Awael Al Janoob
When ISIS seized control of northern Iraq in 2014, nearly five million people were forced to flee their homes. By the time the group’s occupation of the region came to an end four years later, many Iraqis found they now had only rubble to return to.
In 2018, the World Bank estimated that nearly 140 000 residential buildings were impacted by ISIS and the military action to expel them from Iraq. Half of these structures were destroyed beyond repair and the bank valued the total damage at over $16 billion.
Mustafa Al Malihei, Investment Manager at GroFin Iraq, says seeing the devastated landscape that remains of the once prosperous city of Mosul is heart-wrenching. “The city now looks like the ruins of a prehistoric village that should be excavated by archaeologists. You only see dirt, rocks, broken concrete and the remains of old buildings. But there is hope because life is coming back to the city and people are starting to rebuild their houses and businesses.”
While the reconstruction of northern Iraq will require large scale investment and international support, small and medium-sized businesses can play a crucial role in helping the region to rebuild not only houses and infrastructure but also its economy.
GroFin has provided financing to Awael Al Janoob, an Iraqi SME specialising in interior decoration materials. Located in Basra, Awael Al Janoob offers an extensive range of imported products such as gypsum boards and PVC panels. When the reconstruction of northern Iraq and Mosul was announced, Awael Al Janoob did not hesitate to reopen its distribution channels to wholesalers and construction contractors there.
The funding Awael Al Janoob secured from GroFin allowed it to import additional stock from its Chinese suppliers when increased demand and sales from the north began to place pressure on its cash flow. “Most of the current demand from the North comes from people who are rebuilding their homes and need basic decorative materials such as PVC boards,” the company’s young founder, Nadheer A. explains.
Nadheer says obtaining funding is an important step on the path to success for most small businesses. GroFin has also advised him on how to improve the financial management of his company and assisted him in contracting an accounting company to implement a formal and computerised accounting system. This will contribute further to improving the business’s cash-flow management and allow for better planning based on more accurate business forecasts.
Nadheer began his career at an aluminum works company while completing his studies. He soon became the youngest senior partner and project manager in this business but chose to resign to follow his passion to become an entrepreneur. “I needed to prove to myself that I could manage people and market myself. I needed to prove that I could do it ‘right’. And it worked.”8
In 2012 and at the age of only 28, Nadheer opened the small store that would one day become Awael Al Janoob Company. Since then he has successfully established Awael Al Janoob as a well-known player in the Iraqi interior decorations market and grew the business to now operate two stores, three warehouses, and a large showroom. “The first year was slow, but I gradually built my financial independence. That feeling of freedom was indescribable.”
Through creating distribution channels to northern Iraq and Mosul, Awael Al Janoob is contributing to the reconstruction of the region and the revival of its SME sector. At the same time, the company is also creating job opportunities in Basra, where unemployment is also very high. It currently employs 36 people, including 8 women.
Loay has been working at Awael Al Janoob for seven years. He started as a general worker, working extra hours to support his family. His manager noticed Loay’s love for working with people and moved him to sales. Today, Loay is the sales manager at one of Awael Al Janoob’s stores. “I can support my wife and three children, as well as my sister and her two children as her husband passed away in an accident. I also hope to continue my studies as I could not complete them because of my difficult living conditions before.”
Nadheer says his vision is for his business to create a better life for many people. “If you keep your eyes on the goal instead of focusing on present obstacles, your level of motivation can only increase with time.”