ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Kuwait 2019 | RETAIL | INTERVIEW

AAW's data-driven strategy and recognition as a company with integrity, transparency, and commitment to excellence has enabled it to post success and surf through a sluggish market.

Ali Faisal Al-Mutawa
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Faisal Al-Mutawa joined AAW in 1996 and went on to become its Deputy CEO and a board member. In addition to that, he is the Chairman of the Board at Gulf Custody Company, Board Member of Bayan Investment Company, and a former Board Member at the Gulf Bank in Kuwait. Before joining AAW, he worked at P&G’s European Headquarters in Geneva. Al Mutawa has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, and marketing from the Northeastern University in Boston.

What has been key for AAW to establish major business relationships with brands in consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and other fields?

Our company's core values were key in establishing and sustaining such relationships. From the beginning until now, our company has been known for its high level of integrity, transparency, and commitment to excellence. This has been the key reason why this company has continued to grow all these years. Multinational companies not only look for partners with good values, but also with ones that enjoy a proven track record of good performance. Our partners, therefore, see AAW as a dependable company with high standards.

How is AAW managing to integrate all its business lines and maintaining the highest level of competitiveness in the market?

The market is constantly evolving and this creates new competition. In order for us to be on top of our game, we run our business in a highly efficient manner. We took a bold but important decision many years back to build a distribution center that consolidated all of AAW's business units under one roof. At present, that distribution center is considered one of the biggest in the country. Investing in e-commerce at a relatively early stage also helped us grab more market share. Finally, our data-driven strategy has helped us anticipate new trends or changes in the market and enabled us to move faster than our peers.

Which one of your business lines has experienced the most significant growth and why?

We have experienced great growth in multiple lines of our business over the past few years. The retail part of our business and specifically the pharmaceutical (Roche, Merk) and outdoor (The North Face, Patagonia, Vans) business units have been enjoying good retail growth. We have also rolled out multiple showrooms for our kitchens and home appliances business (Bosch, Nolte) and so far, that step has produced great results. On the wholesale part, our FMCG business unit (P&G, Clorox, Hershey's) continues to grow its market share despite the challenges in the market. Our e-commerce business is also showing promising potential. Last but not least, our real estate business has always been one of the great performers. Notably, our kitchens and home appliances business unit has been aggressively closing many contracts and gaining serious market share. On the other hand, our home and office furniture business unit has encountered some challenges due to fierce competition and severe market fragmentation. We have responded by partnering with Jysk, one of the fastest-growing furniture brands in the world, and have started to roll out multiple locations.

What are your expectations for the year ahead in terms of growth and business?

The retail market in Kuwait has suffered over the past five to six years. By the beginning of 2018, we felt that the market slightly initiated its recovering process. Consumer confidence still seems shaky but it is improving. In 2019, so far, we have witnessed our online business booming across all our business units. We also see the unrolling of public- and private-sector projects, which will positively impact our business. We are optimistic about the year ahead, and our financials and independent market reports indicate that we are on the right track.