Alexander van ’t Riet, CEO, Mai Dubai

Blending digital transformation, sustainability, marketing

BT: How has Mai Dubai positioned itself to be different, in a me-too marketing and product space. What has been your contribution in this differentiation? 

Answer: Amidst stiff market competition, Mai Dubai recognises the importance of building a distinct brand that delivers value. The company’s efforts geared towards this end have made it one of the leading and unique entities in the bottled water industry today. Its vision to produce the highest quality drinking water that’s balanced with a perfect blend of healthy minerals whilst still being very low in sodium places the organisation in excellent standing with consumers who associate the term water with life.

Its ‘red’ bottle is also iconic so is its ‘green’ alkaline, both of which help Mai Dubai differentiates its brand from its market competitors. Combined these with all its other programmes, Mai Dubai is now synonymous with excellence, quality, sustainability, digital innovation and a grand consumer experience.

BT: Over the last five years at Mai Dubai, as you have progressed through the senior executive ranks to the highest level, and based on your previous FMCG experiences, what are the changes and inspirations that you have brought into Mai Dubai. 

Answer: Leading a rapidly growing organisation is all about priorities and execution. Imagine being at sea whilst building your boat to be more than twice its size.  That is effectively what the Mai Dubai team has done over the last few years.  It has been building a state-of-the-art plant, strengthening good corporate governance, recruiting the best talents, relentlessly building its brand to provide its consumers and partners with solid, predictable and impeccable services. Mai Dubai is constantly looking for ‘the next best alternative,’ and it trains and provides its staff with a nurturing workplace.

BT: Please describe the progress and challenges of transforming the culture of the enterprise into a sustainable and carbon-free enterprise in the medium term. What have been the internal changes triggered by this accountability towards zero carbon footprint. 

Answer: As sustainability is vital to its success, Mai Dubai has long taken key initiatives to reduce its environmental impact. The endeavours have been admittedly challenging but worth its while, understanding that it must do its part in helping build a sustainable future for all.  Over the years, the company has been integrating sustainability into its business processes to reduce its carbon footprint. As a result, it has accomplished a net-zero energy consumption for the past two consecutive years. Mai Dubai is confident that it can achieve more, as it aims to increase its contribution to the sustainability initiatives of Dubai and the UAE.

BT: Kindly describe what is your executive perception of business and digital transformation and its relevance to Mai Dubai. In other words, the impact of modern industrial technology and digital IT on the business of Mai Dubai. 

Answer: Digital transformation is essential to Mai Dubai’s business of sustainably delivering high-quality bottled water products to its target markets. In light of this, its facility operations are now fully automated with practically no human intervention– from the arrival of raw materials into its warehouse to the loading of the final product onto the trucks for dispatch. All processes are automated through cranes and conveyors. Additionally, it runs a 100% solar-powered smart factory at Al Qudra, including the state-of-the-art ‘Super Combi’ technology. ‘Super Combi’ can produce a maximum output of 86,000 bottles per hour (about 23 bottles a second). Modern industrial technology enables Mai Dubai to lead the way in raising the competitiveness of its industry.

BT: Other than energy conservation, do you see business and digital transformation taking place at scale and urgency, in any other area of Mai Dubai. 

Answer: Anything that can become digital will become digital. One cannot ignore this fact. Clients want to order using digital channels, pay digital and get digital receipts. In manufacturing plants, machine efficiencies are tracked and analysed with advanced software like never before. Even the basic mechanical equipment is digitally enhanced to allow for preventive and even predictive maintenance. For the delivery fleet, truck movements and drivers’ behaviour are both tracked to ensure good and safe deliveries. Mai Dubai operations could not be done efficiently without digital innovations.

BT: Based on your experience in FMCG enterprises, how easy is it to completely transform a consumer facing, market leading enterprise. Or is it easier to acquire a smaller business, transform it, while leveraging the principal incumbent for synergies and backward integration. 

Answer: There is space for both depending on one’s company strategy and vision. Acquisitions are a quick way to add to your top line and sometimes bottom line. But mergers or takeovers do take an extraordinary amount of effort and energy from the company. In Mai Dubai’s case, it has grown organically and has been outperforming the market since its inception. Growing that quick necessitates continuous reinvention of the organisation. It needs to adopt and adapt, and Mai Dubai is good at it. It is in its DNA. Looking ahead, the company will continue to pursue both paths.

Mai Dubai has been building a state-of-the-art plant, strengthening corporate governance, recruiting best talent, and providing predictable services

Alexander van ’t Riet, CEO, Mai Dubai
Alexander van ’t Riet, CEO, Mai Dubai.