Hani Weiss, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Retail, Talks To ESM

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Hani Weiss, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Retail, Talks To ESM

Majid Al Futtaim Retail is putting data at the heart of its operations. ESM spoke to CEO Hani Weiss about the Carrefour franchise operator's growth ambitions. A full-length version of this article will appear in the next edition of ESM.

Founded three decades ago in Dubai, Majid Al Futtaim is the largest lifestyle and leisure conglomerate in the Middle East, reporting revenue of around Dh32.29 billion (€8.4 billion) last year across its operations.

Its Majid Al Futtaim Retail arm boasts a portfolio of around 450 stores, holding the franchise for the Carrefour brand in 30 countries, and operating the banner in 16.

Maintaining such a complex footprint in these uncertain times, however, is far from simple, and according to Hani Weiss, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Retail, the group is now several years into a journey to put data at the heart of its operations, thereby enabling greater efficiency and implementation of new technologies.

"Our data journey started in 2015, but we really doubled down on it as a group in 2017," he tells ESM. "When I joined as CEO, I thought to myself, 'if we are going to be successful in this journey, we need to transform the culture of the business'. We want to become a company that makes decisions based on data, rather than intuition."


Company Vision

Weiss has been with Majid Al Futtaim Retail for more than two decades, working his way up through the ranks before being appointed chief executive in 2017, so he understands the need to bring all employees 'on board' with the company's vision.

"Most retailers have a lot of ego when it comes to digital transformation," he says, "in that they think they know everything. They bring in graduates with a data analytics mindset and put them working alongside the traditional workforce, and suddenly there's a major culture shock within their organisation."

To smooth this process, Majid Al Futtaim Retail has sought to empower its workforce with a digital knowledge relevant to their position – whether they work as a cashier, for example, or in the marketing department – building a culture in which data underpins each decision that is made.

"Within the traditional, bricks and mortar side of the business, we have trained people to become 'digital translators', to connect the data scientists with our traditional workforce," says Weiss. "These are people that understand the business, but also understand the need for data, and the need for change. This has helped us break the silos, to avoid having opposing factions within our business – we've been able to get people to converge and work together.


"It's a long journey, and I don't think we've cracked it yet, but we are learning every day and will continue to learn."

Expanding The Offering

In September of last year, Majid Al Futtaim Retail opened Carrefour City+, the Middle East's first checkout-free store, in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai – a "unique value proposition for our customers," says Weiss – while last November it partnered with the Dubai authorities on a drone delivery programme, as part of the Dubai Programme to Enable Drone Transportation initiative.

Elsewhere, this past March, the group's Leisure division unveiled the first 'hybrid digital food hall concept' at its City Centre Me’aisem mall in Dubai.

Weiss believes these sort of investments are likely to accelerate as retail continues to evolve.


"We need to jump into the unknown," says Weiss. "You need to embrace the future, because as a retailer, if you don't innovate, you will die. Change is the only constant, so we need to continue to challenge ourselves and the way we do business."

A full-length version of this article will appear in the next edition of ESM, which will be published in September. 

© 2022 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest Retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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