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INTERVIEW: Mohammed Mohebi, CEO, Mohebi Logistics

by Sarah Jacotine on Jul 8, 2015

Mohammed Mohebi, CEO of Mohebi Logistics.
Mohammed Mohebi, CEO of Mohebi Logistics.
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Despite Mohammed Mohebi surely being one of the busiest businessmen in Dubai, he was happy to take his time when I had the pleasure of sitting down with him at his offices in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) last month.

Our interview easily ran nearly 90 minutes, touching on everything from starting up a business during an economic slump to why it can be incredibly important not to be the smartest person in the room.

The charismatic chief executive, who launched Mohebi Logistics in 2008, also believes in taking his time when it comes to building up the organisation, telling me it’s more important to make sure his company’s latest project – its $150m Dubai World Central facility – is just right than hurry for an early finish.

“It is not a revenue centre so there is no urgency to meet a certain deadline; we really want to get it done right so if that means an extended period of time then so be it. Our operations have been running for 84 years so another six months wouldn’t change anything,” Mohebi reveals.

Currently, the warehousing facility is scheduled for completion by the middle of 2016 and the office facility approximately a year later.

“It should be exactly the way we want it with no compromises but I have told my team to push the warehousing because we are under contract. With the corporate offices to take their time,” he adds.

The nearly nine decades of heritage Mohebi is referring to is remarkable; he is the third generation of his family to continue in the business, following his father Zainal, the man behind Zainal Mohebi Holdings, and his late grandfather Baqer, who was one of the first traders in the original Dubai Souk in 1931. Mohammed’s children, I am told, are waiting for their turn too.

When the young Emirati, following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, branched off with Mohebi Logistics, the company began with Jebel Ali warehouse operations in 2008, accommodating 33,000 pallet positions.

Featuring temperature controlled chilled and frozen storage and docking facilities, and having ISO 9001 and HACCP certification, in addition to TAPA Tier 1 and Feng-Shui compliancy, InforWM warehouse management system and wireless handheld and truck mounted technology to support both barcode and RFID methodologies, the first warehouse ticked all the Mohebi boxes of ‘getting it done and getting it done right’.

Tremendous growth followed soon after and as of June 2015, the company – a subsidiary of Mohebi Investments and an affiliate of Zainal Mohebi Holdings –has broken ground on a $150m facility within the Logistics District at Dubai World Central (DWC).

It is easy to see why Mohebi chose DWC, given the purpose-built hub’s exciting growth trajectory and optimal location, but interestingly the decision was made before DWC won its bid to host the World Expo 2020 and, and therefore present logistics opportunities on a silver platter.

“At the time when we were looking at expansion, there was no Expo 2020 on the horizon, so it was a fantastic bonus for us first that Dubai won the bid and, second, that it will be hosted at DWC. It was really a beautiful surprise,” Mohebi shares.

He tells me that DWC “having the business plan right” is what attracted him initially.

“There was a new airport being built [Al Maktoum International] and a massive area of land bank, which we required because in logistics part of what you need is warehousing and warehousing requires massive land banks.

“The location was prime, and accessibility both to the airfield and to the seaport was there, so it gave us the best of everything. Jebel Ali is phenomenal but why expand in an area we are already present?

“It was a natural choice to go to DWC and we wanted to cover both bases [of DWC and Jafza] because these are both extremely important infrastructures within Dubai, and it was important we be placed in both sites,” he adds.

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