A Life­long De­vo­tion

EMI­RATI BUSI­NESS­MAN MO­HAMMED MO­HEBI TALKS TO VIR­TUOZ­ITY ABOUT HIS PAS­SION FOR CIGARS AND HIS VIEWS ON THE EVO­LU­TION FOR FAM­ILY BUSI­NESSES

Virtuozity - - Interview -

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.”

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