Abdul Majid Rabbat
CEO SARA Group
SARA is a business synonymous with quality and reliability that, thanks to a solid reputation, has been around longer than most. Abdul Majid Rabbat is determined things are going to stay that way.
“Confucius said ‘Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,'” says SARA Group CEO Abdul Majid Rabbat. “I really believe this to be true.”
The philosopher’s famous quote is something of a mantra for family-owned SARA Group, part of the Capital Guidance group.
“It’s exactly the type of environment and culture that we push for here,” says Abdul Majid, “with daily adjustment and focus. What follows are the great ideas that increase sales, grow our product portfolios, improve our supply chain, and enhance the customer journey in B2B and in our retail stores.”
Founded in 1967, SARA Group has been in operation for more than 50 years, a rarity for a family-owned business in the EMEA region where few companies have as much heritage and proven pedigree. In addition to its presence across the region, SARA is operational in Asia and Africa, with offices in China, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Since its inception, the company has become the leading retail, projects, and wholesale distributors of luxury bathroom products, high-quality ceramics, world-class hospitality products, beautifully designed tableware, gift items and home products. While the attention to quality and design in any SARA product is paramount, the Group’s success has come from providing unique lifestyle solutions to customers, whether they are furnishing their home or fitting out a five-star hotel. Forever associated with the premium luxury segment, SARA has supplied products to almost every major development in the region, from the Burj Al Arab to the Address Hotels and Mohammed Bin Rashid City, along with the most prestigious residential and commercial developers, restaurants, schools, hospitals and government establishments.
As the son of the Chairman, it is perhaps unsurprising that Abdul Majid should have taken on the role of CEO. His journey, however, was not direct. As he explains: “I’ve been with SARA a little over two years now and also spent 2009 to 2012 with the company, after which I went to Harvard Business School to do an MBA before working in finance for two years in Dubai.”
This change of rhythm and environment afforded Abdul Majid the opportunity to come back to the family business with inspired ideas and a new lens. An “opportunistic move,” he says: “I was asked to come back because we needed to inject fresh new perspectives and ideas into the company at that time. The market was very difficult – as it was across all related industries – but we saw this as an opportunity to change, adapt and grow stronger from it.”
On his return in 2016 the company went through a major restructuring involving numerous changes. This included re-inventing pieces of the previous business model, taking a more direct hand in supplier and partner relationships, and repositioning SARA Group in the market with a new image, including a rebranded identity. Business development was also a key factor.
“We launched several new divisions and our own brand of products in multiple divisions,” says Abdul Majid. “On the HR side, a new performance-based management style was put in place to reflect the key performance indicators that would make SARA stand out and succeed for the next ten years and beyond. On an operational level there have been many changes too, from procurement to logistics and supply chain, all to suit the environment and best ready SARA for the future.”
Future-proofing the business is clearly close to Abdul Majid’s heart and he is determined to leave a strong legacy for later generations to inherit. The last year has been about strengthening the internal changes while 2019 will see a stronger focus on the new SARA being rolled out and pushed externally, all with the long-term vision of making the next 50 years even more successful than the last. SARA has a very strong platform from which to launch new initiatives; it represents more than 100 global brands with a strong retail presence with over 70 locations across the region, numbers over 600 employees, and enjoys accumulated decades of experience within the industries it operates in between said employees.
Abdul Majid says: “Our industry and our markets are very dependent on long-term financial stability. Players rely heavily on both infrastructure and financial capabilities to supply the type of mega projects that we deliver and serve as many customers on a daily basis as we do. We have been around for a long time and our longevity inspires the trust and confidence of clients and suppliers. We have 17 warehouses and 12 offices that are spread in all the major cities throughout the region, close to all of our clients. This gives us the ability to deliver and service them impeccably and on time.”
Of equal importance at SARA is human capital. Abdul Majid cites his workforce as “professional and proactive individuals who thrive on engagement,” and he is passionate about continuing to develop and grow his team and making sure that SARA offers a very positive and enjoyable work culture.
“Hopefully this makes us the employer of choice in this industry,” says Abdul Majid. “Employee satisfaction and engagement are very important as this reflects directly on customer satisfaction and engagement; and that is exactly what we aim to achieve every day.”