Iraq On The Agenda: Paris Gallery Opens Its First Iraqi Outlet In Baghdad Group CEO Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim on what it takes to make the cut for the Luxury Group's franchise roster.

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Paris Gallery Group
Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, Group CEO, Paris Gallery Group of Companies

Paris Gallery Group of Companies' latest regional expansion, that of the first Paris Gallery outlet in Baghdad, Iraq, is a franchise agreement with the Iraq-based Al Handal International Group (AHIG). Currently headed by founder and Chairman Wadea Al Handal, Vice Chairman Hardan Noori Ayyed Al Handal, and CEO Mohammed Noori Ayyed Al Handal, AHIG has an established multisector portfolio that spans logistics to media to oil and gas amongst others. The launch of the Baghdad outlet was the second franchise announcement of 2015 for the Group; the first being earlier last year at Baku, Azerbaijan.

"A promising franchisee should have a good business reputation, strong management and teambuilding skills, a good understanding of what is required to make the franchise relationship work, knowledge about what they have to do to drive the business to success, and the preparedness to work hard and maintain high standards of service delivery," says Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, Group CEO, Paris Gallery Group of Companies, in response to the question of what makes for a good contender for a partnership with the luxury retailer in a franchisee capacity. And true to form, Al Fahim stresses that the Paris Gallery consumer-first strategy is a top requirement when the group opts for a partnership. Any prospective "franchisee should have good understanding that businesses are about people- retaining and satisfying customers and other stakeholders are what makes a business successful."

Mohammed Noori Ayyed Al Handal, CEO, AHIG. Image credit: Paris Gallery.

Originally signed in 2012 during a joint press conference in the UAE, the partnership agreement with AHIG isn't necessarily as stringent as what you'd expect in terms of such contracts, as the retailer is treating each franchise on a case-by-case scenario. "We will remain open to suggestions, and it will not be a follow-it-to-the-letter model," explains Al Fahim, adding that working closely with AHIG (and any other franchisor) is in the plan, together with an open platform for suggestions. Typically, in the world of franchisor agreements, the more stringent the relationship, the harder it is to navigate, and the less likely it is for franchisees to succeed as many face unique country-specific challenges. According to Al Fahim, Al Handal International Group is a multinational group that has a very strong business reputation in the region. "We share mutual goals over the long term," he says. "They have the commitment that is required to run a retail business such as ours, and they were not only comfortable with the franchise model but also with our culture, values, and goals. We needed a partner who shared the same ethics and values, who believed in our vision, and who had a development strategy for Paris Gallery in Iraq in line with our strategy. We believe that the Al Handal Group has everything it takes to successfully carry our vision forward in Iraq."

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But is Baghdad's market ready for such a large and varied luxury offering? Al Fahim says it is: "Retail has made a comeback in Iraq. The security and political situation has improved, new shopping malls have opened up, the economy has improved, and disposable income has increased. We are confident that the market is ready."


In Conversation with Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim

What does Paris Gallery offer its partners in terms of being the franchiser?

Paris Gallery's franchise model is a robust business model that provides a detailed, step-by-step, business blueprint for a successful business. We will support our affiliate partners with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. They will receive ongoing support from a professional team. Regular training will be provided to the staff, and steps to improve the quality of goods or services will be taken. The franchisee will [also] receive marketing support from the corporate marketing department of Paris Gallery.

Is there anything in the franchise model that has been tailored specifically to the Iraqi market?

We have taken time to understand the purchasing habits, the lifestyle, and the customs of the people of Iraq, and we have hired competitive Iraqis to serve them. We find our offerings apt for the Iraqi market that is now showing strong interest for international brands. Furthermore, we are also showcasing some of the regional favorites. There are a number of customer segments in the Iraqi market, and we will be catering to some of them with a wide array of brands and products. We are employing a considered approach to achieve the desired penetration into the market, and to establish the same kind of trust we have with our customers in the UAE and in other GCC countries. The Iraqi people will have the opportunity to express themselves and satisfy their taste for the finer things in life.

Paris Gallery Baghdad. Image credit: Paris Gallery.


85: The current number of Paris Gallery stores

600+: The number of international brands stocked by the retailer, some exclusively

85,000: The size in sq. ft. of the largest Paris Gallery outlet in the Middle East, situated at The Dubai Mall

1996: Paris Gallery is founded

2006: The year Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim was appointed as Group CEO of Paris Gallery Group of Companies

2012: In a joint press conference in the UAE, Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim and Mohammed Al Handal, CEO, Al Handal International Group, announce the Iraqi franchise agreement

2014: Paris Gallery launches client loyalty program, the Luxury Club, in three tiers: Silver, Gold and Platinum

2015: Paris Gallery opens in Baku, Azerbaijan, making it the first outlet for the luxury retailer in the Commonwealth of Independent States

2015: Paris Gallery opens in Baghdad, Iraq franchised to Iraqi multinational Al Handal International Group as agreed in 2012

Related: Broadening Business Horizons In A Saturated Market

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