As the world emerges from the social restrictions of Covid-19, we profile four of the most forward-looking entrepreneurs who are driving cutting-edge innovation in the retail sector across the Middle East. These disruptive CEOs range from shopping mall development executives to high-end jewelry entrepreneurs and are changing the way we look at the modern retail industry.
Meshaal Bin Omairh, Al Othaim Investment Co.
Mr. Bin Omairh joined Abdullah Al Othaim Investment Co. in 2021 as Group CEO. His status as the first non-member of the eminent Al Othaim family to lead the company reflects his extensive 25-year experience of corporate governance, organizational development, and capital optimization. He has led multinational companies and worked with some of the largest companies operating in KSA including Rajhi Steel and Aljazierah Home Appliances.
The responsive and pioneering nature of Mr. Bin Omairh’s leadership is fundamentally rooted in his dedication to making Al Othaim the 1st choice community shopping and entertainment destination in the Kingdom. His ambitious vision for Al Othaim shopping malls goes beyond providing a communal meeting place, instead aiming to offer a fully interactive and truly integrated experience to all tenants and shoppers through the development of mixed-use retail space.
Retaining the values of a family business and establishing industry-leading HR standards is at the forefront of Mr. Bin Omairh’s trendsetting socially minded vision for the future of Al Othaim. Fully tuned into the determined momentum of social and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia, the CEO aspires to, for example, integrate women throughout all levels of the organization and to create an ambitious socially responsible shopping experience which will improve Saudi nationals’ quality of life, in line with Vision 2030.
Stephen R Thomas, Renaissance Services
Mr. Thomas joined Renaissance Services in 1998 as CEO. He has extensive international retail experience, having worked with Grand Metropolitan Group, and served as Chairman for the Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL). In 2019, he won the Top CEO Award at the Fifth Top CEO Conference Awards in recognition of his contribution to the growth, profitability, and corporate governance of Renaissance Services.
Under Mr. Thomas’ leadership, Renaissance Services has continuously evolved to stand at the forefront of emerging technologies and provide meaningful innovation for the businesses they serve. The company has gained significant expertise handling cutting-edge technologies, such as robotics for cleaning, computer-aided FM, and advanced remote monitoring solutions. In addition to these technological solutions to practical issues, the company is dedicated to developing advanced solutions for food wastage and nutrition management.
As of 2020, Renaissance Services had invested over US$ 500 million in Oman, and provided employment for 2,350 Omani nationals, demonstrating its commitment to local growth, building potential and creating opportunities. In 2010, Mr. Thomas was appointed OBE for services to international business and to the Omani community.
Asil Attar, Damas Jewellery
Starting her career as a salesperson for the luxury retailer Harrods, Ms. Attar has developed a reputation as the “godmother” of fashion retail in the Middle East, with an awe-inspiring track record of increasing revenue in the multiple senior roles she has held in MENA-based companies. In fact, Ms. Attar was the first female CEO of many of those companies, such as AlYasra and Damas Jewellery.
Despite having been in the retail industry for around 30 years, during which she worked her way to the top of some of the most high-profile British fashion brands such as Whistles and Jigsaw, Ms. Attar continues to innovate with her trailblazing work ethic. The CEO stands as a beacon of inspiration not just to career-driven women but to retail professionals of all kinds, proving that with dedication, passion and a rock-solid work ethic, there is no limit to what businesspeople can achieve: Ms. Attar has also served as opening speaker and panelist for many conferences across MENA and hosts the wildly popular entrepreneur podcast “Turban Times”.
There is no sign whatsoever of Ms. Attar losing any momentum as she continues to accelerate onwards with her exciting ambitions and cutting-edge projects. The CEO already has an incredible array of awards under her belt: as an example, she was named one of the top 100 most influential Arab women in 2018 and one of the top 50 international CEOs from the Arab Region in 2019 by Forbes Middle East.
Ishwar Chugani, Giordano
Mr. Chugani is Managing Director of Giordano Middle East FZE and Executive Director of Giordano International. He has been leading Giordano for the past 26 years and has over 40 years of retail experience in the Middle East region and received the 2019 Retail Professional of the Year Award from the Middle East and North Africa Shopping Centre and Retailer Awards for his pioneering work in directing Giordano’s expansion to global markets.
Continuing to innovate even after four decades in executive roles in the retail industry, putting customer shopping experience at the forefront of his focus with multiple new stores in the pipeline. He is developing fresh, cutting-edge store plans to redefine the simplicity of design for which Giordano is renowned, whilst still providing the standard of high-quality apparel at great value which draws customers to the brand. These pioneering store designs will also embrace energy-efficient LED lights which preserve customer experience whilst reducing carbon footprints.
Despite Mr. Chugani’s core principle “keep it simple” the CEO has demonstrated that he does not shy away from innovation, always moving to reinvent Giordano and stay ahead of the curve of current trends. He has fully embraced the dynamic nature of retail in the Middle East and aims to make Giordano accessible across all geographies and cultures. Giordano International currently operates 2,400 stores in 40 countries, and Mr. Chugani is also a founding member of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centers and Retailers and The UAE Retail Business Group.