Zahir Dehnadi

Zahir Dehnadi

Photo copyright © Ira Weinrauch
Photo copyright © Ira Weinrauch

International Full-time MBA, 2010
Aachen, Germany
Founder and CEO at Navabi
Nominated by former classmate Rasim Kenar

Reinventing business through spiritual and moral happiness

Zahir Dehnadi founded fashion company navabi during his RSM MBA studies in 2009, aiming to close a market gap and help many women around the world to express themselves. The online retailer has grown to a multi-million euro enterprise, which employs over 250 employees from 40 countries in its offices in Aachen and London, and serves hundreds of thousands of customers in more than 30 countries.

However, success can’t be measured by the worldly standards of wealth, prestige and power, says Zahir. “The yardstick of happiness should measure success. I can influence the lives of many people professionally and personally. I want to do this the best I possibly can by being spiritual, professional and compassionate.”

Strength-based leadership

The RSM alumnus built navabi with childhood friends. They have won several start-up awards, such as Germany’s best entrepreneur and navabi was chosen Best Fashion Employer in Germany. The set-up is unusual: the fashion retailer is organised in a network structure without hierarchical management positions.

“Our company has no team leaders; everyone is encouraged to build their role and responsibilities around their personal strengths,” Zahir says. His goal is to transcend organisations’ typical limitations, and avoid bureaucracy, politics, burnouts and apathy. “Our vision is to reinvent business, to devise a new model that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful.”

Capitalism and social responsibility

Zahir hopes this type of organisation inspires future generations. “We empower colleagues to own their destiny through strength-based leadership, and incorporate mindful elements throughout most facets of our organisation,” he said, adding RSM taught him invaluable lessons about humanity, friendship and management. He passes on his academic and entrepreneurial experiences as a mentor and business angel to young entrepreneurs in Europe and the Middle East to help them on their way.

Ultimately, Zahir hopes he can improve more lives by creating win-win situations through business. “Our minds and hearts need to catch up with fast technological advancements. My goal is to use capitalistic elements to our advantage to build profitable organisations, and bring corporate social responsibility to the next stage.”