Stories of self-made billionaires who have made it from the bottom all the way to the world of rich and successful businessmen provide us with inspirational moments that any aspiring entrepreneur can learn from.
The story of Saudi Arabian businessman Sheikh Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi is one of hard work, persistence and success. The man started his life as a young entrepreneur at a time when building new businesses in the Arabian Gulf region was yet to reach the prosperous circumstances and facilitation they currently enjoy.
During his early beginnings, the founder of Al Rajhi Bank did not have the luxurious education or conditions that many other entrepreneurs enjoy nowadays.
Step by step, Al Rajhi grew to become one of the world’s richest men. In 2011, he was worth $7 billion according to Forbes, before he decided to make the generous move of donating much of his fortune for charity work by transferring his bank shares, his poultry farm, and other assets to a charitable endowment that bears his name to fund anti-hunger efforts and education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
We take you through some of the most important and critical stages of Al Rajhi’s life as told by the billionaire in a number television interviews:
- Sulaiman Al Rajhi started working when he was a nine as a porter, carrying shopping luggage for shoppers at Riyadh;s Al Khadra market.
- At 12, he started collecting palm dates for a job that paid him no more than six Saudi Riyals per month. He used to sleep on gravel at the same workplace wearing the same outfit he wears during his hard work.
- At one point of his life, he worked as a cook at one of Riyadh’s hotels.
- Among the various jobs he did as a teenager, he worked as a wholesale seller of imported kerosene.
- He worked as a waiter at one Saudi contracting company for a mere 60 Saudi Riyals per month, before starting his own grocery shop.
- At 15, Al Rajhi had to sell his shop in order to afford marriage expenses. He spent all his savings on the marriage ceremony.
- He later worked for his brother, Saleh Al Rajhi, at the latter’s currency exchange enterprise, before the pair established a second branch for the same enterprise in 1956.
- His real breakthrough came in 1970, when he separated his business from his brother and opened his own currency exchange company, which he later expanded with more than 30 branches across Saudi Arabia.
- He took his business to a number of countries across the Arab world, including Egypt and Lebanon, where he made massive gains by extending his work.
When asked about the key to success, Sulaiman Al Rajhi has often reiterated that it was all about “putting one penny on top of the other”.
“I used to keep every penny I earn for the next day. This was what enabled me to have a starting point that I built on for my future,” he says.
Unlike other billionaires, who splash out their fortune and live a lavish lifestyle, Al Rajhi is known for his humble and somewhat ascetic approach.