Kamal Vachani
Kamal Vachani, Group Director, Al Maya Group Image Credit: Supplied


Kamal Vachani, Group Director, Al Maya Group, reveals his company’s approach towards an online delivery world and changes in behaviour among both retailers and consumers

When coronavirus struck most of the retailers were caught off guard, but managed to react quickly and successfully. What were the key elements that helped transform the business?

Undoubtedly, food retailers witnessed many challenges this year. But at the same time, most of them quickly transformed in real time to meet customers’ needs. Covid-19 has sparked a further growth in e-commerce in the food retail space and shown how much technology matters for the sector.

Do you think returning completely to normal will impact business in any way?

The business was impacted like in other sectors and things are getting back to normal steadily.

What do you think is going to be the impact of the very rapid change towards a greater online direct delivery world? How do you handle the economics of the direct delivery to homes?

I believe the traditional grocery business is dominated by free home delivery, and we are doing it 24/7. Since we have a strong network of supermarkets across the UAE, people prefer free home delivery. Online direct delivery also started gaining momentum amid Covid-19, and we also offer this service.

Is the coronavirus pandemic still keeping some shoppers out of supermarkets?

We still see a good number of people coming to our supermarkets. It depends on the products, as some products have to be seen physically before purchase.

Grocery stores aren’t on par with other retailers in terms of technology. What are some of the most valuable strategies the food retail people can use to successfully implement technology and a strong omnichannel strategy?

Digitisation is turning the food business into an e-commerce-centric one. Supermarkets will have their business models radically reshaped by innovations in-store, online and the supply chain. We are adopting the maximum use of advanced technology, and our customers are happy with our services. In the retail food business, the strategies should be price-focused, quality-focused and value-focused.

What recent changes in behaviour do you see among both retailers and consumers? How many of these will endure long after the crisis has subsided?

Covid-19 has taught us a couple of things, especially social distancing and the importance of a hygienic environment. Consumers now buy groceries from supermarkets wearing masks and gloves, sanitise their hands, and maintain social distancing. There is a decrease in the frequency of visits to the supermarket, but there is a marked increase in the basket size and value of purchase.

What are the challenges ahead? How are you handling these challenges?

Most of the challenges will remain the same next year as we witnessed in 2020. I think food retailers need to keep their tech edge going into 2021. Now that this is the new normal, the terminology new challenges has ceased to exist.