It all began in 1860 in Aleppo – the Syrian city that is in such turmoil nowadays. At that time, the town had one of the last flourishing economies in the Ottoman Empire, not least because it was situated on the Silk Road between the Far East and the Mediterranean. Almost 160 years on, and with an international relocation behind it, the Naggiar company has experienced, endured, risked and attained a great deal.
Exactly 157 years ago, Gabriel Najjar, just 17 at the time, and his wealthy brother-in-law, both of Armenian origin, founded Dabbagh & Naggiar. Their business sold steel, tools and iron goods. At a time when the Suez Canal had not even been built, the young entrepreneur established a successful company and soon proceeded to tap key markets. He also cultivated relationships with trading partners, enjoying a particularly good reputation among Italian suppliers. Now, in 2017 and four generations later, Philippe Naggiar explains why that would prove to be a milestone in the history of the company and his family: “Business partners in Italy could not pronounce Najjar. So my ancestors simply changed the name of the company, and later of our family, from Najjar to Naggiar.” This descendant of Gabriel Najjar enjoys recounting what happened more than a century ago. “The anecdote illustrates just how important good business relationships have always been to my family.”
In the 2000s another member of the family, Fady Naggiar, encouraged the company to invest in modernizing the Naggiar Service Center. That was how the successful story of Naggiar and TRUMPF got started. Nowadays, Naggiar offers a wide range of products made of stainless steel, aluminum, brass, copper and zinc as well as services, design solutions and tech support. The company comprises five divisions: Metals, Architectural Products, the Service Center, Equipment and Packaging Materials. Fady, Roy, Ralph, Maya and Philippe Naggiar oversee the divisions; Farid Naggiar is CEO. Although Philippe, a doctorate in electrical engineering, is the company’s youngest director at the age of 27, he is far from being an industry novice. After all, his family is intertwined with the company. Philippe is also the first fifth-generation family member to work there. That is not to say, however, that his decision to join the company was an easy one. In fact, it meant this man of many talents had to abandon his favorite hobby: magic. But blood is thicker than water: Philippe realized where he belongs and is glad to be part of the company’s future.
Blood is thicker than water
Family means everything to the Naggiars. Indeed, the family has run the company ever since Gabriel Najjar founded it. Although occasional friction and disagreement is inevitable, the Naggiar brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces are living proof that a family that works together stays together. “Because we share a vision and a passion for our company, things always work out – even though we all make our own decisions.
This kind of mutual support is particularly important in a crisis-prone region like the Middle East. In 1935, the Naggiars relocated their company headquarters from Aleppo to Beirut, in Lebanon. That city has been their home ever since, despite the challenging circumstances they have encountered time and again. “In Lebanon, you need to be truly courageous,” says Philippe. Politics and the economy are complicated and extreme in Lebanon. This small country may be home to just four million people, but between them they follow 17 different religious communities. It also has the highest per-capita refugee population of any country: more than 18 refugees per 100 residents. Lebanon has a long tradition as a trading nation. Civil war and fighting after the military conflict with Israel in 2006, however, severely impacted the economy. The country’s role as a hub for Middle East trade and services likewise suffered. Scars remain visible in downtown Beirut despite somewhat successful reconstruction. The Syrian market, key to sales, collapsed in recent years. It has also become difficult to transport freight overland to the Gulf States and the Arabian Peninsula. The Naggiars have nevertheless remained loyal to Lebanon, which they describe as conservative but also modern, courageous and very open-minded. What’s more, their company is investing in new machinery and developing new products. This patriotic family believes in Beirut, Lebanon and the people there. Naggiar has even invested in Qatar since 2008. Naggiar Qatar specialized in the architectural products.
No time to stand still
The Naggiar family sees great potential in the Lebanese economy. They feel it is home to a lot of smart, entrepreneurial people with a very high level of education and skills. The Naggiars believe that every person who stays in Lebanon is important – and courageous. Families still own and operate 80 to 85 percent of businesses in Lebanon. “Family-run companies are one of the main reasons our economy stays stable. Their experience is indispensable,” says Philippe, who interned at TRUMPF in Ditzingen in 2011.
He spent two months becoming acquainted with the machines that he wanted to subsequently operate in Beirut. “I needed not only to understand them inside and out, but also to be able to use the machines myself.” Philippe is hardly the first family member to gain experience abroad. The Naggiars have been sending their sons and daughters abroad for generations so they can broaden their horizons and then propel the company forward. There is no time to stand still. That’s why the Naggiars recently purchased another new machine, not long after Euroblech 2016 in October: a TruLaser 5030 fiber, which boasts the highest available laser power of eight kilowatts.
The next big step will be to automate production two years from now – with help from TRUMPF. As for the TruLaser 5030, TRUMPF and the Naggiars sealed the deal in less than 30 minutes. “Courage comes easier when you work with the right partners.”
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in Summer 2017.