Muhammad Alagil
Saudi Arabia
Muhammad Alagil
  • Jarir Marketing (Electronics; office supplies; books; diversified)
Born Hamra, Saudi Arabia, 1952; B.S. Engineering, King Fahd University of Petroleum (1974); MEng, University of California, Berkeley (1975); OPM, Harvard Business School (1987).
“We just want to keep developing a good reputation. We want to have exciting time. We want to add something to the community.”

Summary

Muhammad Alagil is Chairman of Jarir Marketing, a family-owned Saudi Arabia-based company, which wholesales and retails stationery, office supplies, school supplies, books in Arabic and English, children’s toys, and a variety of electronics. It is considered the market leader in the Middle East and has been described as the regional counterpart of Amazon. The company owns Jarir Bookstore, a retail chain which now operates in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Jarir has its origins as a small stationary store established by Alagil’s father in 1974 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1980 Alagil and his three brothers began to develop the business, originally focusing on office supplies. In 2002, Jarir became a joint-stock company and in 2003 became listed on Tadawul, the Saudi Capital Market. In 2018, Forbes named Jarir as one of the Top 100 Listed Companies in the Arab World. In this interview, Alagil describes how he and his brothers drove the diversification of the business, eventually becoming a major retailer of electronics, as well as developing a large Arabic language business, including translating one best-selling book per day from English to Arabic. During the 1980s and 1990s, Jarir also began expanding internationally. Algail describes this process and his learning that a one size fits all business model does not work across different countries. Further, he discusses the process of professionalization, his bottom-up business model, how labor is divided among the family, going public, and venturing into ecommerce. To conclude the interview, Alagil explains how the Saudi economy and workforce is changing in the contemporary era, and how his company seeks talent, including female talent, in Saudi Arabia rather than relying on expatriates.

 Read more

Muhammad Alagil is Chairman of Jarir Marketing, a family-owned Saudi Arabia-based company, which wholesales and retails stationery, office supplies, school supplies, books in Arabic and English, children’s toys, and a variety of electronics. It is considered the market leader in the Middle East and has been described as the regional counterpart of Amazon. The company owns Jarir Bookstore, a retail chain which now operates in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Jarir has its origins as a small stationary store established by Alagil’s father in 1974 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1980 Alagil and his three brothers began to develop the business, originally focusing on office supplies. In 2002, Jarir became a joint-stock company and in 2003 became listed on Tadawul, the Saudi Capital Market. In 2018, Forbes named Jarir as one of the Top 100 Listed Companies in the Arab World. In this interview, Alagil describes how he and his brothers drove the diversification of the business, eventually becoming a major retailer of electronics, as well as developing a large Arabic language business, including translating one best-selling book per day from English to Arabic. During the 1980s and 1990s, Jarir also began expanding internationally. Algail describes this process and his learning that a one size fits all business model does not work across different countries. Further, he discusses the process of professionalization, his bottom-up business model, how labor is divided among the family, going public, and venturing into ecommerce. To conclude the interview, Alagil explains how the Saudi economy and workforce is changing in the contemporary era, and how his company seeks talent, including female talent, in Saudi Arabia rather than relying on expatriates.
Download Interview Transcript

Video Clips by Topic

Human Resources

Muhammad Alagil, Chairman of Jarir Investment in Saudi Arabia, discusses how the company has fostered local talent rather than relying on expatriates, and observes the impact of the growing number of women employees, and the restrictions on family members working in the company.



Diversification

Muhammed Alagil, Chairman of Jarir Investment in Saudi Arabia, discusses the diversification of his firm as it expanded from books to electronics, imported goods from China, and translated hundreds if books into Arabic each year.



Family Business

Muhammad Alagil, Chairman of Jarir Investment in Saudi Arabia, discusses the decision to go public in 2003, which he argues was due to family dynamics and the desire to ensure the continuity of the business



Start-Up

Muhammed Alagil, Chairman of Jarir Investment in Saudi Arabia, discusses how he and his brothers started the business with a small office supply store in 1979.



Full Length Video (login required)

Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Muhammad Alagil, interviewed by Don Babai, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, November 22, 2019, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.