JEDDAH — Manuel Supermarket, a Jeddah-headquartered supermarket chain, plans to open 70 to 100 more stores over the next 5 years, its co-founder and CEO Khaled Ahmed Al Darwish revealed.

Explaining the success of the business which combines luxury and health trends to create a winning combination for families and the new generation, he said “being smart, working hard and dreaming big are the keys to my and Manuel’s success. Our team is working hard to expand our supermarkets by 70 to 100 stores over the next 5 years. As we expand over the next decade, we will keep our focus on healthy trends in the foods sector. We think by expanding, we can have the best of both worlds and so far, we have been proven right.”

Reminiscing about the start of Manuel, Al Darwish said “I launched Manuel after visiting the grand European palaces which inspired a vision to build a brand on luxurious shopping, unique products, design concepts, and packaging for sophisticated shoppers. Like me, our rapidly expanding international clientele enjoys sumptuous living and quality ingredients. Since opening our first store, we have consistently focused on what is good for the body, and for the soul. Manuel travels the world over to find the very best products in order to create unique experiences.”

Excerpts of the interview follow:

• What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?

Logistics is the biggest challenge to our industry. Manuel Markets’ strength comes from our imports department. Our team is up to the challenge however, with the education, experience, mindsets and philosophies – with the heart and soul if you will – to rise to the challenge.

• Where do great ideas come from in your organization?

Firstly, the organization is driven by my vision. We also have a diverse workforce and management team who inspired different aspects of our business and operations. Numerous Manuel team members bring good ideas not only to the board of directors’ table but also to the products on the shelves, and even the shelves too. Our team also makes a point of attending Foodex and other international trade shows.

•What is the most important/biggest decision you’ve ever had to make for your company?

Wow, I would say that I took a big risk at a time when the economy was unhealthy, which could have gone well or terribly for the company. We opened three stores in one year. I decided to make that investment predicting that at a time when people were cutting back on luxury in other areas of their life, they would still want luxurious foods to compensate for their losses. As it turned out, by fortune and good intuition, this decision was a good one to make. I believe that if you do your homework as a professional, understand the products and customers, and properly serve your demographics, you will lead the market.

• What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organization?

We are not just hiring employees and are in fact creating leaders based on education, training, know-how, passion, and decision-making. To my new employees I say that you will have success if you are disciplined, work hard, and willing to learn. I would also tell them that Manuel is serious about implementing a non-discriminatory policy, and that we give each new employee all necessary tools to contribute to our success. I give them assurances that our traditions of “share and care,” and also of striving for excellence, mean that we look for leadership potential in each employee. We are ready to invest in their futures, and that of their families, as an important expression of our culture and beliefs.

• When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

We ourselves are industry leaders with big ideas, so we look for similar qualities in others. We are always looking for personal qualities of leadership, ambition, and strong personality, because we rely on these qualities to make sure we bring the best products and create the best experiences in our stores.

• What are the most common mistakes leaders make?

The most common mistake is not being attentive to what they hear, or just not listening and having too much ego. You have to listen to everyone at all times. That is not to say that you follow every idea, but that you are always listening attentively for that new way of thinking or new piece of information. We’re constantly listening and analyzing what people are saying in our stores, in the news, and in our stock rooms. In fact, listening got us to where we are today.

• What is something most people don’t know about you?

Well, I would say most people don’t know that I am very passionate about my business and that I care very deeply for all of my people. I will do all that I can to guarantee my people are safe and have secure futures.

•What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Since I was small, I know I always wanted to be the very best I could, and to take pride in everything I do. I always thought I would be a banker because I was inspired by and looked up to my family who were bankers. In fact, I used to be in banking before I launched Manuel. Secretly, perhaps, I wanted to be a police officer. When I was a kid I liked the idea of dressing in a uniform and being a hero in service to my community and country. I think there is a part of me that still feels that way today, which explains a lot about who I am, and also what Manuel became. Service is a big concept throughout the organization. In the simplest way, we really are all about service for everyone, everywhere driving our vision.

Source: Saudi Gazzette

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