By YM Sreekrishna Bhat
As a child, Farouk Almoayyed had a fascination for cars. Hardly an uncommon passion for a young lad, you might say.
But while other children pictured themselves behind the wheel, Farouk's head was planted under the hood, so to speak. He was intrigued by the processes that made the car run and dreamt of one day becoming an auto mechanic.
Today, at 55, Farouk Almoayyed is one of Bahrain's biggest car dealers, a telling tribute to how far ambition and hard work can take you.
The seeds of business were planted in him very early in life. Even at the tender age of 10, Farouk would help his father at his electrical shop during his spare time. (His father, the late Yousuf Khalil Almoayyed, would himself go on to become one of Bahrain's most prominent business pioneers.)
In those days, Bahrain had only one secondary school and no other higher education, and so with his father's backing, the young Almoayyed went to England to continue his studies. It was the perfect opportunity to follow his dream, and Farouk did just that, specialising in automotive engineering.
Meanwhile in Bahrain, to Farouk's good fortune, his father had acquired the Ford car dealership. When he returned to the country, qualification in hand and fire in belly, the young man lost no time in getting down to business. This was a field dear to his heart and the passion showed in his work.
It was not long before he took over the reins of the family firm and as the chairman and managing director of YK Almoayyed & Sons began to guide the destiny of one of the oldest companies in Bahrain.
It was not all smooth sailing.
In 1967, the Arab-Israeli war prompted a boycott of US firms by Middle Eastern countries. YK Almoayyed & Sons gave up the lucrative Ford dealership and were forced to scout around for alternatives.
They finally signed a deal with Honda, which at the time was a small company with just one car model. Given that the car was not a very popular one, things began to look a little bleak.
Almoayyed may have been down, but he certainly wasn't out. His skills as a negotiator came under test and he delivered in style.
In 1968, the company secured not one, but two major dealerships, signing up both Nissan and Pontiac.
It proved to be a turning point.
The Nissan line especially caught the fancy of the Gulf market and suddenly the brakes were off. YK Almoayyed & Sons was back on the fast track.
When the Seventies rolled in, bringing with it the heady oil boom years, business suddenly went through the roof.
But while the oil boom fuelled a major resurgence in the industry, it also nearly proved to be the grease that sent the company wheels skidding.
The sudden jump in demand for their services caught the firm off-guard.
"There was a huge demand for the products we were offering," recalls Almoayyed. "Our business multiplied 10 times but we did not have enough facilities such as garages, stores, etc."
It was a testing time for the young corporate chief, but once again he proved up to the challenge.
"We had to quickly establish new facilities. That required a lot of effort and investment," says Almoayyed.
His success in meeting the challenge catapulted the company into new areas and the family now has interests in a wide range of activities including construction, hotels, banking, trading and manufacturing.
Almoayyed, apart from his role at YK Almoayyed & Sons, is also the chairman of Almoayyed International Group, chairman of Bahrain Duty Free, deputy chairman of National Bank of Bahrain; vice-chairman of Bahrain Hotels Company (Gulf Hotel); director of Gulf Union Insurance & Reinsurance Company and chairman of Ibn Khuldoon School.
He however does not want to put a figure on the group's assets. "Let us remain humble," he said.
Almoayyed considers the success of the business and getting respect for what he has done as his biggest achievements. The respect he commands in society is manifest in the fact that Almoayyed is one of the senior members of the Shura Council, which offers recommendations to Bahrain's Cabinet.
So what is behind his success? "Of course, hard work. And you should treat your customer the way you would like to be treated if you were one. I always put myself in the customer's place, and try to solve a reasonable customer's complaint even if it means incurring some loss. A satisfied client will tell 10 people about our service and we will have 10 new customers!"
He says his late father and the late Mr Ahmed Kanoo were his greatest influences. "They taught me how to be proactive in business and how to treat people."
Success is supposed to be addictive and 'enough' is hard to find in most businessmen's vocabulary. However Almoayyed belongs to a different breed and at the 'prime' age of 55, he is content with what he has done for his business and for himself.
He is no longer hungry for new ventures. "My plate is full. I am happy," he says.
"I am now at a stage where I am really very busy and should not start anything new, because I can't give it the time needed. I am trying to curtail my busy life and devote more time to personal leisure.
"I now rely a lot on my brother and sisters and professional managers to run the businesses," he says.
He says a leader should be able to judge the people around him, recruit the right people, treat them well and keep them happy. "They will produce for you. We as a company follow that principle."
Almoayyed has a piece of advice for Bahrain's younger generation: "Work hard and learn English. English is very important in any career, as a professional or as a businessman. My education in the UK was a big advantage for me in my career," he says.
The father of four - two sons and two daughters - Almoayyed wants to more spend time with his family. "Due to my busy schedule, I had neglected the family. Now I want to spend more time with them."
Of the various businesses he is involved with, his favourite is the services sector, especially tourism and entertainment.
It is these sectors, he feels, that hold the key to Bahrain's growth in the next century.
"The country will do very well if these sectors are developed and we should direct our energies towards them as a country and people," says Almoayyed.
Published in the Visitor's Complete Guide to Bahrain 2000