Mohsin Hani Al Bahrani, CEO, Automotive, Construction Equipment & Renewable Energy ACERE- MHD LLC has set his sights on building a diversified and robust business that contributes to Oman’s Vision 2040 goals. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with OER.
-An OERLive Exclusive
You took over as the CEO of MHD’s Automotive, Construction Equipment & Renewable Energy (ACERE) division amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. How have you negotiated the fallout of the economic slowdown and ensured business continuity?
I took over as the CEO of ACERE-MHD LLC in August 2020. ACERE was created by merging the automotive division with the other departments such as construction equipment and renewable energy. We are planning to move into a new phase of growth. The company is on its way to enhance and support its business and commercial activities to take ahead the strategic transformation of the organization. This will in turn enable us to capitalize on the various emerging opportunities in the market.
We have succeeded in bringing many well-known international brands to the Sultanate including McLaren, which was successfully launched at our state-of-the-art showroom in Al-Athaiba in 2020. Today, Mohsin Haider Darwish is the sole distributor of Jaguar, Land Rover, McLaren and Volvo, MG Motor, Ashok Leyland, Ford Trucks, CMC, Michelin, BF Good Reach, Riken, Terex Finlay, XCMG, Mitsubishi, Opus, and Drager cranes in Oman.
We have also significantly increased the sale of MG cars. The brand saw a 520 percent increase in sales in 2019 compared to the previous year. This necessitated a change in consumer perception towards Chinese products and highlighting their various advantages. Similarly, we have regained leadership in the commercial car market with Ashok Leyland. Moreover, the Group is constantly working on enhancing its after-sales service experience to retain customers all over the Sultanate. This will also help in creating more job opportunities for young Omanis.
We have also launched a renewable energy division and we have added a new line of business namely the ‘ABB brand’ of chargers for electric vehicles and we strongly believe that this sector has a promising future. The Group is working on major expansion plans which were carefully drawn up by studying the business environment. We also have other plans to strengthen our partnership with global brands that will be unveiled in due course once we complete the requisite market research about them, particularly given the current challenging economic situation facing the entire market.
What were the challenges faced by ACERE in 2020 and how has the company’s performance been in the light of these hurdles?
As all of us are aware, the financial year 2020 was an incredibly challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its severe repercussions on all aspects of the economy, trade, and business in general. The lockdown, closure of borders, and other precautionary measures announced by the Supreme Committee to save lives at the height of the pandemic, significantly affected the auto sector, as car showrooms were closed. Our overriding priority has been and will always be the safety of people and their health. Accordingly, we have adopted many measures and precautionary procedures to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.
The Group has also sought to take advantage of the current challenges to deploy several innovative ideas through which we can overcome challenges, reach a wider customer base and maintain a continuous relationship with our current customers and partners. This is what we have successfully achieved. We believe that the crisis is an opportunity for assessing and restructuring our customer service approach to further develop and enhance the future as we continue to face challenges in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
We are focussing on gaining the trust of the market and enhancing our business and activities in the post-pandemic phase. In fact, we are currently working on strengthening our efforts towards achieving more success after witnessing a huge impact due to the economic effects imposed by Covid-19. The current circumstances revealed the necessity of harnessing new technologies and implementing a digital transformation strategy in all aspects, including communication, meetings, and marketing, etc.
Renewable energy is a focus area of ACERE. What are the prospects for the sector in the coming years?
Sustainable business practices have become the need of the hour with the threat of global warming and climate change looming over us. MHD is passionately committed to being a vital player in leading the private sector towards implementing sustainable energy solutions. It is with this in mind that we established the Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicles Division, which is the first of its kind in Oman, to drive technological innovation that is powered by clean energy. We also recently signed a contract with ABB, a pioneering technology leader focused on digital industries, for the supply of High-Power electric vehicle (EV) chargers that will be installed across Oman. There is no doubt that E-mobility is growing across the globe and we aim to be pioneers in providing the best green and sustainable solutions in Oman.
Can you share your key learnings from the Covid-19 experience?
Serving customers through digital means is the way forward, we are focusing on enhancing our digital platforms, and have realized that being connected to customers even through tough times, is critical. We have also learned to be prepared for any eventuality, through the course of the pandemic; and have understood the importance of staying responsive to changes and situations. Like all other industries, risk management plays a vital role in the automotive industry as well. Therefore, we have to keep risk management at the core of all our business activities and initiatives. All our recent investments have been planned, studied, and made in keeping with this.
What is your outlook for 2021 and the future growth of ACERE?
