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Retail future in Pakistan is pleasant, successful

Retail future in Pakistan is pleasant, successful

  • Frozen Desserts have a big opportunity to grow in Pakistan
  • Omore is a brand which thrives on innovation and accessibility
  • Our products create excitement and engagement with consumers

Interview with Syed Talha Imam — General Manager Ice-cream at FCEPL

FrieslandCampinaEngro Pakistan Limited is a Pakistani dairy company and a subsidiary of the Dutch multinational corporative Royal FrieslandCampina. The Company launched as Engro Foods in 2005 with our first production facility in Sukkur, Pakistan and the introduction of our flagship UHT milk brand: Olper’s. Following successful entries in the tea-whitening category with Tarang in 2007, and the frozen desserts market with Omore in 2009, we entered a strategic partnership with Royal FrieslandCampina of Netherlands in 2016.

This partnership allowed us to gain access to more than 145 years of dairy expertise, technology, and R&D. It further advanced our efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals we prioritise: environment, gender equality, no poverty and zero hunger. With two production facilities, in Sukkur and Sahiwal, a dairy farm in Nara, over 1300 milk collection centres and a resource network encompassing thousands of individuals, our expansive and robust footprint ensures a sustainable, efficient supply chain, knowledgeable farmers and empowered communities.

Syed Talha Imam, an established commercial leader, with 10 years of Unilever experience, joined FrieslandCampinaEngro Pakistan Limited in 2018 as Head of Shopper Marketing in Dairy business with his strong portfolio of working with different multinational FMCGs across Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh. Today, he is the General Manager at FCEPL, with the achievement of delivering highest volume delivery for frozen dessert in Pakistan in the 10-year history of the brand, under his belt.

PAGE: What is the future of retail in Pakistan in terms of opportunities and challenges?

Syed Talha Imam: According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan, about 64 percent of Pakistanis are under the age of 30. Pakistan’s retail sector is heavily driven by this age group, which is highly independent and very well-informed, and this is where the future of our retail sector lies. They prefer to make their own choices and keep up with changing trends. Therefore, brands consistently need to innovate at a fast pace to stay relevant and grow with their target market’s changing preferences.

As for the retail industry, I believe that it is evolving rapidly as I read in a recent report by Euromonitor that it’s ready to expand at a fast pace over the next five years with the country’s youth bulge accounting for this exponential growth.

With an annual growth rate of 8%, it has immense potential to cater to changing consumer behavior and demand.

Going forward, it’s evident that new methods of service will be adopted and consumption patterns will evolve. Diverse portfolios and faster delivery times will provide a competitive edge to businesses.

I foresee e-retail as a major contributor. Between 2017 and 2018, the numbers of local e-commerce merchants had more than doubled and the pandemic has further expedited this growth with more retail businesses shifting to online selling. The opportunities are unlimited especially for those who move with speed and decisiveness.

PAGE: Considering only a short span of time has passed since FrieslandCampina’s acquisition of Engro Foods, how would you assess FCEPL’s achievements?

Syed Talha Imam: Within a short time, FrieslandCampina Engro Pakistan Limited has made huge strides. We are operating in an environment where the rules around food safety and nutrition are considerably different for the formal sector vs the informal sector (especially the rules around regulations and taxation) yet we continue to deliver on our promise to provide safe and healthy nutrition to Pakistan.

We are proud of the fact that we are playing a huge part in perception change and conversion from adulterated loose milk to safe packaged milk. Our winning strategies in the market, our people, and the organization we have shaped are the key drivers of our culture and success.

PAGE: As a part of the Pakistan Leadership Team at FrieslandCampinaEngro Pakistan Ltd, what is your vision for the Company?

Syed Talha Imam: Our purpose is to “transform the health and wellbeing of Pakistanis now and for generations to come, by nourishing them through unlocking the goodness of milk from grass to glass, as well as by enhancing the livelihood of farmers.”

We are committed to providing safe and healthy nutrition to millions of Pakistani’s every day and every little achievement in that direction, counts.

Specific to frozen desserts, we want consumers to have a thrilling and accessible experience by being a partner in their wonderful and sparkling moments of excitement. We are not talking about changing their lives, we just want them to cherish that little moment of wonder when they take the first bite of Omore and say “WOW”.

PAGE: What value and efficiency are FC global operations bringing to the local supply chain?

Syed Talha Imam: A lot for dairy. It has allowed us to gain access to almost 150 years (this year) of dairy expertise, technology and the R&D. However, for frozen desserts, it’s the other way around. We are the only frozen desserts brand of Royal FrieslandCampinaFC, which means that our success locally, is key to our expansion. This also means that we are able to share our local knowledge and best practices with the global team, which largely helps with R&D when launching new products in Pakistan.

