Afifi Group – Delivering Reliable Solutions
The Afifi Group, along with its subsidiaries, combines decades of experience in the transport industry with an uncompromising focus on safety, quality and reliability.
The family business established nearly a century ago plays an important role within the travel and transport sectors not only in its native Israel but increasingly in a number of other countries, such as the UK, Holland, Portugal, Turkey, Jordan and Hong Kong. An intensive focus on excellence in service is one of the factors that have pushed its growth.
It began in 1927 when the Afifi family farmed their lands – in the village of Sepphoris, near Nazareth. As agricultural production grew, the family bought a truck to transport their goods more efficiently and quickly to the large port cities of Haifa and Jaffa. Many of the other farmers sent their goods on the same truck. Very soon, the villagers realised it was comfortable and fast to use the vehicle as a transport to take them to neighbouring cities and markets, and they were happy to pay for the ride.
Responding to this growing demand, the family installed benches in the back of the truck.
By 1932, the family had purchased its first bus – a turning point that laid the foundations for the development of their business into the transport, travel and tourism sectors.
Then, as today, customer service was the guiding principle – one that dictates the Afifi Group’s business philosophy. What began as a modest family initiative evolved over the years into the robust and prosperous Afifi Group, which encompasses over 20 companies engaged in transport, tourism, hotels, information technology, investments, real estate and international trade.
“For many decades, the Afifi Group has been uncompromising in providing the highest standards in products and services, from our modern buses to customer service, from strict safety procedures to resourceful solutions,” confirms the Group’s CEO Afif Afifi, a member of the fourth generation involved in its management.
On the move
The Afifi Group strives to be a leader in various fields. It sets great store by professionalism, quality and innovation, and places an emphasis on commitment to its business partners, both locally and internationally. The values of integrity, reliability and fairness have been the group’s watchwords since its first years of operation.
Today, the Group provides an umbrella for various subsidiaries divided into four fields of business: transport; automotive; tourism and hospitality; and real estate. The scope may seem wide, but the focal point is the same, affirms Mr Afifi – providing outstanding service to make sure people are moved in a safe, smooth and efficient manner.
“The group’s long accumulation of experience in these various fields enables us to offer unique products and a variety of services at the very highest level. But we are not about to rest on our laurels.”
Mr Afifi explains that transport, i.e. primarily public transport, and automotive are the strongest business lines. Several of the Group’s companies provide public bus services within the country as well as international lines using modern bus fleets staffed with responsive and well-trained personnel. The commercial automotive division is in charge of importing vehicles as well as spare parts and caters for the needs of its customers through a well-established network covering the country.
“Our early start in transport means we have decades of experience in vehicles of all types, helping the commercial division of the Afifi Group to establish itself as a dominant player in Israel.”
With its in-depth knowledge of all aspects of transport and a familiarity with the specific needs of its target customers, the Afifi Group provides a valuable and attentive service to hundreds of thousands of residents across a wide geographic area. The commitment to offer the best has been crowned by achievements across the group’s wide range of business lines.
Nateev Express, one of the group’s companies, was one of the two participants to win the tender to operate bus lines in the Beit Shemesh corridors – a public transport tender that included dozens of new intercity, regional and urban lines as well as the consolidation of existing routes.
Nateev Express and its subsidiaries employs over 1200 workers, including 900 bus drivers, and operates 800 modern buses equipped with CCTV cameras and GPS systems that allow every journey to be closely tracked, and the company provides a “next bus” service that tracks the arrival time of the bus at stops along the route in real time. In addition, Wi-Fi is available on all intercity buses, with free and unlimited use for all customers. The company operates buses along public transport lines whilst maintaining strict control and continuous monitoring, which comes as a great advantage – as demonstrated by the fact that Nateev have long been ranked amongst the top three for service levels, according to the median audit reports of the National Authority for Public Transport. To that end, a round-the-clock control centre runs every day, all year round. This centre enables the monitoring of every bus, including location, speed data and direction of travel, with the option to create alerts for any irregularities within these parameters. Moreover, Nateev Express operate a public service and information centre for any enquiries relating to travel routes, bus stop locations and timetables.
The company is active in the Galilee cluster operating 230 public transport lines and 27 transport lines in Beit Shemesh.
A slightly different type of service is offered by the Afifi Group’s newest venture, Cable Express, a subsidiary of Nateev Express that was established in 2019 with the aim of running the first cable car service in Israel operating as public transport in Haifa, projected for October 2021.
The project comprises 148 cabins that carry ten passengers – eight seated and two standing, departing every 15 seconds along a 4.4 km route from the Haifa Bay central station to the university, and the journey time is 19 minutes. The company’s concession lasts for a period of 12 years.
