Unlimited Ambition, Khaled & Basel Fetrawi

خالد فطراوي باسل فطراوي

Originally from Syria, but now based between Romania and Dubai, Basel and Khaled Fetrawi are building a hugely impressive entrepreneurial portfolio. We caught up with the brothers recently to discuss everything from fate to business diversification, to kickboxing.

After both left schools to study different forms of medicine in Romania, the Fetrawi brothers used their time at university to far-reaching effect. Not only did both graduate, one as a beauty doctor, the other as a dentist, but they were able to forge a range of business relationships that set them on the path to immediate success.

While most graduates are still figuring out their next steps, Basel and Khalid forged forwards immediately. By the time they returned to Syria, having made contacts in the political, economic, cultural, and even sports spheres, they were able to establish a national airline, ‘Joli Airlines’ consisting of six commercial aircraft and two private jets, in late 2009.“We learned a lot from our father,” Basel Fetrawi explains. “He was a specialist in this field. I suppose he influenced us to develop our interests in tourism. At the time, this was the only private airline in Syria. We didn’t have all the money, so we leased the planes.”

The Fetrawi brothers’ ambition was recognised by some of the most powerful individuals of the region and before long, they entered into a partnership with members of the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The first two years of trading were successful and expansion plans were formulated.
“Our idea” Khaled explains. “Was to establish a large fleet to meet the needs of the region. We ordered two Airbus 380s, the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, and in our minds and that of our investors, that was just the beginning.”

However, regardless of how well a venture is established and the strength of the collective will of those who support it, nothing is ever guaranteed. The Fetrawi brothers’ story soon became an object lesson in the unpredictability of the future. When the Syrian war broke out, in 2011, their smooth upward trajectory was immediately curtailed.

“It was an incredibly difficult time in so many ways,” Khaled reflects. “Business-wise, it was, of course, a nightmare. Routes were cancelled and no-one wanted to come to Syria. Our revenue disappeared virtually overnight. We could no longer afford to pay instalments, taxes, and so on and soon, we lost the company. In some ways, on a personal level, we were lucky. We already had connections in business from all over the world and it wasn’t a problem for us to move home, but the trauma of war in your homeland is still powerful. Childhood friends of ours, acquaintances many of them stayed. ”

As sections of the country were steadily destroyed and debates as to causes and solutions raged back and forth, the war created an enormous wave of refugees. Since 2011, some six million Syrians have left their homeland to seek refuge abroad. Included within that number were Basel and Khalid.
Fleeing the violence at home, the brothers chose to base themselves in Dubai, while making frequent trips back to Europe, particularly Romania where they had established themselves previously.

"Bucharest is like a home for us and has been for twenty years. We speak the language and like the traditions."

This internationalised outlook engendered a phoenix-like resurgence of their business ambitions. Before long, the Fetrawi gift for adaptability saw in-roads made into the energy sector.
“We are currently working in oil and gas,” Khaled explains. “We are taking tenders for the extension of pipelines by land and sea in co-operation with the largest oil and gas companies in the world.”
Yet throughout their lives, the brothers have never been content to operate in one field. Their broad range of interests and passions is reflected in the breadth of their ever-growing business portfolio highlighting their potential for Khaled and Basel promotions in various sectors. Alongside the fossil fuel industry, Khaled and Basel have moved into Real Estate, particularly in Italy and Austria. Their unique history enables them to attract investment both from within Europe and the Arab world, meaning multiple crossover projects are possible.

“I must admit that a first step has been taken,” Basel explains. “Several Romanian companies have won tenders in the Emirates, but we are also looking for opportunities for businessmen in the Arab area. We believe Romania can become a very attractive market for Dubai investors.”
Alongside these ventures, the Khalid and Basel have also become active within the sports industry. They sponsor several professional football clubs in Europe but most notably have become official ambassadors for the well-established ‘SuperKombat’ kickboxing tournament. This limelight may also open further doors for Khaled and Basel promotions in this field.

Since being founded in Bucharest in 2011, ‘SuperKombat’ has grown into the largest martial arts promotion in Europe and under the watchful gaze of Basel and Khaled has now spread its wings internationally, with events held in Dubai and broadcast globally.
As a result of this continued advancement, in multiple directions at once, the Fetrawi brothers are able to look back on events of the last decade with a philosophical view. Yes, the ongoing Syrian war was a calamity which destroyed their business, yet it also spurred the brothers on, forced them to think creatively and encouraged them to seek new channels through which to achieve their goals. It also had other, more personal impacts.

"Do you know what the good side is? The truth is that everything that has happened has made us even closer."

Even if everyone lives in a different country, I spend more time with my brother than before the war, I talk more on the phone with my family. I visit my parents. This has become part of our shared story now. We live here and there, yet we remain Syrians. In a strange way, the war made us stronger. It united us.”

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