EBRD and EU help Lebanese logistics company prepare for expansion

By Nick Thompson

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Young Lebanon-based entrepreneur and CEO, Yusr Sabra, recently sought assistance to reshape the HR management objectives of Wakilni, a smart logistics brand she co-founded in 2016 under her company Tiqany.

With support from the EBRD and European Union, the business underwent a cultural transformation driven by Yusr and her brother Omar, Wakilni’s co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, with the aim of bringing new concepts like mindfulness and emotional wellbeing into the workplace, and ensuring the alignment of staff with the brand’s core values. This has allowed Wakilni to redefine itself internally and grow externally, with plans to move into new markets on the horizon.

A lot of the credit lies with Yusr and Omar, as they recognised the need for help in order to address the issues that were keeping them awake at night. Their team had been the key to the sustainability of the business up to that point, and as they grew exponentially, the difficulty lay in maintaining the positive working culture they had spent years fostering.

For the co-founders, defining that culture and building an innovative new HR department with a cohesive organisational structure that matched Wakilni’s identity and ambition, was essential in maintaining the character of the business.

To preserve team harmony and commitment as Wakilni continued to grow, they enhanced the working environment through the introduction of KPIs and a clear route for career progression.

Strong USPs

In Arabic, ‘Wakilni’ roughly translates to ‘give me that responsibility’, and the key differentiators of the brand are its unique identity and commitment to serving the needs of clients through a combination of technology and the human touch.

Wakilni supplies SMEs with a comprehensive range of services in last mile delivery, shelving and storage, fulfilment and packaging, internal shipping, and analytics and reporting.

Yusr sees the business as the go-to smart logistics service provider for SMEs in e-commerce in Lebanon. The business focuses heavily on MSMEs too, as Yusr believes they are underserved, while having huge growth potential.

The competitive advantages of the business include its pricing, a quality customised service, the ownership of its own technology and a desire never to settle and to constantly improve.

Expansion

Galvanised by the recent HR changes, Yusr has ambitious new plans for Wakilni domestically and abroad, undeterred by recent events. For an adaptive business that has dealt with economic difficulties, a global pandemic and last year’s port explosion that rocked Beirut, Wakilni is in a strong position to increase its competitiveness and continue to grow.

Fortunately, no one from the business was seriously injured in the 2020 port explosion, and Yusr says, the accident brought everyone even closer together: “As a team, we talked at length about it and how it was affecting us on an emotional level, but it didn’t demotivate us. On the contrary, we launched the Wakilni Extra Mile fund following the explosion, which now funds our CSR initiatives.”

Indeed, the day after the explosion, staff were on the ground helping with the clear-up in between normal operations, demonstrating a commitment to the local community well beyond the business.

Advice for other entrepreneurs

As a CEO, there have been many moments over the past few years where Yusr wishes she had trusted herself and her intuition more. Initially, self-doubt led her to shy away from networking events and opportunities, but her experience and self-belief grew over time and now Yusr measures success in terms of the impact she makes to those around her, whether that is her team at work or her clients.

She says: “I am most proud of building a company with a team of over 130 people in one of the most difficult countries to operate in, with basically no investment, and getting it to where it is today: a self-sustaining, growing business. I am proud of our team – our tribe – of every person I saw grow on a personal level through the company.”

Yusr is a big advocate for women-led businesses and entrepreneurs and was recently elected President of the Lebanese League for Women in Business. She says, “I know the difficulties women face in terms of access to finance and funding. I know how many of us shy from understanding our financials and from reaching out to expand beyond our comfort zones,” so confronting and addressing these gaps is an absolute priority for Yusr. It is her mission to empower women across Lebanon.

The abiding image is of a brand that knows what it is, with a CEO who is comfortable in her own skin. A commitment to mindfulness and the wellbeing of staff is refreshing and demonstrably works – increasing resilience, optimism, objectivity, compassion and productivity among her employees.

Truly a recipe for business success.

 

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