Part of the Almana Group, a leading Qatari conglomerate with international influence, furniture outlet Almana Maples has recently built a reputation for itself. Its stylish designs and customer-centric approach have led to impressive levels of engagement. We spoke to General Manager Emad Shoubaki to discover the company’s story.
Now entering its 44th year of trading, Doha-based interior design company Almana Maples is a recent Doha success story. With a simple corporate mission to ensure that all clients derive maximum benefit from a personalised service, the company is well established in its home region. Prestigious commissions such as fit-outs for some of Doha’s most exclusive hotels, alongside the New National Museum of Qatar have ensured that the name of Almana Maples is associated with high quality results.
Current General Manager Emad Shoubaki joined the company in November 2015 after working within the sector in the Middle East for over a decade, both with some high-profile companies and as an entrepreneur.
“For me, it was a great opportunity,” the general manager explains, “because it gave me the chance to bring all these brands that I had built great personal relationships with in my previous career into the group. Although I had lots of experience in design and the luxury market, for me, this was a milestone. I knew that at Almana, I was joining a huge group with interests in oil and gas, the automotive industry, technology and many other things.
It was exciting. I still remember the phone call I had with the Group Financial Director (Mr Tariq Omar Almana). It was only a half-hour call, but I could hear the passion in his voice for design. For me, that was enough, and I was inspired to take a plane to Qatar to continue the discussion. I knew after that meeting that we had the opportunity to do something good for the whole community of Qatar.”
Sharpening the focus
Nonetheless, the young executive recognised he would also face challenges. Although the group itself was very well established, he felt that Almana Maples as a brand lacked a little in terms of identity.
"I saw my role as being one of providing inspiration."
“There was work to do to give the Almana Maples name a clear focus,” he says. “We needed to think about our positioning and direction so that there could be clarity of vision. But I was lucky because the owners supported me fully in my desire to revamp the company and saw the benefit of what I was trying to do.
I got to know the company from the ground up and spent a lot of time talking with employees. One of the great things at Almana is that there are so many people who have worked there for ten years, fifteen years, twenty years even. Through those conversations, I really got a feel for what needed to happen and how to do it. So I did not change the team, but I saw my role as being one of providing inspiration.”
With high-level backing secure and with the financial security that membership of such a large conglomerate conveyed, Mr Shoubaki was able to embark on his ambitious plans and see them through to fruition. Fortunately, visible success was immediately apparent.
“Yes, thank God,” recalls the general manager. “Once everything was in place, it went extremely well. From the business sector to the contracting sector, it all just took off.”
Overcoming the obstacles
The upward trajectory inspired by Mr Shoubaki’s approach continued uninterrupted until the COVID era. The pandemic created huge challenges in every sector and every part of the world, and the Middle Eastern interior design industry was no different.
“Obviously, while lockdowns were being implemented, things changed for us,” the general manager recalls. “But actually, with people trapped in their houses to some extent, it made people think of design. You know, maybe people who previously ate out a lot suddenly found themselves eating at home every night, and perhaps they would look at their kitchen or their dining space and think about improvements. So in that sense, there was an uptick, but on the other side, contracting stopped. Big businesses and so on were closed and no longer looking for fit-outs or refurbishments, so there were definitely two sides to the coin for us, but we managed to survive.”
This resilience meant Almana Maples emerged from the coronavirus era in a relatively strong position, leading the company to open a state-of-the-art showroom in Doha in 2023. Through this, they present exclusive brands who are considered the leading furniture and design brands in the industry. Again, Mr Shoubaki speaks proudly of this flagship site. It is emblematic of his own and the company’s success.
“What is so nice is that these brands see me, and therefore Almana Maples as an ambassador for them,” he says. “These are very prestigious brands, so that’s really very meaningful. It confers a kind of status.”
Setting the stage
With such illustrious positioning secured, the company appears very well placed to face the future, a fact reflected in its medium-term plans, which demonstrate a highly progressive outlook.
“We are the co-founders of the Doha design district,” Mr Shoubaki explains. “Through this, we are now connected to lots of different worlds. We’re talking art, fashion, some abstract concepts. So from now on, the company will not be perceived in a limited way, simply as a luxury furniture specialist, but as a design hub. People will be able to come to us with ideas, which we will help them to realise in all ways. This means that the company is changing, to become something bigger—an incubator of concepts.”
These exciting plans run alongside more standard growth formulas, centred particularly around international expansion. Plans are already afoot for Almana Maples to establish a stronger footprint in Saudi Arabia, providing a broad new market for the company’s products. This will be achieved by allying with an active Saudi partner who can benefit from Almana Maples resources and scope while reciprocating with local knowledge.
“We see this as what makes us unique, as a company,” the general manager says. “We have a complete design solution, in one place, involving different brands. Through our sponsorship of many local events, we also maintain a high profile, which helps to drive business, so all of this puts us in a strong position to grow.”
It’s an impressive all-round package and one which comes imbued with a sense of confidence that the preceding period of success can be extended long into the future.
“I think passion is very influential in every experience,” Mr Shoubaki concludes. “Even if something looks like a non-feeling experience from the outside, passion in everything you do has a big say in your advancement. It becomes the driving force for you to keep going, for you to wake up every day and to overcome setbacks. That is what Almana Maples is all about—passion.”