The CEO of beverages maker Soda King Somalia, Mr Ahmed Guled, talks about what it has taken the company to thrive and built customer loyalty in Somalia
The idea of Soda King Somalia; how did it come about?
Somalia has plenty of natural and organic fruits. People need to drink healthy natural drinks instead of chemically flavoured ones. Did you know that 85 per cent of the drinks consumed in Somalia come from Middle East countries? If we can produce our own juice, then we don’t need to import drinks from some other place.
Is this your first role as a managing director?
No it isn’t. I have held managerial roles from the time I was 17. This was in 1989. From that time to today, I have headed an international television channel based in the UK, a telecommunications company based in London, and an import and export company in Somalia and UAE.
As a managing director, what do you rely on more concerning matters such as approach to market? Your gut feeling or data?
Data is key. We therefore use special business tools to approach the market. For this, we rely on proper market research and data analysis.
What is Soda King’s market outlook?
We became very popular in a very short time. This, I believe, can be attributed to the quality of our products. There are few players in the market that we can look at as competitors, but so far, I think we have an upper hand because of the large selection of products we offer and the fact that these products are of high quality.
How exactly do you define quality in this case?
Most soft drink companies use chemical additives like Tartenzine when manufacturing their products. At Soda King, we do not do this. We use natural products: fruits. Our raw materials are purely and strictly organic. Doing this has set our products apart from those of our competitors.
Tell us about your team?
The reason our company has done so well so far and achieved this much, is because of the team. They are competent and qualified at all the levels.
Share with us two things that make Soda King Somalia products different from the other beverage products in the market?
One is that we produce our drinks from natural fruits. Two is that we have a large selection of products from which our customers can choose.
Customer loyalty is king in the beverage industry. How do you plan on getting a loyal customer base?
So far, I can say that we have an excellent relationship with our customers. We take customer satisfaction very seriously. How will we keep them in our corner? We will keep providing high quality soft drinks that they have shown they love and respect.
Business collaborations are part of the corporate space today. Is there room at Soda King for collaborations?
We are open to cooperation with any other business. We especially like to support small businesses and would not mind giving such ventures an opportunity to grow with us.
In five years, where do you see Soda King Somalia?
In the near future, we will be opening new Soda King Plants in Hargeisa, Nairobi, Djibouti and Addis Ababa.
Somalia is a new market. As one of the people leading a specific industry in this new market, what do you see as your role in the big picture of placing Somalia among world business players?
Africa is a rich and prosperous continent, but our people do not see the opportunities that we have. Our work as business leaders is to guide African business community in the direction that will create wealth for the continent. Africa needs not only to be an importer continent; we can export too.
How would you describe your management style?
I spend most of my time with others. I prefer face-to-face communication. I think I am relentless in pace, I like variety and fragmentation. Above all, I have a natural bias for action rather than reflection.
What does leadership mean to you?
I believe it is about support of others. That is a process of social influence in which different people can be made to willingly accomplish a common task.
You seem to have an interest in the telecommunications industry, how come?
Yes, I sort of have an interest in it. At different levels of my education, I have studied various aspects of communication. From telecommunication systems studies at Technical School of Telecommunications Torino between 1996-1998, to Broadcasting and Video Editing at Merton College between 2003-2004, and to the latest, Business Information Technology at London South Bank University between 2004- 2007. I have always found the field intriguing.