The Business Year

Ilias Assimakopoulos

UAE, ABU DHABI - Agriculture

Food King

CEO, Agthia Group

Bio

Ilias Assimakopoulos has been the CEO of Agthia Group since 2006. Prior to joining Agthia, he was the General Manager of Reckitt Benckiser for the Middle East & North Africa region for five years based in the UAE. There, he successfully led the company in a geographical expansion, entered new market catagories, and implemented a wide range of new product and product line extensions. He also had an 11-year progressive business career with the Gillette Company in various marketing and sales roles of increasing responsibility. Assimakopoulos holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from McGill University, an MBA from Boston University, and recently completed an Executive Education Program (AMP) at Harvard Business School.

What are the factors behind your recent impressive net profit figures? When net revenues grow, they clearly influence your bottom line. In 2013, net profit growth outpaced that of sales […]

What are the factors behind your recent impressive net profit figures?

When net revenues grow, they clearly influence your bottom line. In 2013, net profit growth outpaced that of sales due to an improved gross profit margin in both our Agri-Business and Consumer Business Divisions resulting from an improved sales mix, competitive procurement, in-house production of previously outsourced feed volume, and cost-saving initiatives, as well as higher flour pricing in the northern Emirates.

What is your approach to growth?

Clearly, a key focus for us is to always grow our volumes ahead of market growth. If, for example, the water market grows by 10%, we want to grow by 12%-15%. The objective is consistent market share gain. Volume performance in 2013 has been reflected in market share; hence, in the categories across which we compete, our volume growth has exceeded that registered in 2012. We have seen an excellent response from the traders and consumers in response to our products and have a solid reputation for consistently delivering reliable products to the market. Flour and animal feed products tend to be a main revenue driver, despite diversification efforts. This business division has inevitably been exposed to commodity price fluctuations; therefore, it was not considered prudent to depend on that line alone. We have now built a wide product line that caters directly to the end user.

Environmentally focused imagery plays a major role in your product lines. What is your approach to the environment?

Naturally, we consider ourselves responsible corporate citizens. We are focused on four areas: health and wellness, food safety and security, people, and the environment. Each of these forms the pillars of Agthia’s ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility. Under health and wellness, we encourage healthy nutrition and an active lifestyle, while building awareness of a variety of health concerns. We organize a healthy lunch once a month for our staff, and give tips on what to eat and how to stay healthy. As a Group, we are involved in walkathons and other community events that address pressing health issues, such as diabetes and breast cancer. Food safety and security are very important for us as a leading UAE food and beverage company. We work together with Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority when it comes to food safety, as it is our regulator. We also support the World Food Programme (WFP) in its worldwide campaign to “Fight Against Hunger” by initiating a donation drive once a year to provide food aid and famine relief to people in need. Food security is a major concern in the region, and we play a particularly important role in this issue. We are actively involved in government food security initiatives; we manage strategic stocks of wheat and animal feed for the Abu Dhabi Government. On the people side, we have a duty as corporate citizens to develop local talent. We aim to train and develop 120 full-time Emirati employees at various levels of seniority, and whether they stay with us or not, we view this as an honest and valuable contribution to our society. Finally, in terms of the environment, we have a good record where it comes to energy levels and emissions. All our production units are ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) certified by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance. And as one of the leading bottled water manufacturers in the UAE, we have a commitment to reducing the PET used to produce water bottles, and have increased the level of PET recycling. Moreover, we systematically pursue initiatives and technologies that will allow us to reduce the thickness of PET sheets used in bottled water manufacturing.

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