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Our number one milestone has been survival: Aziz Al-Herwi

Aziz Al-Herwi, General Manager of National Dairy & Food Company (Nadfood)

Yemen-based food manufacturer National Dairy & Food Company (Nadfood) continues to deliver a high standard of products and services, despite the war affecting the nation.

Part of the Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Companies (HSA Group), Nadfood produces a variety of milks, yoghurts and canned foods. It has six branches in the Yemen and exports its products to over 20 countries in Africa and the Gulf region.

Aziz Al-Herwi, General Manager of National Dairy & Food Company (Nadfood)
Aziz Al-Herwi, General Manager of National Dairy & Food Company (Nadfood)

Nadfood’s General Manager, Aziz Al-Herwi, is weathering the storm and successfully leading the company during the country’s current difficulties. He joined HSA Group after graduating from Emporia State University in Kansas, US, beginning work at the group’s Yemen Company for Industry and Commerce in 1988.

He then moved on to another HSA Group company, Genpack, where he served as deputy general manager. Later, in 1996, Aziz joined Nadfood as deputy general manager before being appointed general manager in 2010.

The CEO Magazine: What motivated you to join Nadfood?

Aziz: I have been in the food industry since day one in my professional career, working in biscuits, wafers and chocolates, as well as confectionery.

I moved to Nadfood for a specific reason; I came to help solve some of the technical difficulties in manufacturing, including quality control, maintenance and problems related to logistics. The company was having some difficulties at the time and I came to create a team that could resolve them and in turn, better service consumers in the market.

What have been the biggest milestones for the company?

In Yemen, we have been going through a very difficult time with the civil war, so our number one milestone has been survival. We have also maintained a high standard of products and services during these difficult times, to become one of the leading companies in our group.

HSA was founded by brothers of the Saeed Anam family in 1938.

What have been some of the main challenges affecting the company and how do you plan to overcome them?

In the old days, we were very concerned about how much we produced and how much we sold. These days, we are also concerned about other issues that are not within the core of the business. Being in a war zone, it is very difficult to keep things running.

Some of most difficult things we see on a daily basis are safety-related issues of our people and our assets, such as when we are bringing people into the factory, shipping goods to the market and when our trucks go out and return. There are also cash flow-related issues and the fluctuation of the exchange rate. Most of these things are outside our scope or our control but we try our best to deal with everything as it comes.

What are the company’s core values and how do you cultivate these with your employees?

We have six core values: respect, teamwork, trust, quality, creativity and commitment. Our values are there to guide our day-to-day behaviour and push us to excel in everything we do. They guide the way we solve problems and claims, lead by example, deal with our staff, and the way we interact with each other. It’s also about respect which drives our teamwork in order to keep communications open and to gain mutual trust, whether that is inside the company or in the market.

“We have six core values: respect, teamwork, trust, quality, creativity and commitment.”

How would you describe the company’s relationship with its main partners
and suppliers?

Our relationship with our partners and suppliers is key to our success. It is based on a win–win mentality, for we depend on our partners for technical know-how and market insight. We have enjoyed many years of close and valuable relationships with companies like Tetra Pak and Fonterra and we hope this will continue.

What sets Nadfood apart from its competitors?

Nadfood is not just a business, it is a great family – we run on old-fashioned family values. Our motto is ‘the ultimate love, the ultimate quality’. We try our best to do things properly and best satisfy our customers. We love what we do and we are proud of what we produce, and that shows in our products and services. We are committed; if there is a problem, we deal with it in a professional manner and make sure that our products and services remain trusted.

“We love what we do and we are proud of what we produce, and that shows in our products and services.”

Aziz Al-Herwi, General Manager of National Dairy & Food Company (Nadfood)

What are you proud of the most since joining?

There are many moments: turning the company around from a technical point of view by restoring the standards was a great achievement, but slowly gaining back the consumer’s trust was one of the proudest moments. Of course, maintaining a harmonious and proud team is another thing. I have been blessed with good people around me who have done a great job over the years.

Taking the company to the top of the market share for yoghurt and milk was another proud moment. We have also opened the second factory in Hodeldah.

What characteristics do you think make a good leader?

Good leaders should have a clear vision of where they are going and where they are taking the company. They should know their team – their weaknesses and strengths – and should have mutual respect between them. Leaders should also have knowledge. Knowledge is power and if you don’t have knowledge of what you are doing or of the market, that is a big weakness. They should also remember that success is a journey, not a destination.

“Remember that success is a journey, not a destination.”

What’s next for the company?

We’ll continue to weather the storm. What is next for Nadfood is a full transformation to prepare for the future, to change from survival mode to transformation mode.

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