Antoine Nehme: The Legacy of Character and Faith

 17 May 2017 - 19:49

Antoine Nehme: The Legacy of Character and Faith
Antoine Nehme, circa 1950s

By Irfan Bukhari / The Peninsula

DOHA: The book is an invaluable gift for the people who are fascinated with the buzzwords of today’s world of competition and growth – entrepreneurship and startups – and know but very little about the recipe of enduring success in life and business ventures.

It is the story of hard work, perseverance and fidelity; fidelity to the family values, to the professional integrity. It has been penned with the ink of love, respect and gratitude.

“Blessings in the Sand – The Antoine Nehme Legacy”, written by Alexander A. Nehme, the youngest son of Antoine Nehme is a well-articulated, written-record of “The Antoine Nehme Legacy” which has many lessons to be learnt by youngsters who want to start their entrepreneurial journey from the scratch without having anticipating anxieties.

It is the story of a Lebanese expatriate (Antoine Nehme) who started his business in early 1950s in Qatar when the conditions were definitely very tough but the resolution of Nehme was far greater than the growing pains posed by harsh ground realities.

He started his family business – Nehmeh – which after six decades has now become a small empire called “Nehmeh International Holdings”, a multifaceted company serving the whole Middle East region. The book reminds the reader of famous quote of Tolstoy: “Traveller there is no path, paths are made by travelling.”

“Our company follows the classic Hollywood plot in its rags-to-riches story of the founder, Antoine Nehme. Ours is the story of one man who had nothing and who wanted to do something.”

The book is a masterly account of a life well spent, of an untiring ambition and an unflinching courage. Behind the success story of Nehmeh (the company name), there exist not only hard work, perseverance, innovation and dedication rather the firm belief of company’s founder in family values and business ethics was a mammoth factor that definitely played a significant role in turning a small hardware store into a corporate reality.

“Family is key here at Nehmeh,” Alexander writes at one place in the book, further writing: “Family is an embodiment of values. When you lose the sense of unity, which is the real nucleus of a village or town, or city or country or nation, you are on dangerous ground.”

Alexander A. Nehme says with a palpable sense of pride that Nehmeh was among the first companies which started using ‘Made in Qatar’ in early 1990s. “We cannot necessarily say we created the label that is known around the world. Still, by the 1990s, when we began to place this label on our heat-exchangers, we were among only a handful of companies manufacturing in the country.”

The company not only made progress by leaps and bounds but also promoted real meanings of sustainability and culture of CSR long before they became publicity-earning phrases. The writer quotes his father saying: “If you are sad, the company will be sad. If you are happy, the company will be happy.”

The store Antoine Nehme created many decades ago in Doha was just a warehouse of spare parts but these were the positive qualities of a 23-year-old Lebanese immigrant which had paved the way of growth and progress for a small shop to become a business of remarkable brand equity.

The success story of Nehmeh is a beacon of light for many aspirant entrepreneurs and this book can guide them how to develop a businesses with unwavering belief in one’s abilities and patience.

Nehme family’s love for Qatar and its leadership is really exceptional as they think that Lebanon is their country while Doha is their “hometown”. The book is a gift for those expatriates who also want to peep into Qatar’s history and its journey of becoming a modern state from a small community which used to earn its livelihood from pearl and fish trade few decades ago.

“We know that companies are about evolution, change, and constant redevelopment. Nations too are this way, along with the global economy.”

The book shares some personal stories of Antoine Nehme and also unveils family life of the father, the writer son calls “pioneer”. These elements make the reading experience lively and help maintain readers’ interest. “He (Antoine Nehme) would spend most of his time at work in Qatar and abroad. My mother would, naturally, go crazy. Of course, what he was doing was ensuring the future of his family. Quite often, my mother would say to him, “This is not a hotel,” when he left early in the morning and returned late in the evening.”

Nehmeh is the successor of Natco, originally standing for the Nehmeh Automotive & Trading Company, and now groups several companies under the Nehmeh corporate identity.

The Nehme family believes in legacy of character as at one point Alexander puts it in Billy Graham’s words: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not in material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”

Not only writer’s affectionate attachment with his father, his family and Nehmeh is commendable but his style and articulation also deserve full marks. The book is divided into nine chapters starting from “Sandals: Arriving in the Gulf with Nothing” and ending at “Legacy”.

The writer has generously used quotable quotes which give a scholarly flavor to the text and has shared some golden words uttered by his father as well like: ‘Business has all five senses, just like a human being’; ‘Keep an eye on your work, for if you neglect it, it will feel it and neglect you in return’; among many.

The book has received warm response from across the globe. Suzy Mayhew, Campden Group, United Kingdom says: “A unique and personal insight into the evolution and expansion of a family business and Qatar. Epitomizes solid foundations, great governance and lasting values for continued success.”

A Lebanese historian, Dr. Ray J. Mouawad writes: “This is the success story of family deeply rooted in the Middle East, like the audacious Sindbad the Sailor, this book embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship in an open-minded and modern Arab world.”