Kindly introduce yourself for record purpose?
My full name are Samer Halaoui, but everyone call me SAM.
What is your designation?
I am the managing director of YAALI FOODS Nigeria Limited.
How long has your company been in existence in Nigeria?
We started our activities fully in January 2020, we where held up by the Covid -19 pandemic, but we can say we have had two years activities give or take.
How where you able to breakthrough the Nigeria market knowing how competitive the market is?
It was an uphill battle and it is still an uphill battle, but we took a bet, we noticed that most companies will produce and send direct to the distributors without any effort to to promote their product, so we engaged in below the line advertisements e.g we hire…
The gari three in one is also an innovation, those are the two main risk we took, though the oath did not move vary well but the gari moved very well. We learnt some lessons from both the gari and the oath, and if I have to do of over again, perhaps I will still do the two that is product wise.. Another chance I took here was to hire a lot of young people that has not gotten to the end of there studies, so it was a risk for employment, but we don’t regret any of them.so that’s for the product and the theme . location was also a risk too as you may know we are on the high way, though it paid of , our location is between Lagos and Ibadan ,I will say that after two years of activities, it is two earl to count regret, we are still early in the journey maybe after five years I will have few more to mention, but so far, not too many regrets.
Looking at your success so far, where do you want to be in the next five years?
I will say first, to increase the range of our products to at least ten products, I will like to have ten good products to offer to Nigerians, that will be number one, number two will be to have another department that will be focused on snacks, through it is just an idea for now, peanut will be step because what we are doing is logically break fast meal and I think the snack is the future.
Interms of doing business in Nigeria, we have some standardization, how where you able to brake through to get certified?
That was the big challenge and we where not well advised, I used to tell the Nafdac officials when they come here that the country is complicated in every sector be it the. Immigration, Labour, Nafdac or Environment etc, you discover that there are so many rules to follow and non of these regency will come and advice you on how to go about it and they will only wait for you to make a mistake, also making payment is quite complicated in Nigeria, the system here are not the same in other countries, rules and regulations are the same, as the officials come to visit us, they will discover a lot of things that we need to modify and we will tell them no one informed us before now. but truth be told, they where quite helpful because they don’t come here to punish us rather they come to advice and on less you face them, you may not know this about them. though we have been punished at some point for different reasons, but currently speaking, there visit during the end of this year was good because they were happy with the current position of our factory. So I think we are doing well right now and we fully understand how these regulations work here in Nigeria. We now have the support of NAFDAC and the Ministry of Environment.
I can see you have a great fashion sense, what’s your secret?
I had to tone it down , I was a bit creative earlier in my life with fashion, but you know you have to look your position in business so much as to convey in the first impression, so i dress on casual than before, so I try to keep it simple, I wear shirts, jeans nice pare of shoes, but if I get the chance to go out, I will like my creativity to go wider. So I like beautiful things over all. like I said, I could not explore the life outside business here in Nigeria, like I said, as I get a little more comfortable, here in Nigeria I will like to go for shopping.
What is your favourite Nigeria food?
Gari is my favourite Nigeria food , I eat my product gari and sugar and Nigeria jollof rice and chicken, I tried the suyer too and my cook doesn’t know more than that.
How where you able to balance work life and social life?
Most of your social life in Nigeria is tied to business, that is the most interesting thing about Nigeria, the other countries I had been to, you will have friends outside your business, but here in Nigeria,the two are tied, your friends are your customers. It is interesting and exciting at the same time most of my circle are tied to my business so I go out to the restaurant with my customers and staffs like that,so in Nigeria, when you come here you have to accept that ninety percent of your life will be business related, though I speak out of ignorance, because am only here for about two to three years now, I still have so much to discover, so far this how my circle is also people that come for advert etc end up getting acquainted with me that we even go out together to the restaurant etc.
Lastly, recruiting the right people how challenging was it?
I will say it was a big challenge, but I will say we where blessed we got very lucky from the moment I started till today, we started with eighty sales men only few of them left because they where not equal to the task or they could be disappointed in us or the other way round. Eighty percent of my current theme are part of the first theme we hired. When I say it was challenging, is because when you want to hire, the amount of CVs you get and the locations of those who want to work are among the criteria you have to consider to find perfect men for the job so when I came here, I did most of the interview myself, we started with eighty to one hundred staffs so when the Covid-19 lock down started, so many companies let go some of their staffs, but kept ours,
so that gave them some sense of loyalty when they know that even when the situation are good, we will be there for them .we where so young when the Covid-19 started, but we still decided to keep the same products, the same staffs etc. It was a great move, though it was difficult but we got blessed with the right people and we are glad to have them, many of them are very young actually.
Since you started, do you have support from the government?
To be honest, we have not requested for any support from the government I know so many companies approach government for loan, but we did not take this rout, we decided be self sufficient and to minimize any loan we may take in the future , but so far we have not requested for any loan from the government or bank and we don’t have any dealing with them in that regard, when we grow we will have to, but being a young company and we are operating on our own is a sign that we are on the right direction.
What’s your last word for your customers?
I will say it was a rough start , and I will say to all my customers am very glad that I personally stayed and forth the battle because so many would have left the country when the going was tough, it could be the dollar rate, the ban from the government, End SARS , Covid-19 lock down etc. We are very optimistic and we want our customers to keep dreaming about new items, about new business opportunities, for we are here to create new out of the old, let them be patient for we are still young in our journey and we hope to grow very fast, Thank you very much.