Chalhoub: Luxury brands must ‘expect the unexpected’ to sustain growth

Chalhoub: Luxury brands must ‘expect the unexpected’ to sustain growth
Patrick Chalhoub (center), president of Chalhoub Group, is seen with other panelists during the Global Luxury Brands: Key Trends and New Governance session at the investopia_AE in Abu Dhabi on March 2, 2023. (Twitter photo)
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Updated 03 March 2023
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Chalhoub: Luxury brands must ‘expect the unexpected’ to sustain growth

Chalhoub: Luxury brands must ‘expect the unexpected’ to sustain growth
  • People are now looking for products that have a purpose or greater meaning, Chalhoub Group chief tells Arab News

ABU DHABI: Customers are now more purpose-driven, especially when buying luxury brands, according to Patrick Chalhoub, group president of Chalhoub Group, who spoke during Investopia 2023 on Thursday.

He explained that luxury products were often viewed by their price tags, however, this no longer applies as consumers are much more sustainability-driven.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of this year’s Investopia, Chalhoub said people are now looking for products that have a purpose or greater meaning.

“They are more engaged in things that make sense to their community. It doesn’t necessarily mean a local brand, but it could be a cooperation, the tone of voice, a more engaging experience or service,” he explained.

Chalhoub said people now place more importance on a personal experience, rather than blindly purchasing products inspired by influencers on social media.

In an era in which pandemics, wars and natural disasters have arisen in quick succession, high-end brands have managed to survive and witness remarkable growth.

“I think we have to understand today that there are circumstances that we cannot change, so we need to adapt to them with a lot of agility,” said Chalhoub.

He added that in order to survive such adverse circumstances, brands must “expect the unexpected” to keep moving forward.

Before the pandemic, 40 percent of luxury businesses went to China for production and manufacturing. They were able to nonetheless overcome challenges when the East Asian country closed due to COVID-19, said Chalhoub.

“It’s up to us to make sure that we have enough creativity, innovation and agility to be meaningful to people,” he added.

Chalhoub said he continues to maintain his optimism in order to see the “opportunities in the challenges” that arise.

“If the disposable income goes higher, this will also benefit the luxury industry,” he added.

Chalhoub’s remarks came during his participation in Investopia 2023, a conference aimed at driving growth and incubating future economies globally.

The two-day event, which is taking place March 2-3 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, serves as a platform for investors, business leaders and governments to connect and identify new investment opportunities.


Pakistan seeks $6 billion for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028

Pakistan seeks $6 billion for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028
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Pakistan seeks $6 billion for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028

Pakistan seeks $6 billion for corporate farming from Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations by 2028
  • Arab News speaks exclusively to CEO of FonGrow, spearheading agriculture projects under new investment body
  • Pakistan in talks with Saudi companies like Al-Dahara, Saleh and Al-Khorayef for investment in corporate farming

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is seeking up to $6 million investment from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain over the next three to five years for corporate farming, with the aim of cultivating 1.5 million acres of previously unfarmed land and mechanizing existing 50 million acres of agricultural lands across the country, the CEO of the company spearheading the initiative has said.

The development comes months after Pakistan set up a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a civil-military hybrid forum — to attract foreign funding in agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production and energy as the South Asian country deals with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.

Earlier this month, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Saudi Arabia and the UAE would invest up to $25 billion each in Pakistan over the next five years in the mining, agriculture and information technology sectors.

Initiatives in the agriculture sector under SIFC are being administered by Fongrown, which is part of the Fauji Foundation investment group run by former Pakistani military officers.

“We have estimated about $5-6 billion [investment from Gulf nations] for initial three to five years,” Major General (retired) Tahir Aslam, FonGrow’s managing-director and chief executive officer, told Arab News in an interview. 

He declined to share details about the breakdown of the investment from each individual country.

The CEO said the company was engaging with several Saudi companies like Al-Dahara, Saleh and Al-Khorayef to attract investment in the corporate farming sector. He did on elaborate on progress made so far in the discussions. 

Aslam said his company was also working on different investment models with the Saudi and UAE companies for corporate farming, including joint ventures.

“If they want to make direct investment, it is a corporate model. So, they will take an equal number of stakes in the company, and they get an equal number of positions in the governance [of the company]. So, it is going to be a joint company.”

About strategy and targets to mechanize farming, Aslam said FonGrow was working on a two-pronged approach to bring up to 1.5 million acres of new arable land under cultivation and modernize 50 plus million acres of land already being farmed.

This, he said, would require about “$25 million per each thousand acres and other for machinery, and setting up of infrastructure for value addition.”

