Mohammad Al Aqeel: The Man Behind Jarir
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Founder of Jarir Bookstore Engineer Mohammad Al Aqeel never dreamed that his bookshop on Riyadh’s al Mutanabi Street – barely 50 square meters – would expand to occupy 50,000 square meters. Neither could he have envisaged that the bookshop’s single branch would extend to 39 branches across Saudi Arabia, his daily revenues rising from 1,000 Saudi Riyals (SAR) to 4 million SAR, and his two employees increasing to 1,200.
Al Aqeel recounts the story back in the days when Jarir Bookstore was a small shop unto its transformation into a shareholding company, expanding its business to the Arab Gulf States. Establishing a reliable name in the market, Jarir Bookstore specializes in selling office- and school- supplies, IT products and books. Al Aqeel explained that he got the idea in New York after which it crystallized in London and was born in Riyadh.
This week Mohammed Al Aqeel is hosted by Riyadh’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss his personal experience which burgeoned and made the Jarir Bookstore chains one of the biggest bookshops in the Arab Gulf.
After obtaining his degree in consultative engineering and working in Abdullah Aba al Kheil’s consultative engineering office for three years until 1979, Al Aqeel soon realized that his vocation and professional future lay elsewhere – he knew he wanted to run his own business. “After graduating from school I resumed my studies at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals after which I went on to obtain my masters degree from the United States. I worked for a consultative engineering office in Riyadh upon returning. Confronted by the country’s economic boom I knew I had three choices: to resume my work in the field of engineering, to enter into the construction sector, or to work in a bookshop and sell newspapers, magazines and school supplies,” he said.
He resumed, “I chose the third option and started devoting my efforts to it after being impressed by the high demand for office supplies. After an increase in success, we decided to lease land and take out a loan from a real estate financing bank – all the while keeping a watchful eye on the time factor and on market demands.” He stressed that had it not been for God’s blessings and his family’s efforts to help develop his project he would not have reaped the benefits of this success.
It was in the eighties that Al Aqeel opened up a second branch of the bookshop in Riyadh, for lack of competition, followed by one in Sharqiya in the nineties. Thus he started expanding branches throughout the country, achieving one success after the other in terms of revenues and excellent administration. Still, his business continued to expand and he started opening up branches in the neighboring countries under the name ‘Jarir Bookstore’.
Mohammad Al Aqeel’s achievements led him to establish a group of companies bearing the same name, some registered under different names: After founding Jarir Bookstore in 1979 he went on to establish the Jarir Marketing Company in 1980, a furniture company in 1987 [the family runs six wholesale showrooms], Mamlakit al Tifl Company in 1993 and a chain of Riyadh Najd schools in 1996.
After deliberations that lasted some time, Al Aqeel managed to convince his family [who are partners in the company] to sell 30 percent of company shares making it the first bookshop on the local stock market in 2003. [In 2000, Jarir Marketing Company (JMC) became a closed joint stock company and went public in 2003].
The chairman of JMC said, “For those who want to make money and be successful in the world of commerce you must forgo all airs and appearances and rely on your effort, diligence and perseverance,” stressing that good administration is one of the most important factors for success. The CEO said: “None of the company partners takes more than 30 days of holiday a year.” He emphasized the pertinence of strategizing and making future plans in order to ensure any company’s success.
He concluded by saying that Jarir Bookstore is currently facing a big challenge whereby it needs to increase its profits by an average of 15 percent annual growth over 5 years.