Ali Gargash: Powering homegrown Emirati brands

The scion of a prominent trading family proud of its historical and cultural heritage is the guiding force behind diverse business initiatives that seek to embrace new economy



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Fri 25 Nov 2022, 8:33 PM

Ali Gargash’s seven-acre farm tucked away in quaint Al Rahba, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Abu Dhabi Municipality, is an oasis of serenity by the sea. It is dotted with date trees of diverse variants — Medjool, Khalas, Shi-Shi, Khunaizi, Jibri, Boman, etc.

Gargash makes it a point to visit the farm at least once a month to boost his latest boutique business venture that is inextricably linked to Emirati tradition and heritage and his humble contribution to giving back to the community.

Falaj: A date with dates

The enterprising businessman, who belongs to a small but well-known Gargash family, is branding this venture Falaj, which loosely translates from Arabic to a qanat or a water channel, usually used in traditional irrigation in the Arabian Gulf.

“Though we owned the farm for the past 15 years, I thought about building on the plantation with 570 date trees of various species around two years ago. Our organic farming methods, which focus on sustainability, are geared towards retail consumers and we hope to transfer the local body of knowledge in growing superior dates and transport it to a consumer's plate."

Gargash takes pride in the UAE’s “advanced horticulture”, which has evolved from the country’s Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s emphasis on green initiatives in the Arabian peninsula.

“The annual Liwa Date Festival is a case in point for showcasing our nation’s excellent dates. These dates are a result of the greening initiatives started in the 1970s and Falaj is attempting to further build on these efforts that were initiated by our visionary leadership, and bring it to the market,” he said.

It is these same efforts that enabled Falaj to build a homegrown brand, with hopes to contribute to local food production and food security.

Additionally, It is Gargash’s hope that Falaj’s efforts in reducing water consumption will contribute to implementing the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, which was introduced last year as the first in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

“Water is a precious and scarce natural resource in the Arabian peninsula. We’re trying to boost the yield of dates with optimum usage of water through sustainable irrigation practices,” he added.

Gargash, who runs a raft of diverse businesses — over 20 companies and employs more than 700 people at last count — has been devoting 20 per cent of his time to making Falaj a roaring success.

‘Affordable luxury’

The driven entrepreneur is always in expansion mode and prefers it that way.

His business motto is “affordable luxury” and Gargash Auto Repair, a service centre for luxury brands of cars, is a prime example of his vision. The business has serviced over 35,000 vehicles since its inception in 2005.

His objective is to succeed in a cut-throat market, where affordable luxury is king.

“We want to push high-service levels at good pricing across our brands and verticals, where expansion plans won’t comprise neither quality of service nor price points, and all this through the efforts of our solid team” he said.

Buoyed by these twin principles of quality business practices and effective pricing, Gargash Auto Repair is doubling its branches, with two more locations in Al Quoz in Dubai and Sharjah to take the tally to four and hopes to expand further to Abu Dhabi in the future.

The expansion plans couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as the UAE like the rest of the world has been hit hard by a disruption in the supply chain of brand-new vehicles, and the demand for repairing existing cars is soaring.

Similarly, Gargash is bullish about the short-term rental (STR) business that has been incubated under the brand name, Unified Vacation Homes.

“We were looking for the opportune moment to get into the hospitality industry and started our new venture before Expo 2020 Dubai. Initially, we started with two business units in Palm Jumeirah that have since grown into eight, including a few in Downtown Dubai.

Gargash is also a board member at Gargash Hospital, Gargash Insurance, and Gargash Auto Repair, and the chairman of AJG Holding, which owns brands such as Falaj and Unified Vacation Homes.

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A family man

Gargash was born into a prominent trading family proud of its historical and cultural heritage and holds an MBA from London Business School.

He joined AJG Holding in 2014.

He is an alumnus of the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and holds an undergraduate degree in finance. He had started his career at Dubai Aluminium as a market analyst in 2009 until its merger with Emirates Global Aluminium.

Gargash shapes AJG Holding’s business strategies, participates on boards of directors, plays a key role in investor relations, and sets the overall direction of Gargash Auto Repair, Gargash Hospital, Gargash Insurance, and others.

Working together with other board members, he aims to further the goal of improving transparency, professionalism, equity, and justice within the organisation. Through his work over the past eight years, he has seen transformational improvements, especially with Gargash Auto Repair and making it cash-positive, thanks to his team’s restructuring actions to improve overall business performance and, Gargash Hospital where he played an important role in helping the healthcare unit to become the first one in the UAE to have a fully equipped Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART).

Gargash, who has two younger siblings, Ahmed and Rashid, grew up in Jumeirah, and was close to the beach, and went to the Dubai National school on Diyafah Road.

“I remember my father (Abdul Jabbar Gargash) taking me to a patch in the desert in Dubai when I was young and saying that this would become a new city one day. And today, that patch has become the Dubai Marina,” he said.

Gargash is indebted to his father and especially his mother Maryam for a happy and loving upbringing.

He is a devoted family man and a loving husband to his wife Shatha, a government employee, and a father to his three children — Abdulla, 8; Mohammed, 3; and Maryam, a year-old baby daughter.

Gargash, who loves spearfishing and cooking European dishes in his leisure time, is also an avid reader.


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