PRODUCT PLACEMENT

Lebanon 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jacques Jean Sarraf, Chairman & CEO of Malia Group, on creating synergy, development strategies, and the outlook for the year ahead.

Jacques Jean Sarraf
BIOGRAPHY
In addition to being the Chairman and CEO of Malia Holding, Jacques Jean Sarraf is also the President of the Union of Mediterranean Confederation of Enterprises, Chairman of the Lebanese - Russian Business Council, the Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Lebanon, as well as Board Member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-Lebanon). He obtained a BA in Business Administration from the Belgian Institute for Business Studies (Beirut).

Malia Group is a diversified group of companies with activities spanned across several sectors. What strategies do you follow in order to create synergies within the group, while at the same time, enhancing partnerships with other players in the market?

Malia Group is currently going through a period of transition and restructuring. In 2016 my responsibilities will move away from being both CEO and Chairman and will focus on the Chairmanship of the Group. The restructuring on the corporate level will include two CEOs—one for Malia Holding and one for Malia Invest. Furthermore, the restructuring includes the appointment of a corporate secretary who will ensure that corporate governance is being implemented now that we have the financial systems in place. As a result of our adoption of corporate governance that we did in consultation with IFC, we have established committees that also include external stakeholders and advisors. We will also be recruiting a chief financial officer in the near future. Moreover, we believe that restructuring in such a way sends a positive message to all our stakeholders that will guarantee that Malia Group will continue to grow and expand. Furthermore, the restructuring includes a new strategy based on full transparency, and we are planning to go for an IPO in the near future and depending the region and international factors.

Looking forward to Malia Group's regional and international midterm future, from where do you anticipate the core revenue streams to originate?

We believe in investing during times of uncertainty and that opportunities present themselves when uncertainty is peaking. We act as pioneers in different market and are present where other do not have the vision to be yet. But it's important to properly assess the risks and react to uncertainty in a well-studied manner with a long-term strategy, because we believe that we should smartly invest where there are real and present opportunities.

What is your main focus as well as expectations for the year ahead?

We have a three-year plan that essentially includes investment in Lebanon in our pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, Pharmaline, whereby we will be working on the third extension of the plant. Since we are partners and representative of Honeywell, which is one of the biggest technology suppliers of mobile solutions, we are now expanding our cooperation for different markets. We are looking to do the same in some African countries. Also, on the regional level, which for us is the Gulf market, we are developing Pharmaline Saudi Arabia. As for Iraq, we have three exciting new projects under construction. Our aim is to renew the growth of investment over the coming years. We always want to invest despite the uncertainty of the region. We must reengineer the way of doing business to give more security for the future and sustain the growth at the same time.

Malia Group has been involved in the industrial production of personal care for 60 years. What challenges and respective opportunities have you encountered while building an enterprise in the Lebanese market?

In the personal care business, the challenge today is to develop new formulations and new products, and to perform in a way that the market can absorb them. In the coming weeks, we will launch a new hair dye for a younger generation which has an easy-to-use concept. We are continuously reformulating our shampoo formulas and our styling gels according to generational trends. This is what basically makes us successful both locally and regionally. Now we are moving outside the region. We are looking to export Cosmaline, our in-house personal care brand, in Africa. We have to focus on an African range of products.