Special feature: JORDAN

Interview with Mr. Eng. Khaled A. AlKurdi, Managing Director of Dar Al Dawa

May, 2017

QCan you please give us an outline of where Dar Al Dawa is now and what your plans are?

Mr. Eng. Khaled A. AlKurdi (KAK): We are very bullish about the future. We are definitely not holding back, and we are reworking everything here at Dar Al Dawa to be able to reach our goals. In a strange way, with all the mess that is happening in the region, we can easily ensure that it does not affect us, and we are working hard on that. We are trying our best to find new markets and we are succeeding.

We have invested heavily. I’m very happy to say we have an amazing team which is like-minded, able to see in a visionary way what the future can hold. We are not looking at any other areas, even risk. As a Jordanian, as a serial entrepreneur, I never believe in holding back. The entrepreneurship line in Jordan is very active, Creative industries are coming up.

It’s amazing how positive and interconnected the world is. Nowadays, we are not educating our children to be able to work only in the limitations of their geography; we are educating them to be global citizens... You look at all of that and you know that the pipeline of human resources is very big.

The other day we got all the factories of the area here, the president of the Jordan Investment Commission, the senators and representatives of our area, and we were talking about making sure that we increase the number of factories here, because the quality of air in this area is very clean. We have, at least, 4 major pharmaceutical factories here. Dar Al Dawa, alone, with its veterinarian medicine factory, the baby food factory, in addition to three others. In Naur, which is just south of Amman, there are many weakly educated people, accordingly, we were talking about establishing a vocational training center to take those who are educationally challenged and give them the competencies required for employment. We have no problem in training them in our facilities and having good quality manpower working for us. My vision is to make sure that all the population of Naur is employable whether here or in the region. This means that Naur should be transformed into an outstanding investment Hub which is something that is being supported by the Investment Commission.

Jordan is a great melting pot. My kids’ school has 4 pillars: acceptance, pride in our cultural heritage, leadership and duty. You are talking about 4 pillars that are the base of a global citizen. Someone who can talk to anybody, accepts, respects, and has the leadership skills to take people somewhere, and that’s what this country is.

QLooking at the company, do you think these values are adopted within this idea?

KAK: Very much. However, it’s very much a matter of how you manage them. We have outstanding people in every single area. Let me tell you something that is very Jordanian, we are very emotionally and we are very simple. And that simplicity is why we welcome people to our homes, we never question intentions, we always assume the better.

Even from those pseudo-educated people that we have working for us, you can get the best from them, and that is something that is basically my responsibility. It’s my responsibility to ensure the culture, the value system, the branding, the equity of this company, is all about respect and responsibility.

QYou must be a dream company to operate with, in terms of mentality and open minds. Looking at the UK market, do you have any plans for partnerships?

KAK: We have Chanelle [an Irish partner] at the moment. We are expanding our existence in Europe. We were one of the very early adopters of establishing a company in Romania, and now we decided to close this company and go work with an agent over there, give them the responsibility of doing the work there and I think it’s starting to be a better option for us.

At the same time, we are very much open to looking more at Europe, but there are far more lucrative markets for us that are less of a problem to go into. So Europe is there, on our radar, but we have a lot of homework to do, and a lot of regulatory aspects to meet. We are world-class, when it comes to quality, but in regulation aspects, we are investing in the needed equipment to stay ahead of the curve.

We are going into Europe through Chanelle [an Irish partner], and we are increasing the product lines that are approved by the regulations in Europe. From that point of view, we are expanding in Europe. But as to going there, we found that there is an easier way to do it, and to do it through our UK partner.

QThe UK is a global leader in terms of pharmaceutical products and manufacturing. What can they offer you?

KAK: We have been approached by some European companies, not only British, to partner with us for them to sell our products (we manufacture for them), and, in other cases, we sell for them. Ever since I remember, Dar Al Dawa has always worked with foreign companies. There are agreements now in potential partnerships.

QYou have a very aggressive expansion strategy, this requires a lot of capital investment, and London is a financial center. What can you offer them, specifically?

KAK: We can offer them strong access to the region, that’s really the point. There are areas that we have not invested in such as biologics and we have the area access especially that the MENA region is becoming far less lucrative for global companies, working with us could be a viable option.