FonGrow is aiming to set up corporate farms on over 100,000 acres in the next 5-7 years. The first such farm had already been established on over 5,000 acres of land in Khanewal, he said. 

“Next year, we will be starting our second farm on over 10,000 acres and we hope to develop the capacity to be able to develop 20 to 25 thousand acres every year,” Aslam said. “Mainly, we are starting in Punjab and then we are looking for lands. Wherever we get suitable lands, we will go to all the provinces.”

To a question about the source of capital to develop the land, the official said: “We have no issue of rupee capital availability for our project because ultimately it will bring returns to Fauji Foundation.”

“There is a small challenge that we are facing basically, which is of foreign exchange because the irrigation systems and the tractors and harvesters that we have to import, they need foreign exchange.”

Aslam said Pakistan’s corporate farming model envisioned that sixty percent of the crops would contribute to the country’s food security, and the remaining 40 percent would be exported mainly to Gulf countries to earn foreign exchange. 

He said Pakistan had received a first export order of Fauji cereal products from a Gulf nation, though he declined to name the country:

“It is a starting quantum [that] is about $25 million worth of products in one year. But I think as we break more grounds this will continue to increase in the coming years.” 

Responding to concerns about the army’s involvement in economic projects in Pakistan, he said the military was only contributing where requested by the civilian government.

“They [foreign countries] wanted an organization which provides continuity or security of their investment, that was the reason the army joined in and then the army also said we have such a large [investment] potential available,” the FonGrow CEO said.

“In the past also, the army has very willingly contributed to projects of nation-building and national importance … Army is playing its part, but no soldiers are involved.”


Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years

Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years
Updated 21 September 2023
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Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years

Saudi Arabia elected ISO council member for two years

RIYADH: In recognition of its efforts to implement health and safety standards, Saudi Arabia has been elected as a member of the council of the International Organization for Standardization, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom will maintain the position for a two-year period starting 2024, it said.

This was announced during ISO’s 45th general assembly meeting held in Brisbane in Australia.

The Saudi Standards, Metrology, and Quality Organization, known as SASO, represented the Kingdom at the recent ISO meetings.

SASO is committed to the ongoing enhancement and revision of Saudi standards and technical regulations, with its efforts aimed at safeguarding the nation’s markets against counterfeit, substandard, and deceptive products, ultimately bolstering the national economy. 

Meanwhile, ISO, which came into existence in 1947, is an independent, nongovernmental international organization with 169 members.


Red Sea International Airport becomes operational

Red Sea International Airport becomes operational
Updated 21 September 2023
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Red Sea International Airport becomes operational

Red Sea International Airport becomes operational

RIYADH: The Red Sea International Airport became operational with the touchdown of the first Saudia flight early on Thursday, according to the Red Sea Global. 

In a statement, the multi-project developer behind the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, said that the flights from King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh will arrive every Thursday and Saturday, connecting the two destinations in less than two hours. 

It added that a flight would return to the capital on the same day. “We promised to make TRS a place where people from all around the world would come to experience the best of Saudi culture, hospitality, and nature. Now, with the first flight touching down at RSIA, and our first resorts receiving bookings, Saudi Arabia’s position on the global tourism map is all but secured,” said John Pagano, group CEO of Red Sea Global. 

From today, the statement added, the flights depart Riyadh every Thursday at 10:50 a.m. before flying back to the capital after 165 minutes. It added that the other flight departs from Riyadh every Saturday at 12:50 p.m., with the return flight at 15:35 p.m. from the Red Sea airport. 

Positioned within an eight-hour flight from 85 percent of the world’s population, the airport will grow to welcome international flights from next year as additional phase one resorts open their doors. 

According to the statement, RSIA is operated by daa International, which has supported RSG with design validation and commissioning of RSIA since 2020. 

“With the arrival of RSIA’s first commercial flight, daa International’s operational responsibility commences,” it added 

In its press release, RSG also revealed the new brand for RSIA with visitors to see the brand expressed across multiple touchpoints, from the airport terminal and staff uniforms to the electric mobility vehicles that will transport passengers from air to land side. 

“RSIA is the gateway to TRS destination. It is the first impression visitors have, and their parting memory when they leave. The brand echoes the qualities of the five-star hospitality guests will enjoy across the destination,” Pagano added. 

The brand icon is a representation of the RSIA’s unique architecture. The company noted that the iconic shape is inspired by the bird’s eye view of the airport’s exterior. “It has been created to express the creativity, novelty, and sophistication of the brand in a way that is contemporary and distinct.” 

RSG further stated that it has made great progress across other infrastructure works to ensure TRS is ready to welcome visitors and meet its promises for responsible development and regenerative tourism. 


