A Lifelong Devotion
EMIRATI BUSINESSMAN MOHAMMED MOHEBI TALKS TO VIRTUOZITY ABOUT HIS PASSION FOR CIGARS AND HIS VIEWS ON THE EVOLUTION FOR FAMILY BUSINESSES
A THIRD GENERATION BUSINESSMAN, Mohammed Mohebi has always been forward thinking, enterprising and determined to build on the success of his father and grandfather. With numerous successful businesses dating back to 1931, the Mohebi family has never shied away from a new challenge, as they look to build on their past accomplishments.
For Mohammed that desire to pursue new markets led to his establishment of Mohebi Logistics in 2007. Despite the Global Financial Crisis and entering the market later than their competitors, with detractors warning that the business would not succeed, the company founded by Mohammed, is today a market leader with a customer base encompassing a wide array of renowned global brands.
On the family business front, Mohammed serves as the CEO of Zainal Mohebi Holdings that, through one of their subsidiaries, Baqer Mohebi Enterprises, represents the majority of the world’s leading cigar brands. As part of their efforts, they are also very active in the retail space for both cigar lounges and shops.
For Mohammed, cigars mean much more than just business. His passion for them began at an early age, well before he could enjoy the rich flavours.
“Growing up I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t see my father smoking a cigar. I knew if and where my father was in the house because of the aroma that followed him everywhere. I don’t think a single day passed without him holding a cigar,” recalls Mohammed fondly.
“It was a natural thing for me. He never encouraged me to smoke, nor did he discourage it, it was just never discussed. But when I went to Cuba for the first time, representing our company, it occurred to me that it would not be a smart move to go to a Habanos festival having never smoked a cigar. So being loyal to our brands, I now had an excuse, to say: I am doing it for the business.
“The whole process came very naturally. I
“I love smoking a cigar on my own, with other people, when I’m in a good mood. I don’t need a reason to smoke a cigar.”
had seen my father’s devotion to the cigar, the way he held it - and enjoyed it. It was the quickest learning curve I have ever experienced. I took a crash course and that was it, I was hooked. It really was love at first sight.
“I love smoking a cigar on my own, with other people, when I’m in a good mood, when I’m unhappy. When I’m alone it’s my greatest company. I don’t need a reason to smoke a cigar.”
Since tasting that first cigar 15 years ago, Mohammed has built up a collection of extremely rare and exclusive cigars that are placed in a custom-built humidor in his home’s cigar lounge. This humidor was exclusively designed by one of Cuba’s most renowned artists Jorge Luis Perez.
Despite this, Mohammed refuses to refer to himself as a collector. Instead, preferring to enjoy what these cigars were made for: to be smoked.
Mohammed believes that the cigar market in the UAE will continue to grow. Despite their ban in many public places and new proposed tax laws coming in on tobacco, he feels cigar enthusiasts will continue to invest in their collections.
“The good thing about a cigar is that despite all the restrictions that have been introduced, the numbers are still going up in our territory. I usually enjoy a nice cigar in the evening and watch the news. That’s how I end my day. A lot of cigar smokers find the time for it,” describes Mohammed.
“Another angle is because it takes more effort to smoke a cigar, more people turn it into an occasion. Before, you could light
it up anywhere you wanted, but now you have to go to a lounge, making the whole experience a special event. It’s more of a planned activity. Also, when things become scarce, people want it more.
“And given the figures provided by the government in terms of the numbers of visitors coming through our airports now, and in the lead up to EXPO 2020 Dubai, I do not see our market contracting. If anything, I feel it will grow.”
Mohammed is already looking to the future with gusto.
“When I started Mohebi Logistics, many said it could not be done. But in the short nine years since our inception, we have gone from a start-up to a market leader. We have shown we can compete with the best. This ‘daring to believe’ ethos was instilled in us by our Vice President and Prime Minister
“I took a quick crash course and that was it, I was hooked. It became love at first sight. ”
of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He has helped us develop and understand our potential and I love that,” adds Mohammed.
“Going forward, I see us moving more towards intellectual property. That does not mean that we will not focus on the agencies and representation as they are great to have, but my drive is more towards owning the intellectual property. That is the next evolution.
“In the next 10-15 years I see us appointing agents internationally and controlling and marketing our own brands. I genuinely believe the right way to go is towards brand ownership. I don’t see our role being a middle man, I see us as owners who bring it to market.”