ture and con­struc­tion in the coun­try must surely have been an eye­opener. “I al­ways be­lieved in the po­ten­tial of the coun­try,” he says. “When you see that the lead­ers are do­ing their best, the busi­nesses are filled with con­fi­dence. HH the Fa­ther Emir Sheikh Ha­mad bin Khal­ifa Al Thani had a vi­sion, he opened the fu­ture like a screen in front of us, ask­ing us, the pri­vate sec­tor, to move for­ward and be a part of the coun­try's fu­ture. This vi­sion is be­ing con­tin­ued by HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani.”

There is a lot to be done, ac­cord­ing to Al Far­dan, to build on the coun­try's al­ready bur­geon­ing econ­omy. “A lot can be done on the tourism sec­tor,” he says. “We have the sun all year round and so much can be done to harvest this op­por­tu­nity at times when the Euro­pean coun­tries ex­pe­ri­ence their long win­ters.”

This gets him to dream in another di­rec­tion, and he hints on this new dream of his. “Well­ness tourism can be ex­plored, we could be­come one of the best well­ness des­ti­na­tions.”

Al Far­dan muses on the new gen­er­a­tion and their val­ues. “The new gen­er­a­tion should be ready to work hard and cre­ate things with their own hands. They have to be di­rected and should con­trib­ute to the coun­try's vi­sion in the best way. But the most im­por­tant thing for them to do right now is to build up their knowl­edge, work in com­pa­nies to gain global ex­per­tise in their fields of spe­cialty, and then as­sist in their fam­ily busi­nesses. Start from the ground level and then go up the lad­der af­ter un­der­stand­ing each facet of the busi­ness.”

Al Far­dan loves the changes he sees and yet is not dis­mis­sive of the past. He loves the new build­ings just as he yearns for some old houses. But there are some mem­o­ries that re­main fresh. “I love the Souq Waqif. I feel the smell of the past there. I re­mem­ber the pleas­ant times of that era. I was here and I am still a part of Souq Waqif.”

The way the Souq Waqif has been de­vel­oped as a tourist at­trac­tion is one of the best de­vel­op­ments in the coun­try, he opines. “It takes some­one who has a vi­sion to come up with this beau­ti­ful idea. It was HH the Fa­ther Emir's vi­sion and he has done it.”

“And then when I travel from the old part of Doha to the Man­hat­tan of Doha, I feel equally proud of the change that is tak­ing over the coun­try.”

PEARLS FROM THE MU­SEUM Glimpses from Al Far­dan's famed pearl mu­seum, a pri­vate haven of the most ex­quis­ite pearls and other pre­cious ob­jects.

MEM­ORY COL­LEC­TOR Among the arte­facts and paint­ings, is nes­tled this ledger from SCB when Al Far­dan used to work for the bank.

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