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Sat 2 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Leader of the pack

Supermarket supplier Al Bayader International is expanding and tapping into the convenience retail boom.

The Middle East's business community has produced an overwhelming number of success stories over the years, with common tales of small enterprises growing into regional and sometimes even international powerhouses.

The potential for future growth throughout the Gulf region is very promising, as its population of around 36 million today is expected to grow by 40% to 50 million by 2015.

It's perhaps the local entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed that has resulted in countless businessmen turning their ambitious dreams into profitable realities.

This is certainly the case with Nidal Haddad, the chief executive officer of Al Bayader International, who started his business operations back in 1990 as a humble supplier of foodstuff packaging.

Today, his company has turned into a multi-million dollar player in the regional marketplace, with plans to significantly expand operations in the coming years.

"I look at the birth of Al Bayader International as the beginning of an adventure," Haddad explains.

"It's been an exciting journey and we've gained unrivalled market knowledge and understanding of the business challenges faced by our customers."

"I would say our success has been built on creating excellent partnerships and providing customers with the highest standards in innovative packing solutions."

Al Bayader has attempted to differentiate itself from competitors by providing customers with an innovative catalogue of disposable products, which are heavily focused on vibrant colours, sleek finishes and groundbreaking functionality.

"It's certainly a bold move away from the more traditional designs available in the marketplace, which Haddad describes as "potentially bland and boring".

"The fact that Al Bayader's products stand out strongly on supermarket shelves has given the company another edge over the competition," he says with confidence.

"We don't settle for run-of-the-mill solutions and want to think outside the box when designing our portfolio of products. It's important to offer something unique to the marketplace."

Approximately 20% of the products offered by Al Bayader are actually manufactured by the company, whilst the remaining amount is imported from across the world, including locations in North America, Europe and Asia.

"The consignments are transported by sea freight into the various Middle Eastern countries where we operate," says Haddad.

"At present, we have a head office and warehouse in Sharjah, together with facilities in Doha, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah."

These facilities service Al Bayader's eclectic mixture of customers, which hail from a variety of different industries and include hotels, retail outlets and caterers.

In particular, the company has experienced considerable success with the supermarket sector, claiming to hold a 90% market share in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman, together with a 50% market share in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.

It is also a supplier to many international and regional airlines, including British Airways, Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia.

"We have to understand the specific requirements for each customer, regardless of the industry in which they operate."

"Knowing how our market operates is essential."

"For example, our consumer sales peak during specific times of the year, with major Muslim and Christian festivals spurring demand and business growth," explains Haddad. "Ramadan, for example, has become singularly important.

Iftar meals cooked and shared between family and friends that in the past were transported among homes in conventional and heavy old-style cooking pots are now carried in high quality, practical and disposable containers.

With such robust demand, it's unsurprising that Al Bayader's sales figures have experienced continuous year-on-year growth.

Its overall turnover, for example, increased by 50% in 2006 compared to the previous year, with 2007 also expected to become one of the strongest years in the company's history.

"The potential for future growth throughout the Gulf region is very promising, as its population of around 36 million today is expected to grow by 40% to 50 million by 2015," says Haddad.

"While the demographics of the region are changing so are people's lifestyles. The Arab region, and specifically the GCC countries, is known to have a young population."
This increasingly affluent social group has adopted a more modern and quick approach to life, using convenience foods and international cuisine, through retail stores and food outlets.

The fact that Al Bayader’s products stand out strongly on supermarket shelves has given the company another edge over the competition.

"As a result there is more packaging in our homes today than ever before because the food we consume, more than any other product, is a reflection of our changing lifestyles and expectations as consumers," he adds.

To support this market growth, Al-Bayader embarked on a major expansion programme in 2006, valued at approximately US$22 million.

The strategy is heavily focused on logistics and the first phase, which was completed in October 2007, included a $4 million state-of-the-art warehousing facility, located in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone.

"We decided to locate our warehouse in the Jebel Ali Free Zone because, in my opinion, it's the best free zone in this part of the world."

"The management is incredibly innovative when it comes to developing and introducing new services, which matches our style of management too."

"The infrastructure is very sophisticated too, with great transport links by road, together with the nearby port and forthcoming airport."

"These are important considerations for any logistics operations," says Haddad.

"Furthermore, a lot of free zones cannot offer much space at the moment, but the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority was able to provide a suitable plot of land for the warehouse facility," he adds.

Al Bayader's 15,000m2 site integrates an extensive warehouse building with loading and off-loading areas, parking spaces and a logistics management centre.

The site has been specially designed to improve the company's regional logistics and distribution capability.

"With exports being an integral part of Al Bayader's business from day one, the facility will afford easier access to many more potential export destinations across the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and Eastern Europe," says Haddad.

"Meanwhile the additional capacity will further improve logistics operations, reduce export costs, and ensure better service to regional branches within GCC countries."

The company invested a significant period of time in designing the warehouse complex together with a number of suppliers in the material handling world.

The Dubai-based Span Group, for example, provided a customised warehouse management system (WMS), in addition to a narrow aisle racking system produced in Malaysia.

The Sharjah-based company Mohamed Abdulrahman Al-Bahar supplied a number of forklift trucks, which are manufactured by Caterpillar and Atlet.

As part of the expansion strategy, the company's branch in Qatar is also being upgraded and transformed into a manufacturing centre, extending over an area of approximately 11,000m2.

"These are important components in our future growth plans. We want to become the largest group for packaging and disposable products in the Middle East, and have the capabilities to produce 60% of the products we sell.

"We already have a significant presence in the Middle East and will open facilities in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Logistics will play an important role in providing excellent customer service and we'll continue to invest in storage and distribution centres."

Company profile

Company: Al Bayader International

Established: 1990

Offices: United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar

Products: Over 1200 packaging and disposable solutions

Customers: 1000 around the world

Partners and manufacturers: 285 around the world

Employees: 250

Fleet: 100 vehicles

Total storage area: 20,000m2

Total number of branches/direct offices throughout the GCC countries: 9

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