RAISING A GLASS

Lebanon 2016 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to George Rbeiz, General Manager for Middle East and North Africa at Diageo, on fostering and growing talent within the company, its community projects, and the appeal of Lebanon.

George Rbeiz
BIOGRAPHY
George Rbeiz is the General Manager for Middle East and North Africa at Diageo. He has 17 years of FMCG management experience with global leading multinationals such as Nestle and Mars, in addition to international and multicultural experience gained through different assignments in the Levant, the Gulf, and the US. He joined Diageo MENA a year ago after being the Mars Chocolate Regional Market Manager for Southeast US.

What is Diageo's program to prepare its human talent and mobilize it around the world?

Diageo has a project called Early Career Program, whereby fresh graduates join the Diageo Academy for three years and undergo on-the-job training by rotating across different departments. Once they graduate, we encourage them to apply for a job within Diageo in an area where they can perform and grow; they grow to become managers and Diageo future leaders, and even enter our mobility program to fulfill their aspirations to go outside of Lebanon. We help them find a job in another country. In that sense, Lebanon has become a pool of talent for Diageo, globally fostering and growing talent fluent in three languages and always prone to global exposure. This will be one of my main tasks as head of Diageo, to develop young talent that will shape the company and the country in the years to come.

What does Lebanon represent for your global operations, and how does the country help with Diageo's development in the MENA region?

We have a fully fledged team based in Lebanon with members distributed across commercial and functional areas, further reconfirming Lebanon's position as a priority market for Diageo and ensuring the right focus is given to customers, consumers, brands, and the wider industry. Lebanon is a unique and dynamic market, in particular with its nightlife and celebration culture. The nightlife environment is a major brand building and growth driver and that makes Lebanon for Diageo very much equal in nature to large markets such as the US and Europe and gets the same level of attention. What makes Lebanon outstanding is the fact the people love and appreciate life and love to celebrate and that is the core of our business and purpose regardless of the challenges the security or economy present. This is also a key pillar of Diageo's establishment in the market, which is enough reason for us to further engage and build local communities that thrive. We want to give back to the country that has shown its commitment to us from day one. From here we cover around 10 countries in the Levant and North African regions.

What are some of Diageo's flagship CSR projects in Lebanon?

“In Good Spirit" is our latest local platform developed to engage communities, consumers, customers, government, and many other stakeholders toward promoting a responsible handling of alcohol covering consumption, service, and sales. This includes consumer awareness, customer venues protocol, and capability building to ensure our products are consumed responsibly and served responsibly. We also recently launched a Diageo "Join the Pact to Never Drink and Drive" program within In Good Spirit, seeking consumers and partygoers to sign a pledge. We have also done a great deal on the environment front, planting 1 million pine seedlings in the Shouf area and engaging NGOs and more than 60 municipalities to collect and plant these seedlings in various geographical areas to support the national reforestation initiative. We have also been active in the empowerment and capability building streams, launching Diageo Lebanon “Plan W," a global female empowerment program that aims to train and build up women's business and entrepreneurial capabilities to improve their employability and offer them opportunities to grow and become leaders.

Lebanon has always been identified for its good nightlife and outgoing nature. What makes it so appealing?

Lebanese people by nature are outgoing, love celebrations, and have all the freedom to do that. Its people are highly educated with mixed backgrounds and Lebanon is home to investors with entrepreneurial acumen and the energy to establish innovative restaurants, bars, and clubs. When talking about nightlife in the Middle East, Lebanon always comes up. There is a high return on investment and a high number of people coming in from neighboring markets that makes nightlife in Lebanon a world-class sector with a promising future.