Dubai: A perfect night’s sleep defines your day. Intercoil, based in Al Quoz, Dubai, takes this seriously — with its simple, important mission: “Healthy sleep…healthy life.”
As a multi-awarded manufacturer of foam, mattresses, bedroom furniture, the company never rests on its laurels. When the company started in 1974 (originally named International Foam Factory), it had a few employees. Today, the company (renamed as Intercoil in 2003) employs nearly 350 people in three factories, producing up to 1,500 mattresses per day. It has also roped in top brands from the West — as a licensee manufacturer. But also manufacturers its own products under the Intercoil brand.
The journey wasn't always easy, but the bed-maker has no plans of putting its ambitions to sleep.
Target: 1 billion beds for the world
The company’s pedigree epitomises the march of the UAE, a young country that never stops running the moment it wakes up. The company’s ultimate goal: to promote healthy sleep, through its quality products and which are also “honestly priced”.
“Our BHAG — big, hairy, audacious goal — is to enhance the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. It’s a very ambitious target, but we are confident we will achieve it.”
As a family-owned business approaches its golden jubilee, the home-grown brand has its eyes set on an audacious ambition: making 1 billion beds.
“It is out BHAG — big, hairy, audacious goal,” Hassan A. Al-Hazeem, the 46-year-old Managing Director of Intercoil. “Our BHAG is to enhance the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. It’s a very ambitious target, but we are confident we will achieve it.”
Leaner, but no lay-offs
From a single factory in Dubais in 1974, the company expanded beyond the emirate, with two more manufacturing facilities. As a bed supplier, its three factories continued to operate even during the lockdown months, though at a lower capacity.
“We didn’t lay-off people as a reaction to the pandemic. We only asked a few people who were not performing to leave, not as a result of the pandemic. When things started to improve, and the lockdown rules had been eased, we were in a position to meet the customer demands.”
The decision paid off. From June onwards, sales started picking up again, allowing the company to actually close the 2020 even slightly higher than 2019, despite the challenges the world as a whole had to face. “In my opinion, we consider that to be an achievement in itself.”
Tools that help
In these challenging times, it’s important for organisations to be agile, be quick in taking and implementing decisions. “We have implemented ‘agile’ — to have a flexible structure that promotes collaboration between the different teams and align our goals based on our BHAG as well as objectives and key results (OKRs). Instead of looking only at annual targets, we’re also looking at quarterly, 90-day targets,” said Al-Hazeem.
Al-Hazeem completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also earned an MBA from the American University in Dubai. These equipped him with the mindset that looks for first principles in problem solving. He worked for a number of years for a UAE bank, with no plans to join the family business. But at age 26, in 1999, he was asked to take over.
Since then, Al Hazeem used his first-principles thinking to further build his base, starting with boosting foam manufacturing, one of the basic building blocks of his business.
That cemented his target for Intercoil to become vertically integrated: the company manufactures its own bed springs and other key components, a fact that helps his team avoid supply bottlenecks. Those moves were key to further expanding the "empire of comfort" his father Abbas Ali Al-Hazeem founded in Dubai in 1974 and left in his able hands to grow. And grow it he did. After taking the helm, Al Hazeem buckled down to work, not only to build the brand, but also to build records.
1,500Daily mattress production capacity of Intercoil, Dubai-based manufacturer
In 2000, Intercoil bagged the Guinness World Record for making the largest spring mattress on the planet. In 2001, the company also completed the ISO 9001: 2000, making it the region's first company in its industry to earn that plaque. This gained for Intercoil the confidence to sign up top US and European brands — Simmons, Therapedic and Spaldin — as their licensed manufacturing partners in the Middle East and North African region from as early as 2002.
In 2011, at a European buyer-supplier event the company joined, Al-Hazeem said: “I wanted to learn more about the European market and see what our potential was in it. In Europe, the buyers I met were happy to see that a Dubai-based company was trying to supply to Europe and there weren't any obstacles [I saw] to prevent us from supplying to that continent.”
We invest in our people, equipment,and systems. The ultimate goal is to make all our customers happy. There can be no compromising on healthy sleep and healthy lifestyle. Consumers want to buy with peace of mind.
Between 2012 and 2017, the company built two other factories outside Dubai — in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and Damman, Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Intercoil landed two more Guinness Records (world’s largest bed set in 2007 and longest human mattress dominoes in 2010).
8,000tonnesAnnual foam production capacity of Intercoil across its 3 factories (Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Damman)
Beyond setting fun records, Al Hazeem’s team ventured further out. Manufacturing capacity grew five-fold, from about 300 mattresses daily in 2011 to 1,500 per as of March 2021. Today, Intercoil is also a leading manufacturer of orthopaedic beds.
Intercoil recently closed one of its biggest deals, supplying mattresses to a London hotel in 2020 (Jumeirah Carlton Tower).
To bolsters his company credentials, Al-Hazeem invested in $1-million R&D lab, a fully equipped bed-testing facility. The lab tests the quality and durability of every bed they make. Each component is subjected to rigorous tests — from the springs to the foam and fabric used.
• “Scrum Board”: On a daily basis, what we use a scrum board — which is the “to do”, “doing”, “done” board. That way, the entire team is aligned on what’s happening during the week and on a daily basis.
• “Power of 1”: We always look at ways to increase sales by 1%, raise productivity by 1%, reduce cost and procurement by 1%, increase the price by 1%. That’s what we do on a monthly basis. We try to reduce cost and improve our efficiency.
• “The bridge”: This is one tool that helps us Increase capacity and raise efficiencies, by eliminating bottlenecks. In the last two months, we have eliminated three bottlenecks in our plant, and increased our capacity to such an extent that we are now able to produce in one shift what we used to do in two.”
Manish Modani, Intercoil Head of Strategy, Operations and Business Excellence
“This ensures that we match the exacting standards required by each of our customers. That’s how we can truly validate all our warranties. When we say we give a 10-year warranty, it’s backed by lab data that simulates use in real-life. That’s the way we ensure customer happiness.”
Armed with the so-called “10x thinking”, the company has set it next target: to grow outside the Middle East and North Africa region, by boosting its presence in the US, UK and South Asia. “We’re working on this plan. Hopefully, from 2022, we’re going to start to get into these new markets. And we have to make sure we have the right platform to do that.”
• UPT/ATV: “My role is to look at my unit per transaction (UPT) and average transaction value (ATV). I must ensure the units in the shops and key accounts are aligned with the 1 billion target to be achieved within 9 years. So I have to make sure that I’m selling the right prices with the right numbers all over the stores and with our key accounts, in the UAE and outside the UAE.
• Collective intelligence: "On a daily basis, one of the tools I use is collective intelligence. With it, I gather my team and try to put all our minds together to achieve our targets, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
• ‘10x’. This rule says that: (a) You should set targets for yourself that are 10X greater than what you believe you can achieve; and (b) You should take actions that are 10 times greater than what you believe are necessary to achieve your goals.
Intercoil’s 1 billion beds by 2030 target certainly looks like a moonshot today. But that ambitious goal-setting makes it one of UAE’s big thinkers among home-grown companies, like the country it belongs to — the UAE has recently sent its successful Hope Probe to Mars, the first Arab country to do so, and the fifth nation to achieve the feat.
“We invest in our people, equipment and systems," said Al-Hazeem. "The ultimate goal is to make all our customers happy. There can be no compromising on healthy sleep and healthy lifestyle. Consumers want to buy with peace of mind.”