Reliable trading partner
Decades of experience in vehicles of all types has helped the Afifi Group to establish itself as a dominant player in Israel, with its knowledge benefiting other sector players as well.
Mr Afifi explains: “We offer our customers new products and services to create better solutions for today’s smart world. We are looking into the future, considering new solutions, assessing how the sector may develop and chose the most suited option that would benefit a large number of stakeholders. For example, using our experience in public transport, we import buses for other operators in Israel.”
A good example of this business line is UBSI, one of the group’s companies, that has recently achieved a significant success. The company landed an order and provided 120 Solaris fourth-generation “Urbino 18” buses for the Israeli bus company Egged for use in Jerusalem. UBSI has been the exclusive importer of Solaris buses to Israel since 2012 and for Otokar since 2018.
UBSI represents the group’s growing role as a trading partner. The company was established in 2007 as a sales and service centre providing professional and licensed support and diagnostic services for a wide range of commercial vehicle manufacturers. It operates a 13,000 square m2 centre with 24/7 service, and a fully-computerized 4,000 m2 warehouse for spare parts – the largest in the north of the country. Over the years, the company has grown, and today employs a team of more than 100 people. It offers a wide range of maintenance services, again drawing on its staff’s wealth of knowledge.
Mr Afifi affirms that the focus on service is one of the Group’s competitive advantages and a core competence- one that needs dedicated and committed workforce. “Our business structure is based on investing in people while implementing economical behaviour in the processes.”
“Afifi is service-oriented, with a high level of synergy across the business lines. A fast and well-studied decision-making mechanism, supported by the latest technology solutions and data analytics, makes the company run smoothly and profitably while sustaining and improving the efficiency & quality of the service.”
The Group reflects the latest market requirements in its strategy, including an ever-increasing focus on environmental solutions. Afifi is now expanding its automotive business line, investing in distributing automotive technology solutions throughout Israel, focusing on providing electric vehicles and electric infrastructure solutions.
“By definition, our responsibility to the community makes consideration for sustainability and environmental protection a must. Not only do we comply with all the regulations but we strive to be ahead, implementing new solutions and technologies that protect and help the environment,” says Mr Afifi.
He points out that the investment and business development aim to support the synergy within the Group. “Our business concept is ‘Travel – Diversity’ and maintaining the balance between our fields of business. The global pandemic, with its devastating consequences for some sectors including travel and tourism, confirmed that our business model works well, and keeps the Group protected against market fluctuations.”
Reflecting on expected developments post-pandemic, he says: “The use of technology and its deployment in business as well as in personal life will accelerate; and e-commerce combined with AI and machine learning is set to become the centre of every business. Increased awareness of the need to support sustainability, together with environmental considerations, will influence the legislative framework with social implications. This will push the market to new investments.”
Striving to provide the best level of service quality, the role of the supply chain will also increase, and businesses will enhance collaborative relationships. This is what Afifi has been doing for some time, considering its suppliers as partners that play a crucial part in the Group’s success.
“The importance of maintaining good business relationships is one of our top priorities and we achieve this by means of frequent and transparent communication. We talk to our suppliers on a daily basis, so that they are ready to provide what we need, while at the same time helping them to grow with us.”
The Group’s commitment to the community includes employment diversity and compliance with labour and social laws, as well as advancing equality in employment, empowering women, and wherever possible, providing employment opportunities for the disabled.
“The Afifi Group believes that a commitment of staff to compassionate and ethical conduct is essential for its success. Our social commitment strategy focuses on supporting projects that are in harmony with our philosophy and strategy,” says Mr Afifi.
“Thanks to our activities, we make a difference locally, where our employees live and work. Our projects take local needs into account as well as the goals of our regional organisations.
We also encourage our employees to get involved in their local areas, and we support them in making a positive difference for society and the environment.”
In the wake of the global pandemic, Mr Afifi is looking ahead with optimism and summarises the plans with a single word – expansion. Opportunities are seen both locally and globally, and the Group is set to tender for new contracts.
In 2021, Afifi won the Beit Shemesh public transport tender for operating the cluster and for the delivery of 250 buses and in December 2021, 58 new electric buses will be delivered.
The Afifi group management is also scanning opportunities outside Israel, considering both public tenders and potential acquisitions. All eyes are now on Portugal and its looming restructuring of public transport. Outside its two key fields of business, Afifi is also investing in its real estate division and expanding its interest in this field.
Mr Afifi insists that the management will continue to promote the uniqueness of the Afifi Group by investing in its people and in operational excellence, as staff wellness and business success are two sides of the same coin, the foundation for a prosperous future.
“The expansion will not hinder our commitment to sustaining and fostering the family business culture and values, as these themselves represent a clear differentiator against cooperate companies. Values are the glue that binds the family, the business and its employees as well as partners.”