Al Ghurair Group
Information last updated on 15 April 2022
Saif Ahmed Majid Al Ghurair
Earliest Documented Business Name:
Al Ghurair Group
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
ABOUT THE FOUNDER
Born in 1924 on the shores of Dubai Creek, Saif Ahmed Al Ghurair completed his education at Al Ahmediya School. His father, Ahmed Majid Al Ghurair, was a lifelong pearl diver, a typical profession for men in Dubai in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As the eldest of five brothers, Saif was taken by his father on pearl diving trips from the age of 14. Spending months at sea, he was tasked with safeguarding the pearls.
In the 1930s, the Al Ghurair family, like many local families at the time, were forced to deal with the consequences of an economic recession that resulted from the sudden collapse of the pearling industry. The family turned to trade as a matter of survival, as Saif later described. They refitted their pearl diving boat to make it suitable for long voyages, and began traveling to Iraq, India, and Africa to trade dates, textiles, and teak logs. At the age of 20, Saif traveled for the first time to Basra, Iraq. “If one was not able to go to Basra, one would have starved” said Saif Al Ghurair. He considered these often-perilous sea trips to be a turning point in his life, laying the foundation for the businessman he would later become.
In the 1950s, oil exploration began in Dubai by Petroleum Development Trucial States Ltd (PDTC) and the emirate’s economy started growing at a quick pace. Major construction and infrastructure projects like Dubai Airport and the dredging of the Dubai Creek followed. Economic growth would accelerate even further with the discovery of oil in 1966.
Seeing the city’s growing business potential, Saif Ahmed Al Ghurair established Al Ghurair Group in 1960 with the goal of consolidating and formalizing all of his family’s business entities under a single umbrella. An office on Salahuddin Road in Dubai was opened as the Group’s first headquarters.
Al Ghurair Group’s primary focus was on the growing sectors of Dubai’s economy, like real estate. In the same year it was founded, the group established its first subsidiary, Al Ghurair Real Estate, which leases, redevelops, and maintains properties across the UAE. Throughout the following decades, Al Ghurair Group diversified its operations in step with Dubai’s economic diversification. The group’s success was also made possible thanks to the Al Ghurair family’s strong personal ties to the Al Maktoum family, which has ruled Dubai for almost two centuries.
In its early years, Al Ghurair Group sought to enter the manufacturing sector by setting up the city’s first cement factory, but found that it did not have sufficient capital. However, Sheikh Rashid, ruler of Dubai, supported the project as he had seen the pollution at Qatar’s Al Khor that resulted from cement imports. He helped fund the project through the factory’s opening in 1968.
The company continued steadily to expand, becoming an integral contributor to Dubai ‘s growth. Through the first 30 years of operation, Saif Al Ghurair remained the leader as the company’s board chairman, and his four brothers all held leading positions in the group, as well.
The rulers of Dubai used much of the oil wealth to invest in construction and tourism as they had a vision to raise the city’s profile on the international scene. The result was a prosperous environment for investments in infrastructure and the construction of new luxury malls, hotels, and restaurants. The Al Ghurair Group opened more subsidiaries to take advantage of this wave of diversification. In 1967, the group expanded into retail banking and founded Mashreq, known as Bank of Oman. Gulf Extrusions LLC was established in 1976 in Dubai to supply high-quality aluminum extrusion products and services nationally and internationally. The group also built the UAE’s first flour mill, National Flour Mills, in 1976, and the first shopping mall in the MENA region, Dubai’s Al Ghurair Center, in 1981. The following year, the group launched Arabian Packaging to manufacture corrugated board and carton packaging products. In 1992, it opened BurJuman Shopping Center in Bur Dubai.
Capitalizing on the family business’s immense success in Dubai, Abdullah Al Ghurair, the founder’s brother, created a spin-off company that is formally independent of yet complementary to the Al Ghurair Group called Al Ghurair Investments. The parent group is now a conglomerate with over 10,000 employees.
Over the last decade, the Group has expanded its overseas activities, building a network of operations that extends from the Middle East to North Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia. Founder Saif Al Ghurair passed away in 2019 at the age of 95. Today, the Al Ghurair Group continues to be led and run by members of the second and third generations. It is chaired by the founder’s son Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, and the CEO is Majid Saif Al Ghurair.
Photo Credit: Founder Saif Ahmed Al Ghurair (left) with the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (right). Image Credit: Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Source: Gulf News
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To cite this article please use:
“Al Ghurair Group” Family Business Histories Research Project, New York University Abu Dhabi and Tharawat Family Business Forum, 20 Mar. 2023, familybusinesshistories.org/spotlights/alghurair-group