Akio Toyoda Guides Successors of a Qatari Family Business with Founding Philosophies


Members of the family that runs Toyota's dealerships in Qatar visited Japan. What advice did Akio have for these promising young business leaders?

In September, President Akio Toyoda received three visitors from the Middle East. They were the third generation of the founding family of Abdullah Abdulghani & Bros. (AAB), the company that operates Toyota’s dealerships in Qatar.

Three members of the AAB founding family: (from left) cousins Tarek (34), Ahmad (30), and Abdulghani (28). Pictured far right is Tadashi Kanzaki of the Sakichi Toyoda Memorial House.

AAB was founded in 1958 by three brothers of the Abdulghani family. With society undergoing rapid change amid the country’s growing oil exports, AAB went into business as a contractor for infrastructure projects.

The company’s relationship with Toyota began in 1964, a time when the Qatari market was dominated by European and American cars. Although Japanese brands were completely unknown, Toyota and AAB worked together to understand market needs and make swift improvements.

Thanks to their efforts, Toyota succeeded in establishing a presence in the Qatari market by the mid-1970s. Over the many years since, the brand has remained the preferred choice of local customers.

The Al Abdulghani Tower, AAB’s headquarters in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Currently, AAB is run by Nasser, a member of the second generation, with his son Abdulghani as vice president.

Even within the founding family, values have diversified through the generations. Curious to know how Toyota has managed to pass down the ideas of its own founder, the trio visited Japan to learn about the company’s history and cherished philosophy.

Just like his visitors, Akio, grandson of Toyota Motor Corporation founder Kiichiro Toyoda, represents the third generation of the company’s founding family. What advice did he offer from his experiences?

What Sakichi’s inventions tell us today

Their meeting took place at a Toyota Group guest facility, where a smiling Akio welcomed the trio.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked after the handshakes.

Akio was pointing to a Type G automatic loom invented in 1924 by Toyota Group founder Sakichi Toyoda. Earlier, the three Qataris had visited the Sakichi Toyoda Memorial House in Kosai, Shizuoka.

Sakichi Toyoda and the Type G automatic loom

“You probably saw one running, but did they explain this to you?” asked Akio, picking up a wooden shuttle used to insert the weft yarn. He continued:

This is a weft shuttle. The Lexus spindle grille comes from the shape you get by cutting it sideways.

The “Woven” in Woven Planet, which is the company behind projects such as autonomous driving and Woven City, also comes from here. This is our point of origin, both for our automotive business and future-focused endeavors.

Akio went on to explain Sakichi’s inventions.

I believe Toyota has a philosophy and skills that have been handed down through the years. One principle we can learn from these automatic looms is automation with a human touch. I see it as a mindset that values people.

Here we can see an example of how people are valued. Until Sakichi created this loom, the standard was to have one operator for each machine.

But with this, it became possible for one person to oversee several machines. Why? Because they stop if something goes wrong.

That “something” would be a broken thread. Sakichi’s mechanism (explained in this video) can detect breakages and stop automatically, ensuring the looms won’t continue to make defective products.

He devised this feature in an era when sensors weren’t an option. Today you can do everything with computer chips. But at a time when such things didn’t exist, they used skills to give shape to their philosophy, and I believe that is Toyota’s point of origin.