Being a part of one of the world’s largest dairy businesses helps with investment and more importantly, builds confidence that you get as an organization.

PAGE: How has the pandemic affected demand and supply chains locally?

Syed Talha Imam: As I said earlier, we would like Omore to be an innovative yet affordable brand that is accessible to the masses. However, with the global impact of the pandemic, cost pressures have increased by multiple folds. Raw material has become more expensive and the operating environment has beengenerally challenging. We would like to absorb most of the cost but inevitably, some must be passed on which impacts affordability. We are, however, determined to keep affordable price points intact.

PAGE: What is your opinion about the consumer market in Pakistan? Your target audience?

Syed Talha Imam: Consumers in Pakistan are the best – they are enlightened and insightful. They respond well, give feedback and help us improve constantly. In the toughest of times, people have not lost hope. In fact, they have given us hope as an organization. Our target audience is anyone who needs a cheer.

PAGE: How do you plan to compete with existing products in the market?

Syed Talha Imam: It depends on what we see as competition. For me, everything that can be consumed as a snack, dessert, refreshment, or just a quick bite to kill a hunger pang — is competition. For the frozen dessert’s category, which is much bigger across the world than it is in Pakistan, the potential is huge and there is room for all players to establish themselves, grow and make a difference. Exciting Pakistani consumers in the scorching heat of summers is what we aim for. Whoever can do that innovatively and at an affordable price, will get the larger share of voice.

PAGE: What are your future plans for Pakistan?

Syed Talha Imam: It is undeniable that the room to explore and grow in the Pakistani market is massive. We have a very young population that seeks innovation and excitement with a little bit of adventure. We want to excite consumers with opportunities to enjoy novel sensory experiences. The thematic execution of Omore’s latest TVC, “Wow Bhara Bite”, has been crafted to showcase the key category drivers of taste and creaminess while at the same time highlighting and building the brand’s distinctive assets and its hero SKU assortment.

The TVC is fresh, vibrant, spontaneous, and lighthearted, echoing the brand’s personality, its colors, and new design architecture while staying true to some of signature traits, such as the beloved jingle.

Along with that, we want to increase accessibility across Pakistan so more and more people can interact with Omore and experience its wonder!

PAGE: You have considerable experience working with frozen desserts, how is it different from other products you have worked with?

Syed Talha Imam: I have worked for more than 11 categories and I can safely say that frozen desserts is the most exciting of them all. Anyone working in a category that requires the management of a temperature-controlled cold chain will tell you that it’s a world of its own with its own set of unique challenges.

Omore is a festive brand and it needs to be present at all impulse occasions, especially the festive ones. Eid, Independence Day, summer vacations, all gazette holidays – essentially the moments when everyone is on a break is our time of business. We do it because we like it. There is nothing better than watching a child smile when he takes his first bite of Omore or watching a grandmother enjoy it like she is her grandson’s age. There is no category that is equally popular across such a diverse age group. For us, that is a goal worth pursuing. We want to continue doing that, more and OMORE.

PAGE: Keeping in mind the competitors, what are your thoughts on the growth of the frozen desserts market in Pakistan, especially your own brand?

Syed Talha Imam: As I mentioned earlier, the consumption of frozen desserts in Pakistan is low right now. With a young population and a popular price point strategy, there is room for everyone to grow. Compared to markets like Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey, Pakistan has a long way to go. Everyone is working towards growing the industry and every investment in the industry helps, no matter which brand it comes from. At the end of the day, it helps the category. A brand needs to stand for something. Omore stands for innovation and accessibility, and as long as we can stay true to that, we will keep growing.

PAGE: Can you share the numbers regarding the annual sales of frozen desserts in FCEPL?

Syed Talha Imam: We sell more than 20 million litres of Omore annually, which is very big for just a 10-year-old brand. We also just announced our Quarter 1 financial results and reported a stellar 84% growth in revenue, increasing from Rs. 491 million (for the same period last year) to Rs. 903 million.

PAGE: Does FCEPL have any plans for any new frozen desserts?

Syed Talha Imam: innovation is a key driver of future business growth.We introduce new frozen dessert treats every year. We have brought at least 10 different flavors in the last 2 years alone and we plan to continue doing so to attract all age groups.

PAGE: How has COVID-19 impacted the frozen desserts industry?

Syed Talha Imam: COVID-19 impacted sales last year, but it has not impacted our spirits. We believe in the ability of the market to bounce back and we are grateful for the resilience of our consumers. The summer season has just begun and we are confident that Omore will keep consumers excited by sharing WOW moments. Omore will cheer people up at a time when everyone is looking for moments of joy in their lives. Here’s wishing everyone health, happiness, and a WOW Bhara Bite with Omore!

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