Moreover, we are expanding in other areas, we don’t have injectables, for example, we import them, but that is an area where we want to expand in. We are looking at Algeria as a serious strategic opening, where we have a big piece of land and a small factory right now which is expected to start production for validation around the end of Q2 early Q3 of this year. We will see how things progress but we don’t have a problem with expanding that facility in the near future.

We really have an abundance of opportunities. The world is our playing ground The important thing is that we have in-house know-how, that is something that is very unique. Everybody here who is employed is a Jordanian. We don’t have experts coming in and working for us, and then leaving and other experts coming in. The know-how is very much done here. And this is something we are very proud of and have been building for the past four decades.

QYou are one of the leaders of the region; you’ve been here for over 40 years. What is your rationale for the sustained success?

KAK: By being good, we built a very strong reputation. I can’t say that I was part of that, I came into it. This reputation was created by the founders. We were very early in doing that, before most of the Arab world, definitely before anybody in the gulf. And 40 years ago, when this company was established, it was established for one simple reason: to prove to the world that we are as good. And that mindset has always driven Dar Al Dawa.

That mindset alone excels in technical development but it can fail miserably in marketing and sales. We had some bad years, but the only reason why we were able to sustain ourselves was because of our name. So now, what we are doing is rebuilding our name, our products, access and competencies, and put it back on the pedestal that it deserves. The reason why we are still around is simply that, we have a very strong brand equity.

QWhat are your predictions for this company over the next 5 or 10 years?

KAK: As long as more people are in this world, they will need food, diapers, and, eventually, they will need medicine, so this company will always grow. It’s a matter of getting your right market share. Last year, if you look at the IMS data, you will realise that almost every company in the sector in Jordan had a drop in market share, the reason for which is simply because Dar Al Dawa had a huge double digit increase. We are heading in the right direction.

QRegarding this perception of Jordan and misperceptions of what Jordan is; in your opinion, how can Jordan better communicate what it is and what investment opportunities it has?

KAK: If you look at media, it’s such a powerful driver. It directs the mindset and the temperament of people. If I tell people that I live in Jordan and it’s a great place, peaceful, our kids stay outside until 1 am and we don’t have issues, they would say “you’re lying”. They would say we have oil, ISIS, etc. That’s what people know about the region, and that’s very unfortunate. I have yet to meet a single foreigner who came to Jordan and didn’t love it.

That is the uniqueness of our country, because we are a little country, because of the fact that we don’t have oil (Thank God!), and because we are oil resource poor, we have always been under the radar. But that is fine, because we were able to build ourselves, Jordan has been able to be stable, we’ve always had wise leadership, who were open to the world. We have an amazing society, peaceful, we don’t have issues, and we welcome the world. Tourism is very under-utilised: Petra, Aqaba with the Red Sea, the deserts, etc. because of the region we are in, not because of the lack of places to visit. There is so much happening here, and we present that, but not enough people mention it, it doesn’t gain momentum. So what we really need is this article to be big.

We have always been consistent. If, in 10 years, people come again, they will see it. I hope we maintain it. When we go out and talk to people, they believe they talk to peers. We are well-educated, we speak at least one foreign language, we can sit with the best and the worst, we have no problem. That is something that is very Jordanian, we are very global.

I think a great ambassador of Jordan is Samsung. I’ve seen this in Spain, the UK, Italy, etc. They have beautiful advertisements of the wonders of the world, with their UHD-TVs, and they feature Petra. Seriously, it is nice. Petra looks nearly as amazing as it is ion real life and many people who saw that said they want to visit. There is so much that can be done, good quality businesses need to go out. Hikma, for example, they are our competitors, but they are on the UK stock exchange, the FTSE 100, one of the top 3 injectable producers in the world, and they put “Jordanian headquarters”. Jordan’s name has been a synonym to positive quality, globally. A lot of this positivity is personally driven, not institutionally. If you talk about the private-public sector partnership, the PPP, this is where Jordan needs to work a lot more.

QWhat is the lasting impression you want the readers to have of Jordan?

KAK: I want them to say “that’s an amazing place, I want to go visit, and I want to know more about it, about the people”. If they want to understand Arabs, they can come here; if they want to understand Islam, history, etc. they can come here. We have one of the oldest towns in the world. We are where civilisation started. We may not be Dubai but this is a place that will take you time to digest but the experience and results will be lasting and positive.