Executive Interviews


“Product brand is very important in succeeding, in addition to HRD and development of the organization itself” --An interview with the general manager of an Egyptian trading company specializing mainly in LED bulbs and lighting fixtures




Al-Rabie Lighting Co.

Mr. Sherif Sayed Abdelgawad Mahdy (Owner/General Manager)



Many business people from abroad including the emerging countries have participated in HIDA training programs. Positions of the targeted audience vary with the programs, and there are some programs aimed for top executives.


This time, we interviewed with a person who runs a company in the trading business of mainly LED bulbs and lighting fixtures in Egypt.



--Please explain your company profile first.

Al-Rabie Lighting Co., located in Cairo, was established in 2002 with a total capital of 10,000 USD and now our working capital exceeds 1.5M USD. The company works in the trading business of mainly LED bulbs and lighting fixtures as of now, and we will start manufacturing these products by ourselves in the next year. The number of employees now is 80 people and is expected to increase to 130 with the opening of the factory next year.


--What aspects of corporate management do you put much value on? Please share with us your management philosophy or policy, or something considered important.
We believe in participatory management where we empower the employees to participate in all the organization’s decisions and in this way we are sure that everyone in the organization will always feel that he/she is a part of the organization and responsible for every decision that the organization takes. Also delegation of authority frees more time for me to deal with the strategic decisions.

--Do you think of any challenges that hinder your company business to grow and develop further? What kind of actions do you think need to be taken to address the above-mentioned “challenges”?


As I’m the owner and founder of the organization and all my work experience for the last 14 years has been inside this organization, I think the challenges that my organization faces can be expressed in two main points.


Firstly, my managerial skills, knowledge and experience should develop faster than the organization’s growth or else I’ll be a limitation on the organization’s growth.


Secondly, in spite of the current clear organization levels and the participation philosophy that is widely used in the organization, the organization still depends on me for many things.


I’m working in two channels to work this out. First, I’m trying to learn and gain experience to be able to manage my organization in a better way. That’s why I came here to participate in this program, and also I’m now doing an MBA to enhance my managerial knowledge.


As the organization grows we became more able to hire more experienced managers that I can handover more duties and tasks to and who can do it better than myself; also, I have a target to turn the organization into a public listed corporation and separate ownership from management.
--How do you view the current status of your business in the global market?
Although our business has not expanded globally, we have global business relations with China as we have imported goods from them for the last 12 years and now they are helping us build our new factory. We have a business relationship with some companies in Europe such as German and Italy, and purchase parts from them. We don't have any business relations with Japanese companies at this moment.

--Are you planning to expand your business overseas? What does your company consider important and wish to focus on to lead your business overseas to a success?


We have a plan to start exporting our goods to African countries such as Sudan and Kenya in 2018. We believe product brand is very important in succeeding, in addition to HRD and development of the organization itself.


--Please tell us about the current market environment of your business in your country.


The Egyptian economy has been declining since 2011 because of the Egyptian revolution, and the economic situation has become more and more complicated after the military coup in 2013. The currency has lost more than 60% of its value in the last two years and till now the exchange rate is not stable and changing on a daily basis sometimes up to 10% in one week. This instability has hurt the business greatly, and, at the same time, the central bank has increased the interest rate to 20%.


Due to the currency problem, the government made some regulations to decrease imports, which is our main business, and stopped the banks from supplying the foreign currency for imports and all these factors made the business more difficult and risky. The currency problem and the import regulation has pushed everyone now to go for production, which the government is adopting and encouraging, and that’s why we are opening our factory next year.


The competition in the market is not very great and we can still have decent margins, but the real challenge now is who can survive these hard times and who will go out of business. There are over 100 competitor companies in this industry and our market share is about 10-15% in this segment.


We sell our products under the brand name of “Bareeq”. We have a small market share but we provide high quality products compared to others. The challenge now is how to maintain our quality when the prices are going up because of the currency devaluation and the customer's purchasing power is becoming less than before.


The trend now for all competitors is to decrease quality to maintain the prices or if they cannot, they increase prices to keep their market share. I think market barriers in my industry are not very high especially with the low value of the Egyptian pound.

--What are the points that you have kept in mind to develop human resources in your company? In other words, how do you wish to improve your engagement with the matter in the future?
As HR is the most valuable asset the organization has, developing this asset is very essential for the growth of any organization. Our problem as a medium-sized company is the cost of inviting specialists from outside for training and sending our staff to outside training courses. We can't send our managers to very expensive courses or get private trainers to our headquarters. I do all the training myself, which is why I try to learn more and increase my knowledge so that I can pass this knowledge to my employees.


--What is your impression about Japan and Japanese companies? Please share with us an episode or experience that surprised or touched you.


Actually the whole trip has been very inspiring, and my impression about Japanese culture is that it's a culture built on caring and unity. It’s very different from western culture. I would also say that the company's mission in Japan is very influential on the company choices, and everyone in the organization really believes in the mission and that I haven’t seen elsewhere.


On my study tour I was touched and inspired by some particular company that employs s many disabled people. I was impressed not only by what they did for the disabled people and the technology they use to make the environment suitable for them, but also the good intention behind all this work and the effort and consistency in doing this.


Consistency and sustainability are values that I can feel in every company and place I visited in Japan. I really appreciated this chance to know more about this great country.


One more experience I would like to share. Last weekend I went to Tokyo Tower. I was not feeling well and suddenly I fainted and fell to the ground. The reaction of the people was really great. A doctor who was coincidentally there with his family in the tower came and helped me and offered to drive me back home but I refused. I spent some time with him and his wife and two children before I became well again that I could move on. I felt like they are my family. Actually everyone in the place was really concerned and caring, and what the doctor and his family did really touched me and that was an example of caring that we can't find in many other countries.

Thank you very much for your cooperation.