BEDOR ALRASHOUDI

Saudi Arabia 2021 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Bedor Alrashoudi, CEO of Jazan Energy and Development Company (JAZADCO), about intentions for the company, key growth drivers, and the pandemic's effect on digitalization.

Can you give us a summary of where the company was at when you took over, what your intentions were, and what you have accomplished thus far?

JAZADCO is a publicly listed company established in 1993 and has grown to operate several business lines, such as agriculture, aquaculture, and real estate. We are also exploring new projects in the energy sector. Part of our mandate is to contribute to the development of Jazan region, a unique area located south of Saudi Arabia that features magnificent natural scenary of mountains as well as many kilometers of coastline, and has long been an agriculture center. Recently, a new board for JAZADCO was appointed and a mandate in line with Vision 2030 was established. The new vision is set forth with a clear focus on company profitability, as well as expand to various industries and improve operations. The mission for me as CEO of JAZADCO was to transform the company to achieve those goals. We started by understanding our current state and the business lines we are operating in as well as the expectations from the board, shareholders, and market. We also analyzed how we compare to our competitors regionally and globally, and how we benchmark in industries globally. We designed our transformation program and started implementing a number of initiatives that aim to achieve our strategic focus. We had to increase production efficiency and increase our sales revenues, which we did by expanding to new markets. As a result, our revenue increased by 18% in 2020 despite the pandemic, and the company achieved its highest profits since 2015.

How did you manage to increase revenue and profit? What were the key drivers for your growth?

It was not attributed one particular major decision, but many smaller choices that contributed to increasing revenue and reducing costs. Adapting how we conduct business and how we operate in the field to current market conditions has been important. We also looked for opportunities through aqcuisitions aimed at achieving our strategic objectives and aligned with our strategic ambition. For example, and prior to the pandemic, we acquired two e-commerce start-ups that enabled us to expand market reach of our agriculture and aquaculture offerings, which ended up significantly boosting and supporting our sales during lockdown. We also focused on investing in our human capital to achieve our goals. We created an incremental approach to help us to consitantly assess and improve as we go, rather than have a top-down transformation plan, so everyday we review where we are and how we can do it better. The incremental approach helped us achieve more in less time.

Which segment of your business drove the increase in revenue?

We increased our sales by attracting new clients, accessing new markets, and adding new approaches such as food processing. We increased our shrimp sales, which is the largest bulk of our revenue. We increased our sales by having investing in technology and improving our marketing and operations. We reduced our expenses, which did not mean cutting salaries, but being more efficient. We also increased our production significantly by 41%.

What is the story behind the acquisition of the two start-ups, and how have they influenced your results?

We did not want to reinvent the wheel or to build capabilities that already existed on the market, so we surveyed the market. I came across Mango Jazan, which was doing amazingly well. Amazing team, the brand is strong, and it has the know-how and a solid presence in the market with established clients. It was a smooth integration, because it fit naturally as our sales arm. It sells high-quality mangoes regionally through an online channel. The main target was to grow and expand in the market, and e-commerce was a must in the pandemic. We acquired another start-up called Fish Day that specializes in selling seafood products, and it was perfect because we wanted more diversity in our offering. It sells various types of fish, packs it well, and delivers it to clients.

How did the pandemic impact your business and influence your decisions surrounding digitalization?

First and far most, our priority is the wellbeing of our employees. We invested in raising awareness and adapting the recommended measures for health and safety. We adopted a dynamic approach to working through the pandemic by observing the market and adjusting accordingly. We had to pause a number of initiatives, and our team became somewhat demoralized because we had had big plans for 2020. However, we have been magnificently resilient, and we can see it in the results today. Motivating people to work with uncertainty helped us be resilient. We were also fortunate because we acquired the start-ups before the pandemic, so we were ready to have our products available to our clients through digital channels. Our sales were stable through the pandemic, and we were not hit as hard as other industries.

What are your goals for the coming years in your broader strategy, and what steps are you taking to achieve those long-term goals?

We look to expand in the aquaculture business. For agriculture, we aspire to be a leader in the market, connect, and promote high-quality fruit and vegetables to other markets. We want to expand our presence online and have more channels to reach different markets. We also want to strengthen our food brand. In a nutshell, we want to continue with our transformation and expansion in order to improve our operations.

How do you see JAZADCO being part of the country's transformation?

The whole country is going through a major transformation, both the public and private sectors and individuals are working tirelessly to achieve Vision 2030. JAZADCO is part of this movement, and we are contributing by increasing our production and improving our revenue, thereby supporting the economy where we operate in Jazan. We are contributing to national goals by increasing consumption of seafood, raising awareness, and better access to quality products and services. We play a role in agriculture transformation, because food security is part of our agenda. We are working with local producers to gain access to our logistic hubs and connect the end consumer with high-quality products. We are also trying to reach other international markets as part of our vision to expand. Finally, Employment opportunities in the aquaculture and agriculture among other industries within which JAZADCO is operating is somewhat challenging, especially for female professionals, but we can see how such diversity of profiles and backgrounds can add to the economy, which JAZADCO is taking part to facilitate access to those markets and industries.