Sep. 11, 2015


Fouad Es-Said

Lebanon

Fouad Es-Said

Chairman & CEO, Transmed

TBY talks to Fouad Es-Said, Chairman & CEO of Transmed, on the FMCG business and trends in Lebanon.

BIO

Fouad Nouhad Es-Said has been the Chairman and CEO of Transmed since January 2012. Following his graduation from The American University of Beirut in 1996, he began working at Procter & Gamble in Finance and Sales, spending six months each in Geneva and London. He then joined the family business at Transmed in Dubai as an Account Executive in the Sales division covering Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Following a three-year stint in Dubai, he relocated to Lebanon at the Transmed Headquarters, where he was appointed General Manager of Transmed SAL managing the Lebanese subsidiary until January 2012, when he was promoted to Chairman of the Board and CEO overseeing Transmed’s entire operations.

What trends in the industry are you currently seeing in Lebanon and how does Transmed respond to them to better serve its clients?

Transmed is basically an extension of the partners that we work with, whether it's Procter & Gamble, Mars, Danone, Clorox, Sysco, Mondelez, or any other company or brand. We are the sales and distribution arm of those companies. They are not really present on the ground there, but they support all our marketing and advertising activities to build their brands, while we handle the trade and all key accounts, import the products, and distribute them. In terms of keeping a finger on the pulse of trends, we get firsthand experience with our on-the-ground contact with consumers. Certain trends do stand out; for example, most households that consume the products we distribute are double income households where both the man and woman are in work. That leads to growth in demand for products that are easy to use, easy to handle, and convenient, because those are the kinds of products that people with limited time most appreciate.

How do you ensure that each product gets the best promotional exposure from your sales teams?

We make sure not to sell conflicting brands, although some of our principles can have two or three brands—but brands that cater to different markets and consumers. For example, we distribute three kinds of detergent, namely Ariel, Bonux, and Tide. These three brands cater to different consumers. Ariel is the best cleaning detergent on the market, and the most expensive of the three, whereas Bonux is more affordable, with Tide somewhere in between. So they cater to different income groups, but we would never have two brands or two principles that directly compete with each other in the same territory. We make sure we have dedicated focus by principle and by channel. We have one team that covers modern trade (MT), one that covers middle trade, and another that covers the small stores and bakkalas.

What type of partnerships are you looking for to strengthen your core distribution business?

We tend to operate alone most of the time in our other markets, relying on our own skill sets. We regularly transfer people between the various markets, and believe that the wide experience this promotes helps us better serve consumers and clients. Having said that, should a partnership opportunity arise somewhere, we would gladly assess it.

What opportunities do you see in West Africa and what is your growth strategy in the region?

We entered the African market seven or eight years ago, beginning with Sudan. Since establishing ourselves there we have expanded into West Africa, and are on the ground in three regional markets; Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ghana. We also cover several markets including Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Gambia, and Cape Verde, and have distribution relationships in all of them, with an export team based in Accra, Ghana. Consumers are all quite similar; everyone washes their hair, brushes their teeth, washes their clothes, and enjoys a biscuit or a chocolate. But you do have to cater to different consumers in terms of affordability; GDP per capita in West Africa is far less than what it is in the Gulf and GCC. In the UAE you have GDP per capital at around $43,000, while in West Africa it's somewhere between $1,500-$2,000. So you can't provide the same detergent, shampoo, or diaper. That is the main challenge we face in West Africa, although we expect to continue expanding there, and are now looking at entering Nigeria. With over 180 million consumers, Nigeria is a tough and large market, demanding serious resources in terms of capital and HR.

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