Published January 2018 by Aqdas Muzaffar
I like to do my best thinking while staring out airplane windows. During my brief one hour flight to Bahrain for my first market visit and meeting with distributors, I reflected on my new journey as a MENA Graduate, one thing that has definitely changed my outlook of life. I could never have guessed how it would turn out initially, but here I am in the fourth month of my first rotation assigned to the Dubai office in Distributor Sales and having the most conducive and fruitful exposure to the market realms in the MENA region.
If you are wondering what exactly is Distributor Sales, let me give you a brief overview of what we actually do! Distributor Sales conducts business for Arla in those markets where we don’t have our local offices or joint ventures. When you have a joint venture in different markets with your local sales or distribution teams, things become much easier and smoother as local teams are there to work with you. I haven’t yet met all our distributors in person in various markets such as Libya, Yemen, UAE, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan to name a few, but I thoroughly communicate and join forces with them on an everyday basis to drive the business in a lucrative manner. The most interesting and challenging part of working with distributor sales is that your distributors have their own targets, goals and agendas and we play a significant role in ensuring that our distributors run the business in an Arla way as we aim to become even bigger and better and adhering to our “Good Growth” strategy across Arla.
The MENA Graduate Programme is much more than just an ordinary entry level position! Because within this programme you get ownership and exposure to a lot of interesting projects at the same time. You get exposed to complex market dynamics and insights while reaching out to different people virtually or in real life. Even people within Arla are extremely friendly and helpful and I often get opportunities to interact with people outside my region such as with my colleagues in Bangladesh, Nigeria or even from Dominican Republic. Reaching out to them is as simple as dropping them an email. For the NPD’s – or New Product Developments – they are more than willing to share their success stories which makes it easier for us to get inspired and launch new products in new markets.
As I mentioned earlier, I am working on multiple projects simultaneously. One of my core projects is to launch Arla Organic Milk in Bahrain & Jordan, whereas, on the other side I’m contributing significantly to the launch of Cream Cheese in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco. I am also working on milk powder strategy in Yemen, Lebanon and Libya. It is interesting to know how every market has different needs and consumption patterns. For example in Azerbaijan, eating white Feta cheese with water melons is like the best thing ever! During the watermelon season, sales of white cheese go far up so we make sure our placement in the store responds to that. I could also mention lots of other things, but I will not reveal our market strategies 😊
Presenting to distributors in Bahrain
My constant interaction with colleagues in Arla and different distributors has developed strong emotional and interpersonal skills and has enabled me to understand different perspectives better by keeping in mind our agenda and their agenda. Never at a point I have felt short on support as my colleagues are highly supportive and transparent. In Arla it is a core value that we collaborate across departments, functions and zones, and working without borders have really enhanced my knowledge and shaped my career development and growth.
Therefore, if you are looking for a similar exhilarating experience, then look no further as Arla is your place to be!