Jan 26 2024
Exclusive interview with Mario Diel, Chairman and CEO of British IKAR Holdings, London.
“Mr. Diel, it’s a pleasure talking to you. Could you just give us a short introduction about your group?”
IKAR Holdings is a London-based, multi-tiered entrepreneurial group of companies, which I have established more than three years ago. It’s a spin-off of my entrepreneurial career which spans for the last 30 years.
“Why is your group focusing on the Arabian market? What kind of opportunities you have identified?”
First of all the business strategy of our entire group is focused on bridging western markets with emerging countries. Especially the GCC region has our prime focus. The amount of sophisticated and mega projects are unparalleled on a global scale. The visions of the individual governments to achieve champions league level for their economy and with this for their population are outstanding. On top, all of them have a very young population, which is demanding highest living standards. It’s a paradise for every ambitious entrepreneur and investor!
“Are there specific sectors you are primarily interested in?”
That’s a very good question because it allows me to explain why we are so excited about the region. Usually in matured markets there are extraordinary growth opportunities only in specific sectors. Let’s say in Europe everybody is focused on the energy sector, and in particular into investments in renewables, like solar or wind. But in GCC you find extraordinary growth opportunities across multiple sectors. Energy is of course a huge industry as the governments want to transform their dependency in fossil sources to renewable solutions. But the same growth opportunities are applying to education, healthcare, hospitality, technology, construction and so many more. And our group is active in all of these sectors.
“What is your strategy to enter the market? Starting with a specific sector or do you have a multiple approach?”
As our group has intentionally a diversified set up, our aim is of course to approach the market in a diversified way. Nevertheless, we have a sustainable and long-term strategy and want to focus first on a few highlight sectors and here I want to mention first our interests in the education industry. The region, due to its young population has a huge demand in providing first class education. This gap we want to fill with the establishment of an online University – in the region – with a focus on business and entrepreneurship. I believe that we have created a unique education model which would ideally fit with the requirements of the region.
“Bridging different worlds, requires also a solid understanding of the different business cultures. Are you prepared for this?”
I believe that this is of utmost importance! If you don’t understand the different business cultures you will never succeed! As we are very much aware of it, we could establish a extraordinary leadership team and united more than 25 different nationalities in our group. And I want to highlight three of our distinguished leaders. Prof. Lilak Al-Safadi joined us as President of IKONIC Education Group. She is an outstanding academic who was the first female who led a University in Saudi Arabia as its President. Prof. Hassan Diab, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, who chairs IKAR Global, one of our vertical Holdings and last but not least, Ambassador Edward Oakden, who served for the United Kingdom in the UAE, Jordan and Tunis, and is the Chairman of IKAR Arabia Investment Group. A Holding which we intentionally established for our activities in the Arabian market.
“I learned that your group is known as the World’s first HUMICORN in business. What that means and why it’s of importance for your business?”
We are living in a world where technology more and more dominates our daily life. The newest developments, coming along with Artificial Intelligence, may support all of us in various parts of our life, but at the same time it’s also scaring. I am afraid that we lose the focus and importance of us, the humans! That said, when I established IKAR I wanted to give the human factor of our business the highest importance. And instead of Unicorns who focus more on technology, I have created IKAR as a HUMICORN, because our focus is on the human capital. I strongly believe that today and also in the future you can only be successful in business, politics and other aspects of life, when you are a good human.
“As a last question: are you intending to enter the Arabian market on your own, or are you open for local partnerships as well?”
Thank you for asking me this question! The whole DNA of IKAR is based on partnerships. Although I am the founder it’s not just my company. From the very beginning I believed that creating major and impactful success can be only achieved when I have the right partners with me. These partners should not only have major experiences and know how, but also the same mindset. What I mean with this: it’s not only about earning as much money, but also about to create sustainable impact in what we are doing. So of course, entering a new market will be much more successful and sustainable when you can attract local partners! To answer your question more precisely: yes, I am very open for partnerships, whether on project-, company-, or even strategic level!