Muntaza is one of Bahrain’s biggest supermarket chains, with branches right across the kingdom. It’s been in business since 1984, but the past two years have seen especially strong growth. The secret behind the re-energised company lies in something CEO Abdulla Almeer learned many years ago that has always guided his thinking.
“The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was to give people the freedom to work and the authority to carry out their roles independently and freely,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Abdulla recalled this advice when he took over Almeer Group in October 2019 after an approach from its Chair. He’d just spent four years as Managing Director at Growven Venture Development, but prior to that, he had worked for Almeer Group in its finance and business development departments.
“When I got there as CEO, I could see there were sizeable gaps in the food and beverage markets, but the culture of the company needed to be adapted to motivate people,” he recalls. “We did that by transforming the workplace through bringing in some new employees and defining more clearly the roles of each executive and the board.
“In the first nine months there were some quick fixes and quick wins in terms of building a strong managerial team. Then we established a three-year strategic plan to clarify what success would look like. It must have worked because results were positive within six months.”
I make sure all our managers play to their own strengths and that’s been a major part of why we have been so successful. My leadership style is basically to do all I can to let people succeed.
Attracting the right talent was crucial in those early days, but Abdulla also had to put plans in place to motivate the existing workforce. “The new culture has been vital in improving engagement and happiness among our staff which then helps with retention and allows the business to thrive,” he says.
“I make sure all our managers play to their own strengths and that’s been a major part of why we have been so successful. My leadership style is basically to do all I can to let people succeed.”
He explains that part of the process involves catering for as many different and unique personalities as possible, actively promoting diversity and prioritising respect. “That’s what management is all about. I make meetings and the work environment fun and friendly, and always acknowledge team members when they have achieved something that’s really impressive. I also encourage people to take time off work and socialise with their colleagues.”
Once Abdulla had the right people in each sector of the business and had centralised the support departments, Muntaza was ready for an aggressive growth strategy. It had already expanded its offering to include non-food items such as stationery and photocopying services.
“The company has been going since 1905, but we’ve relaunched it as a new brand with a new vision in the past two years. The new work culture and the talent we’ve managed to acquire were both instrumental in making that happen. It’s been challenging, but I’ve loved seeing the changes coming through so we can take advantage of opportunities in the market.
The new culture has been vital in improving engagement and happiness among our staff which then helps with retention and allows the business to thrive.
”What really sets us apart from our competitors is that we’re the oldest business, and have a very loyal base of long-term customers who shop with us because our prices are competitive and we offer high-quality service.”
Abdulla oversaw the opening of a 1,355-square-metre branch in the spectacular and futuristic Souq Al Baraha shopping mall complex in the centre of Diyar Al Muharraq in January 2022. The mall is themed to reflect Bahrain’s traditional markets in a modern setting, and Muntaza was the only supermarket invited to become a part of it.
“The focus over the next 18 months is on six more branch openings, and new showrooms for our sanitaryware and tile business. We’ll also be acquiring a number of international brands as we ready ourselves for an initial public offering by the end of 2023.”
Such a rapid expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the new work culture and staff empowered at every level. In other words, they truly do have the freedom to work and the authority to act independently.
Looking to the Future
“A major focus for everyone at Muntaza is futureproofing the company through significant investments in research and development, and strategically studying market movements so we always stay ahead,” Abdulla explains.
“We’ve also invested in ecommerce as a new sales channel and other technological aspects of our infrastructure. We also now have a department specifically looking at new opportunities to expand our footprint both in Bahrain and in neighbouring countries.”
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