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Mohamad-Ali Ahmad


Looking Forward to Economic Recovery in Mozambique

Managing Director, Premier Group


Mohamad-Ali Ahmad is the Managing Director of Premier Group, the holding company of various businesses in Mozambique, including the Premier Superspar, Maputo Fresh Market, and Fantazia retail and wholesale stores. Ahmad originates from a family history of traders, retailers, and wholesalers in Africa. Educated in Mozambique and South Africa for his tertiary studies, he joined the family-run business in 2010, investing the following six years integrally involved in every division of the business. In 2016 he was appointed managing director, playing an instrumental role in the group’s revenue growth and expansion to five stores and two separate food and non-food distribution centers.

"With every recession comes opportunities in disguise."

How has Premier Group benefitted from the fusion with Spar?

In 2002, my father Hussein Ali Ahmad founded Premier. The business originally focused on building materials, hardware, and sanitary ware products. Rapid expansion then led to the inclusion of the toys, sports, outdoor, stationery, and home and decoration categories. In 2010, the food component was added. We have benefited from our partnership with the international Spar Group in a number of ways but most importantly from the group’s purchasing power, which provides a vast range of products to supply to the Mozambican market. However, we did not just replicate the South African business model in Mozambique; our business model and retail strategy has been built on many years of experience in the Mozambican market and our innate understanding of our customers’ needs, which when coupled with the Spar Group has helped create a unique business model in Mozambique.

How has the retail sector been affected by the economic recession of past years? What is your outlook for 2020?

The economic recession posed strong challenges to our business and the retail sector. But we have come a long way from when, in the space of two weeks, the meticais devalued 50% to the US dollar, causing enormous challenges in cost controls, sourcing of goods, pricing of goods, cash flow management, return on investment, and the challenges of sourcing foreign currency to pay international suppliers. All of this was coupled with one of the main constraints for our sector: Mozambique’s massive reliance on imports, which makes the country highly exposed to foreign currency fluctuations. Despite this, I am optimistic about the country, the economic outlook, and our future. The country now seems to have weathered the storm well, and we are now looking forward to an economic recovery. We have already seen a significant change in 2019 compared to previous years. When a recession hits, customers start looking for the cheapest, most cost-effective products; now the trend is slowly turning toward mid-range products. This is an indicator of a higher degree of conditions, relaxation, and stability in the Mozambican market.

Why did you venture into an expansion plan in the midst of economic recession in 2017?

With every recession comes opportunities in disguise. We had to reinvent ourselves. I like to say that we have to be like water, able to adapt and reinvent ourselves any way the world hits us. We have learnt to adapt to changing scenarios, to the economy, to our consumers, and to our employees. In 2017, we launched four retail stores and one factory. The expansion plan included a 5,800sqm supermarket, a 1,300sqm toy and baby store called Fantazia; both in Baia Mall in Maputo, a 7,500sqm hypermarket at Novare Matola Mall, and a cash-and-carry wholesale store, Maputo Fresh Market, which focuses on supplying fresh fruit and vegetables among food and non-food products to other businesses, hotels, and restaurants. We have also opened Espiga d’Ouro, a USD 50 million investment in the form of a bread factory. It can produce up to 1.3 million loaves of bread per day. Everything is fully automated, which guarantees the highest levels of efficiencies and of course hygiene for our consumers.

What are Premier’s main strengths?

Our personal involvement, passion in execution, total refusal to allow any obstacle to block us, and our constant determination to improve our customer service, controls within our business, and always searching for the next level of growth are our main strengths. Our most important one, however, is our proximity to our customers. We have provided them with a wonderful shopping experience, offering a vast range of products, with competitive pricing, comforts, and the highest levels of hygiene. Customer service is what defines us and has been the root of our success and growth. However, our primary vehicle for assuring that this is achieved is our people: 1,500 staff across five stores and two warehouse distribution centers in Premier Superspar alone, and over 2500 people across the other Premier Group subsidiary companies. Another strength is our perpetual securing of inventory, guaranteeing the availability of products at all times. The execution of our principles and the management of our people has led to a number of recognitions, such as Best Retail Store award for nine consecutive years since 2012 and Highest Growth in Earnings award measured among the top 100 companies in Mozambique by KPMG.

What are your goals for 2020?

We are striving to consolidate and establish ourselves as the first-choice destination retailer within the Mozambican market. To prepare for the future challenges, we are currently in the process of implementing process automation and vertical integration within our business, increasing our competitiveness, and our total market offering. We intend to better integrate technology into our business, from automatic orders locally, regionally, and internationally to automatic replenishments of stock between our stores. In the final analysis, our goal is not just linked to business. I look at us and what defines who we are and our proven success. We want to leave our footprint as a model and integral part of the development of the country.



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