In this one-on-one interview, Soheil Zali discusses what has made him the leader he is today, a host of market insights on South Asia and the Middle East, and the benefits of Tradewind’s services for exporters and importers in these regions.
1. What do you find most fulfilling about your leadership role?
The most fulfilling aspect of my role is the ability to positively impact the team, my organization and business community. It´s satisfying to mentor and develop team members, implement strategies that drive success and create a positive work culture. Seeing the fruits of my labor and the positive impact that I have on others can be incredibly rewarding. Another fulfilling aspect of my leadership role is to face the challenge of problem-solving and overcome obstacles. Often facing complex challenges requires creativity and innovation to solve, and finding solutions can be both intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
Finally, providing a sense of purpose and meaning for those who are passionate about their work. Being able to contribute to a cause or mission that aligns with their values can be deeply satisfying and motivating.
2. What are some key insights that you have accrued about the markets you oversee? How have these markets changed over the past 5 years and what can we expect in the future?
Each market has its own unique business environment, opportunities, and challenges.
Bangladesh is a rapidly developing country with an enormous, growing economy. The country has a large and growing population and a strategic location between India and Southeast Asia. The garment industry is a major contributor to the economy, but there are also opportunities in agriculture, IT, and pharmaceuticals. The government has taken steps to improve the business climate.
Pakistan has the largest growing youth workforce. The country has a diverse economy with opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing and services. However, there are challenges such as security issues, political instability, and a complex regulatory environment.
India is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. The country has a large and growing middle class, a skilled workforce, and a rapidly developing digital infrastructure. The IT and outsourcing industries are major contributors to the economy, but there are also opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture, and services. Just a decade ago, Indian GDP was the eleventh largest in the world. In 2022 India’s economy has overtaken the United Kingdom’s in terms of size, making it the fifth biggest economy in the world.
The UAE is a hub for international business and trade, with a strategic location between Asia, Europe, and Africa. The country has a diverse economy with opportunities in finance, real estate, tourism, and logistics. The UAE is making efforts to diversify its income sources and move away from oil, as per the goals of Vision 2021. In January 2012, Sheikh Mohammed initiated the Green Economy initiative with the objective of promoting sustainable development. The initiative aims to establish the UAE as a global center and a successful example of the emerging green economy, with the aim of improving the country’s competitiveness, sustainability, and preserving the environment for future generations.
It’s important for businesses to do their research, understand the local business environment and cultural norms, and have a solid strategy in place before entering those markets.
3) What 3 personal qualities have shaped you as a leader and contributed to your success?
Integrity, empathy, and adaptability.
Being an immigrant and growing up in Germany provided me as an individual a unique experience and perspective, which has proven to be valuable in many different ways in my life personally and professionally, including in my leadership context.
For example, developing a cultural competence provided me the ability to understand, appreciate, and navigate cultural differences. This skill is valuable in my leadership roles, where understanding and respecting cultural differences can help build stronger relationships and create a more inclusive work environment.
I had to adapt to new environments, which helped me to develop skills such as resilience, flexibility, and the ability to navigate change. These skills are invaluable in my leadership roles, where I had the ability to adapt and thrive in uncertain and changing circumstances – which can be critical.
Unique perspectives: Growing up in a different country can provide individuals with unique perspectives and insights that can be valuable in many different contexts, including in leadership roles. Having a different perspective can help identify new opportunities and approaches, and can also help create a more diverse and inclusive work environment.
Of course, being an immigrant is not a guarantee of success in leadership roles, and there are many other factors that contribute to leadership success. However, the unique experiences and perspectives that immigrants bring can certainly be an asset in many different contexts.
4) What should exporters (and importers) in the Middle East and South Asia know about our services?
Our services can be an alternative source of funding for businesses, especially those that have limited access to traditional financing options.
Here are some ways in which factoring can serve as an alternative source of funding:
- No need for collateral: Factoring is not a loan and does not require collateral, such as property or equipment, to secure the transaction. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses that do not have significant assets to pledge as collateral.
- Creditworthiness of the customer is important: In factoring, the creditworthiness of the customer (i.e., the debtor) is more important than the creditworthiness of the business itself. This means that businesses with weaker credit ratings may still be able to access financing through factoring if their customers have good credit ratings.
- Faster access to funds: Factoring provides immediate cash to the business, which can be faster than traditional financing options. This can be particularly important for businesses that need cash quickly to address short-term financial needs.
- Flexibility: Factoring can be a flexible financing option that can be tailored to the business’s specific needs. For example, the business may choose to factor only a portion of their accounts receivable or use factoring on a temporary basis to address short-term cash flow issues.
- Expertise: Tradewind has 23 years of expertise in credit analysis and collection, which can help businesses manage their accounts receivable more effectively. Tradewind also provides additional services such as credit monitoring and reporting, besides the core funding business.
5.) What would your advice be to future business leaders?
Focus on building strong relationships: Business is all about relationships, whether it’s with customers, suppliers, or employees. Building strong relationships based on trust, respect, and open communication is essential for long-term success.
Embrace innovation: The business world is constantly evolving, and successful leaders are those who are able to adapt and innovate. Keep an eye on emerging technologies and trends, and be willing to experiment and take risks.
Be a lifelong learner: Successful business leaders never stop learning. Stay curious and seek out new knowledge and skills, whether through formal education, mentorship, or other means.
Lead with integrity: The most successful leaders are those who lead with integrity and a strong ethical compass. Build a culture of honesty, transparency, and accountability within your organization, and hold yourself and others to high standards of conduct.
Prioritize work-life balance: Business leaders often face long hours and high levels of stress, but it’s important to prioritize work-life balance to avoid burnout and maintain overall well-being. Make time for family, friends, hobbies, and other activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
Remember that leadership is a journey, not a destination. Be patient, persistent, and committed to continuous improvement, and always strive to be the best version of yourself.
Learn to listen rather than to tell: Often times, the people you manage have more to teach you than you have to teach them. Being a good listener is a big deal. An effective manager cultivates an open dialogue that invites discussion with employees on a certain task, project or team decision.