Their relationship, founded in the very early years of Kuwaitís independence, was formed in a period of dynamic change for both - Sulaiman Alkaziís company had been established just a few years earlier in 1959 and was well-positioned to benefit from the Kuwaiti economyís rapid growth, and Honda too were taking their first bold steps towards becoming a global company - Kuwait, through Mutawa Alkazi, was one of the first three countries in the world to open a Honda dealership, the other countries were Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Behind the companyís success, as so often remains the case in Kuwait, lies the story of a family. Where Sulaiman Alkazi lay the firm foundations for Mutawa Alkazi Company, today it is his son, Omar Sulaiman Hamad Alkazi, who continues to build for the next generation.
The first years saw Sulaiman involved with Pirelli and Suzuki as well as other related business. But it was the style and work of Soichiro Honda that attracted him. From their earliest years in business Honda dedicated themselves to producing reliable vehicles where the attention paid to mechanical detail and efficiency was intense.
ďMy father looked at what Honda was doing - producing engines that didnít drop oil or blow out smoky exhaust - and liked what he saw. He felt this was a great opportunity for the futureĒ, explains Omar.
The original partnership was formed between Sulaiman Alkazi and two members of the Mutawa family. Such was the closeness of the relationship between the families that one of the partners was indeed also a partner of Sulaimanís father. It was, however, Sulaiman that steered the company through its formative years.
The company remains true to its original values, and remains very much a Ďfamily businessí - albeit a somewhat larger company today than the one founded in 1959. It continues to be Omarís aim to see it maintain this status, and he sees the company one day being his legacy to be passed to his children.
ďWhat Iím doing, Iím doing for themĒ, he insists. Itís a long-term plan however since his family is young.
Omar entered the business alongside his father at the age of 24, the early periods as an observer. He recalls, ďMy father took me everywhere with him, but in every meeting I was required only to listen and to learn. My father was happy to hear my comments, but he was clear that in the beginning they were not to be shared with the other partyĒ.
Even when Omar began representing his father and the company in meetings, his fatherís advice was still only to listen. It was advice that has set him in good stead - he remains a skilled listener. A rare attribute in life and a business today - but a valuable one.
One table his father would not let him sit at was that of the Union of Automobile Agents. A powerful industry body with direct contacts to government, Sulaiman would insist that Omar (was was attending at the time as the only non-member of the UAA) sat at the edge of the room. Today, after many years serving the UAA, Omar is the respected chairman of that same Union.
Mutawa Alkazi and Honda have proved to be an ideal match in terms of their commitment to quality and customer service. Indeed in 2011 Honda received more prestigious J. D. Power Awards than any other motor manufacturer, and Mutawa Alkazi are unique in having been independently awarded ĎBest Car Dealer in Salesí(SSI) as well as ĎBest Car Dealer in Serviceí(CSI) for three and five consecutive years respectively and holding the two awards simultaneously.
The companyís growth has not been without challenge, the latest of which involved coping with the knock-on effects of the recent earthquake in Japan. All major exporters were affected, Honda amongst them. In terms of disruption to the supply chain, Omar does not see the situation fully rectifying itself until December. Only from March does he predict that the after effects will truly have worked their way through his business.
The last few years have presented an apparently continual series of challenges - the global economic crisis, the performance of the Japanese Yen on currency markets, the earthquake, and now once again the Yen.
It is certainly a positive reflection on the business to note that the company remains well placed to emerge into what, it is hoped, will be further years of growth.
For sure it is blessed with a strong product range from Honda which includes award-winning and highly specified cars that sell well globally and are particularly well-suited, and very popular, in Kuwait and the region. But certainly, those years of listening and learning have paid off when it comes to making wise decisions. Importantly though, as customers of Mutawa Alkazi will testify, Omarís listening skills are key to building relationships and to their ongoing success.
The company will continue to evolve as it always has, it always must. There will be a shift in corporate status from WLL to Closed Share Company. Omar doesnít see it as remaining necessary for the family to own the whole company, but it will remain important to the company and its investors that the business is managed strongly and continues to be headed from within the family.
First published in Men's Passion issue #33 September 2011