Today, Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) is a globally renowned diversified business with a presence in over 30 countries, but its roots go back to 1945 in Saudi Arabia as a family-run affair. The company continues to be run by the Jameel family and to have an impact on both the local and global economies. But how did such a small business evolve into an enterprise operating across seven core sectors?
It all started with the company’s founder and namesake, Abdul Latif Jameel, who started his business with the idea that improved transportation opportunities could help advance the economy in Saudi Arabia. To that end, Jameel pursued the automotive industry, becoming the country’s first Toyota distributorship in 1955.
Seeing the positive reception of these vehicles in the market, Jameel founded Abdul Latif Jameel United Finance Company, which was dedicated to helping support vehicle sales starting in 1979. The business continued to expand in support of its Toyota sales, establishing a consumer products business to import electronics. An advertising arm of the company soon followed in 1981, also designed to support the outdoor marketing of its Toyota and newly added Lexus products.
The 1990s were an era of expansion for Abdul Latif Jameel. The company extended its Toyota operations throughout North Africa with distributorships in Algeria and Morocco. It also established a general trading company in Japan and expanded its dealerships to include those in China and Turkey for both Toyota and Daihatsu vehicles. This growth continued into the 2000s as the firm founded dealerships in the UK and Egypt for its various represented brands.
This progress allowed the company to reinvest in itself and pursue additional avenues of revenue generation within the automotive industry. The company joined forces with DENSO Corporation to produce car HVAC systems and accessories in 2001, bringing additional job growth and opportunity to Jeddah and the region’s people. As the business evolved, sectors grew from solely passenger vehicles to also include commercial vehicles and equipment, logistics, and the sale of vehicle components. Abdul Latif Jameel Machinery was founded to distribute Komatsu equipment throughout Saudi Arabia. The company also began to expand into other industries including land and real estate. Properties were acquired and developed in joint ventures with property developers to build a facility to manufacture automotive components and assemble vehicles.
The company has now grown to be one of the leading independently owned Toyota distributors in the world while also expanding its business into other core sectors. The founder’s son, Mohammad Abdul Latif Jameel, took over business operations as chairman and president in 1993 upon his father’s death. He placed his son Fady in charge of international operations and named his middle son, Hassan Jameel, as vice chairman of domestic operations. The family continues to oversee all corporate operations across dual headquarters in Jeddah and Dubai with additional offices throughout the APAC region.
Abdul Latif Jameel has always been dedicated to improving opportunities for the people of Saudi Arabia, and in 2016, it announced a $2.2 billion investment for expansion plans in its home country. This included the opening of a number of dealerships as well as creating a residential project in Jeddah. Solutions also expanded to concerns at a global level, and with the establishment of its Energy subsidiary was able to dedicate resources toward finding solutions to renewal resource solutions. This included Almar Water Solutions, a targeted approach to providing technical, tailored water applications for in-house and third-party projects. It also pursued renewal energy by participating and investing in the construction of the largest solar project in Jordan and has established wind energy projects in Japan.
Investment and strategy while leading with purpose have always been driving forces for ALJ, and this has only become a stronger mantra as the years have gone by. Targeted decision making has helped the company pursue investment and acquisition in a number of markets including renewable energy and electric vehicles. The company was one of the first investors in auto manufacturer Rivian in 2012 and continues to hold shares as the company rolls out its fleet of electric vehicle offerings. Today, Abdul Latif Jameel maintains operations in seven industries through a number of subsidiaries including transportation, engineering and manufacturing, financial services, energy and environmental services, land and real estate, advertising and media, and consumer products.
No conversation about Abdul Latif Jameel is complete without mentioning their philanthropic efforts. From early in its founding, the company has maintained a mentality of giving back to others and doing its part to help develop solutions that can improve the lives of people in both Saudi Arabia and the world over. ALJ has promoted and funded programs that help to research options for ending poverty, food disparities, the arts, and gender equality. It is also a proponent of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan which is focused on creating economic opportunity and social reform to enrich the lives of everyone in the country without discrimination.