Sole Pakistani company at Foodex expo eyes joint ventures

Sole Pakistani company at Foodex expo eyes joint ventures
Updated 21 September 2023
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Sole Pakistani company at Foodex expo eyes joint ventures

Sole Pakistani company at Foodex expo eyes joint ventures

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani food company participating in the 10th edition of Saudi Arabia’s leading international food exhibition, Foodex Saudi, has praised the Kingdom’s market, saying over a dozen Saudi companies had expressed interest in forming joint ventures and distributing its products.

The 10th edition of Foodex Saudi, the Kingdom’s leading international exhibition for food and beverages, was held from September 17-20 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center and featured over 500 exhibitors from 75 countries, offering an array of food and drinks to Saudi buyers from the distribution, retail, manufacturing and hospitality sectors.

Dashi International, a Karachi-based food company that sells ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat food products, was among the 500 exhibitors at the event.

“Dashi International is the only Pakistani company participating in this edition of the Foodex Saudi exhibition,” Fawaz Khalil Allahwala, the company’s chief executive officer, told Arab News over the phone from Riyadh.

“It was a great opportunity to showcase our product as the Saudi market is certainly growing and we found a dozen leads from interested companies from the Kingdom,” Allahwala said.

He said some Saudi companies had sought joint ventures with Dashi International while others were interested in a distribution partnership with the Pakistani company. He declined to name the Saudi companies. 

Allahwala said he experienced a lot of “enthusiasm and optimism” at the exhibition where visitors explored various food items with the aim of seeking new business opportunities.

He said the response was “encouraging and positive.”

“The Saudi market seemed very receptive and growing so we are very hopeful of progress,” Allahwala added.

Hamzah Gilani, the spokesperson of the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah, said the exhibition played a “crucial role” in advancing and diversifying Saudi Arabia’s thriving food and drinks industry.

“This success [of Dashi] should encourage more Pakistani companies to seize such opportunities and expand their involvement in the international market,” Gilani told Arab News, saying Foodex provided Saudi buyers with an “unprecedented opportunity” to discover a diverse range of global food and beverage products.

“This esteemed gathering facilitated extensive networking opportunities,” Gilani said, “and showcased latest industry innovations.”


Saudi airline passenger complaints drop 11.8% in August: GACA   

Saudi airline passenger complaints drop 11.8% in August: GACA   
Updated 21 September 2023
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Saudi airline passenger complaints drop 11.8% in August: GACA   

Saudi airline passenger complaints drop 11.8% in August: GACA   

RIYADH: As part of ongoing efforts to enhance efficiency and competitiveness in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector, the number of passenger complaints among carriers in August dropped by 11.8 percent compared to the same month last year.

Data released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation revealed that there were 1,442 grievances in August 2023, down from the 1,636 recorded in the corresponding month in 2022. 

These developments align with GACA’s economic regulations, which are designed to support the sector’s rapid growth, improve the passenger experience, and ensure transparency and fairness. 

Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, received the fewest complaints among carriers, with a total of 14 complaints per 100,000 travelers and a 100 percent timely handling rate. 

Flynas ranked second with 30 such cases per 100,000 passengers and a closure rate of 98 percent.  

Flyadeal came in third with 105 grievances per 100,000 travelers and a timely handling rate of 52 percent. 

The most common complaints in August were related to flights, boarding services, and tickets. 

Among international airports serving more than 6 million passengers annually, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport had the lowest complaint rate at 0.3 percent per 100,000 passengers. 

For international airports with fewer than 6 million passengers per year, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz International Airport received the fewest grievances, with a rate of 1 percent per 100,000 customers.  

Both airports recorded only two such cases, each, with a reported handling rate of 100 percent. 

Among domestic airports, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz Airport had the lowest rate at 2 percent per 100,000 travelers. Only one grievance was raised by travelers, with a 100 percent timely management rate.    

Earlier this month, Saudi carriers disbursed a total of SR58 million ($15.4 million) in compensation to travelers during the 2021-2022 period, according to GACA.  

In an official statement released at the time, GACA emphasized that these reimbursements addressed a range of customer concerns, including delays, loss of luggage, flight cancellations, and disruptions to flight schedules.  

This initiative aligns with the authority’s commitment to protecting passenger rights. It also serves as a precursor to the upcoming regulations set to take effect on Nov. 20, aimed at advancing operations and supporting the Kingdom’s growth objectives in the aviation sector.  

GACA’s vision is to create a safe and secure aviation environment by following the most rigorous international safety standards and building a modern airport system that consistently provides exceptional services.