Michel Ayat, Chief Executive Officer, AWR Automotive Image Credit: Supplied

How do you define leadership when it comes to overseeing the fortunes and growth of a large company or brand?

One of the core values at AWR Group is to never be satisfied; we set the benchmark and constantly challenge ourselves to cross it. As such, we strive to create and foster a family culture by allowing room for our employees to grow to become the leaders of tomorrow and inspire their successors to continuously aim for excellence in everything they do. The objective is not to focus on gaining the lead but on consistently maintaining it.

As I look back upon what we have accomplished, I am instilled with pride with our team, who has grown with us and helped us build the brand that Arabian Automobiles Company is today, which has consistently delivered on the promise of enriching customer lives for more than 50 years.

The pandemic has brought about a shift in global business trends. As a leader, what steps did you take to reshape your business model?

Across the AWR Group, we had already anticipated the coming changes in the automotive industry and the turn to a digital future, having started our journey of transformation in 2016 itself by investing in people, processes, and digitization. When Covid-19 became a reality, we were well prepared to deal with the situation.

We understood that our customers were under a lot of pressure and uncertainty and realised that we must offer them convenience and peace of mind. We focused on offering seamless customer experiences, connecting the online journey to offline through our Shop@home service, video consultations, at-home test drives and servicing and much more. In today’s globalised world, innovative business models are emerging that are redefining roles, it is creating a unique, multi-dimensional value proposition for customers whose expectations are rapidly changing.

How do you visualise the growth trajectory for AW Rostamani Automotive in the short and long term?

We are anticipating a gradual recovery for the automotive industry to continue well through Q1 and Q2 2021 in tandem with the updates for the commercial availability of the vaccine. We believe new car sales will rise by 10% in 2021 following a 30% drop in 2020 and anticipate the growth to come from across segments. However, fleet segment will drive a higher growth due to expected improvement in commercial activities in 2021.

The current COVID-19 situation is expected to reduce the overall demand for public transportation as consumers prefer personal mobility options which in turn will positively impact new car sales as well as used car sales.

How important is it for a leader to take risks when the fortunes of the company and one’s staff are at stake?

To be a successful leader, one will have to be bold, be a trend-setter, and pass that culture on to their employees. This is how you foster an innovative culture that challenges the status quo. From 2015 onwards, our organization focused on investing in new technologies to drive digitalization which may have been deemed to be an unnecessary luxury. However, given the state the world is in currently, it proved to be a primary reason why Arabian Automobiles Company was able to shoulder the current challenges.

As a leading name in the region’s automotive industry, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Be brave and believe in your abilities. Be yourself, and the world will adjust to you, but always respect those whom you work with. When I started out, I was a school teacher who cherished enlightening students with the knowledge that I had derived from the world, but I wanted to do more. In my heart was an intrinsic sense of courage that I see in many of my peers today; I knew that I did not have to abandon my educational roots to progress; I simply take it forward with me. It is important for today’s entrepreneurs to not only have a strong intelligence quotient in order to deliver business results, but they must be equally strong in their emotional quotient to become an effective and successful leader.