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Taking the wheel: Khaled Arafa

Khaled Arafa General Manager of Goodyear MEA

Goodyear is one of the world’s largest, and most widely recognised, tyre manufacturers. Founded in the US in 1898, it was named after the inventor of vulcanised rubber, Charles Goodyear. Over Goodyear’s 120-year-long history it is has been at the forefront of tyre innovation and has established bases all around the world.

Leading the company’s Middle East and Africa division (Goodyear MEA), General Manager Khaled Arafa has been with the business since 2008. Having been appointed general manager in January 2018, Khaled is now poised to drive the business towards even greater opportunities in the MEA region.

Khaled Arafa, General Manager of Goodyear MEA
Khaled Arafa, General Manager of Goodyear MEA

The CEO Magazine: What motivated you to join Goodyear MEA?

Khaled: I found the tyre industry very dynamic and mobile. As you find yourself travelling between different markets, meeting with partners and understanding the vehicle parts, you see that it’s unique in each geography.

How would you describe the company culture at Goodyear?

Goodyear is all about people. Acting with integrity is crucial for building trust and earning the confidence of others to achieve our goals. Needless to say, with the current market situation, it is important to be agile to achieve business success. Our aim is to create an environment that inspires people, so they can embrace change and act with speed and purpose.

Vulcanised rubber is made through a process called vulcanisation. This is where natural rubber is mixed with chemicals such as sulfur to make it more flexible, stronger and heat resistant. Vulcanised rubber is used to make both hard and soft objects, from tyres and rubber bands to bowling balls. Most rubber products, either natural or synthetic, are vulcanised.

What have been some of the highlights for the business?

The launch of new products. For example, the new KMAX line for trucks for the market in the Middle East. We have received positive feedback from fleets on their performance, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council markets and we continue to see increasing demand. We have a new technology as well – the ‘drive over reader’ system – that monitors tyre performance. We have also optimised our product specifications to match specific market needs which have been quite favourable.

What are some of the latest technologies Goodyear is planning to launch?

Goodyear’s latest concept tyre, Oxygene, was introduced at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show. The concept tyre has a unique structure that features living moss, which grows in the sidewall of the tyre. The tread of the tyre would then absorb water and circulate it to the moss, which will allow photosynthesis, and generate and release oxygen into the air. So, in simple terms, this tyre is producing oxygen. But it’s still under development.

What are the characteristics of a good leader?

Every good leader should be a good coach and be humble.

What is a personal motto that you live by and why?

I believe in integrity and honesty, which are essential for building trust and credibility. I also believe in clear and concise communication, which is very important for me to manage expectations and to rely on clear goals. Another strong belief I have is that you should be hard on the issue but soft on the people to get things done.

“Be hard on the issue but soft on the people to get things done.”

Looking back over your professional career, what is something you wished you knew when you were younger?

I have had to shape my career path, so I don’t regret anything. However, I could have saved some time by weighing my career opportunities carefully. If you plan for your career in advance, you should ask yourself these questions: Is it a growing industry? Does the job I’m applying for have a clear path? And if the answer is yes, then you should go for it. But at the beginning of a career, most people are driven by having a job just to start their practical life so they don’t do that kind of career planning carefully.

One more thing I would do is be more pragmatic. It’s better to follow what you are good at, not your passion. That may sound unusual, but I believe that if you follow what you are good at, you will be recognised, and the passion will follow.

“If you follow what you are good at, you will be recognised, and the passion will follow.”

What will be the key focus area for Goodyear in the coming two to three years?

To make Goodyear tyres easy to buy, recommend and own. And to build the value of the Goodyear brand and remain the consumers’ preferred choice.

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