Alain Bejjani: When I became CEO, the first meaningful action I took was to redefine our sense of purpose. I wanted us to have a customer brand that would be meaningful 25 years from now. I personally don’t think 25 years is very long term, but, still, it is long term in the world that we live in. And if you want to look 25 years ahead, you have to have a clear answer to the question “What is our purpose?” We needed to crystallize what drives us as individuals and as a company. So we engaged the organization at large and came to define our vision as “great moments for everyone, every day.” Then we asked, “What are the values we must live to support such a vision?” We had always been a values-driven organization but had never crystallized our values; we finally articulated them as “bold, passionate, and together.”
The Quarterly: Why did you feel that it was necessary to reappraise the company’s purpose?
Alain Bejjani: The balance of power has shifted over the last decade. Once, our future was determined by the result of our strategies, our operational excellence, our ability to deliver our financial results. There is much more to it than that today. Now, the customer decides. Social media and access gave our customers a great voice, and that very loud voice is what defines the future of the organization. The reality is that continuing to be in business is now simply the result of the customer giving us license to be in business. So you need to earn that trust on a daily basis, with every interaction. At Majid Al Futtaim, that means creating “great moments, for everyone, every day,” so we can continue to be in business. It was a holistic transformation to take the business from a good place to a great place. We had to rewire the organization, we had to deliver operational excellence—but it’s done with purpose, and a North Star. [For more, see sidebar, “Majid Al Futtaim’s ‘great moments’ transformation.”]
The Quarterly: So has this transformation helped you weather the COVID-19 storm?
Alain Bejjani: This is a scenario that you could have never imagined possible, even in our worst-case risk and business-continuity planning [exercises]—to shut down the business for an indefinite period of time, with no idea whether people are going to come back to you or how much they will consume if they do come back.
Had this happened to us in 2016, we would have been left on the curb. But because of all that we have done in the past few years to accelerate digitization and drive a step change in our understanding of our customers through data and analytics, we have been able to continue to serve our customers in the best possible way, continue to be their option of choice despite the difficulties.
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