I think 2021 is a year when we will look forward to newer opportunities, enhanced performance, and bringing in newfound efficiencies to the business. The current crisis has opened the door for companies to adopt changes and implement transformational strategies. Although we are still unsure about the impact that the Covid-19 will continue having on the economy, we are certain that what we have achieved during the past years is sufficient to support our growth and enhance our abilities for the future. The Group is continuing to evaluate multiple options to push the business forward towards growth and development.
Success in itself is not a destination, but a continuous journey towards excellence. This spirit of progress, of unlocking opportunities, of adding value to lives and propelling the nation ahead, is what drives MHD LLC. With a diverse business presence and varied interests, MHD will continue to take pride in the respect and reputation it has earned, the lives it has touched, the careers it inspired and above all, the inspiration provided for a young nation to keep moving forward.
Is ACERE-MHD LLC diversifying its businesses to take advantage of the various opportunities in the market?
As a group, we are always keen to explore new opportunities and diversify our business portfolio to gain the confidence and trust of our customers. The Group always aspires to broaden its horizons for the company’s customers and businesses by bringing in new opportunities, enhancing innovative products and services, as well as improving our after-sales service experience.
How do you evaluate the competition in the local market and ACERE’s preparedness to take on such competition?
The local market is witnessing great competition and the relevant entities and bodies have contributed to creating a market that has healthy competition. I strongly believe that this is good as it safeguards the interests of customers and creates a strong economy. We, at MHD LLC, have been able to create a well-reputable brand that has long been established in the market through values that we believe and adhere to, which has enhanced customers’ trust in our brand. This is reflected in the indicators and the volume of demand for our various comprehensive products and services that meet the needs of different segments and groups of the community.
How do you see ACERE contributing to Oman’s economic development in the years to come?
MHD has been a strong contributor to the economy of Oman, committed through waves of growth and development. The company has delivered success and built value over the years and has the strength of legacy and the spirit of ambition. Together with our partners and people, we continue to inspire progress that will build meaningful values for future generations. With our network and presence, we continue to collaborate with local businesses to build capability, identify and hone talent and co-create innovative solutions.
How can the private sector in Oman contribute towards achieving the goals of Oman’s Vision 2040?
His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik’s Royal Speech in February 2020 clearly stated that everyone is required to work and contribute for Sultanate to each its intended economic and developmental goals. The private sector is required to further strengthen its role for the Sultanate to become an economy that achieves sustainable and comprehensive development. As a Group, MHD LLC is committed to enhancing the role of the corporate sector and enhancing its contribution to various national initiatives in pursuance of Oman’s Vision 2040.
Can you shed light on the efforts being made by ACERE to enhance the competence of the Omani workforce through training and employment efforts?
Human resource is the key to the success of any business. Thanks to the Group’s team efforts, the company has recorded great achievements. We continuously endeavor to enhance our employees’ capabilities and competencies by launching several skilling and training initiatives.
We have a professional development mechanism, including on-job training and internship opportunities. The HR department at the company has adopted the best practices that can contribute to the national workforce’s recruitment and career development.
How can Omani youth achieve their aspirations and dreams and what do they need to be effective business leaders of tomorrow?
Youth are the key drivers of the growth of Oman. His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has emphasized the importance of youth as the wealth and inexhaustible resource of any nation and this will have a great bearing on the role of Omani youth in the future. The youth also have a great responsibility and they should be aware of their role in contributing to building the future of Oman by working to fulfill their expected role in their respective fields.
Oman, at this time, requires the joint efforts of all people, particularly today when we need the energies of young Omanis to build the future of the Sultanate and achieve His Majesty’s vision and aspiration of Oman being a robust, innovative, and diversified economy.
As a grandson of the company’s founder the legendary Late Mohsin Haider Darwish, how do you view your role in furthering his legacy?
I am aware of the great responsibility on my shoulders to continue and build on the success achieved by my grandfather and I will certainly follow in his footsteps to further his legacy. The task is not easy and I am aware of the number of challenges that I may face, but my grandfather taught us that every challenge is a learning opportunity and no problem is insurmountable. We learned the values of sacrifice, diligence, and perseverance towards achieving one’s business goals and self-realization.
My grandfather used to make me accompany him to the company during my holidays and I have attended several meetings with business heads and various personalities along with him. I think that this greatly contributed to my growth and learning the ropes of the business. The experience also provided me with a good background in leadership and management skills. Hopefully, I will continue on his path of success and further his legacy by taking ACERE-MHD LLC to the next level of success.