Al Rifai Company
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Immediately associated with quality, Al Rifai company is famous for the excellent quality and taste of its products. Established in 1948 as a small corner shop initially, the company expanded and was partially acquired by Kuwaiti company, Al Homaizi Food Industries, with franchised rights for the MENA region. Working closely with the company, Executive Director of Muzn International W.L.L, Manal Al Zayani worked diligently to make Bahrain a prominent home of Rifai in the Gulf region. Manal spoke to Perle Magazine about her dedication to the company and ensuring its name remains synonymous with its high-standard reputation.
A hard worker from the very beginning, Manal says her family encouraged every member to actively participate in family matters. “We were never discriminated against because we were girls. We were empowered. We were always set up for challenges and not in a bad way, in a way that made you realise you were capable”, she says. Having a strong work ethic and self-believe instilled in her, Manal let these ideologies guide her in both her personal and professional life. Graduating from the University of Texas, Austin, with Bachelors in Business Administration and majoredw in Marketing, Manal returned to Bahrain and started work in the family business. At the tender age of 21 she was handed the role of Public Relations of Zayani Investments. Un-intimidated by the role, Manal says she did not once think she would not be able to handle the task. Shortly after her appointment, she was assigned the launch of Atari with legendary football player Pele as the guest host and successfully managed the event as well as all the others she was given responsibility for. Manal says she would never let fear of not understanding a job overcome her, rather she embrace any task and do her best, a method which contributed immensely to her success.
After getting married, Manal worked with her husband in their family business, before opening her own shop at the age of 29. Helping her husband with his many businesses, Manal says that is when they first came across the opportunity to work with Rifai, but did not go through with it due to certain restrictions. Visiting the idea again in 2001, Manal says she approached Rifai in the hopes to do business with them in Bahrain but they were in negotiations with prominent Bahraini companies at that time. Adamant to get handle the business herself, Manal says she flew to Kuwait to speak directly with the owners and was able to procure the account the same day. Manal’s hands-on and personal approach to bringing Rifai to Bahrain, mirrored the working style of the company itself and lead them to putting their trust in her to launch Rifai in the Kingdom. “I am passionate about my work. I have to be, because if I am not, I will not do it”, adding that her hard work and determination earned them the honour of Star Flagship launching for Rifai.
Opening the first store in Bahrain in 2001 at the Bahrain International Airport, Manal says she accepted the challenge of setting up the store within the given timeframe of one month, to coincide with the opening of the Bahrain Duty Free. “It was a personal success for me as people told me I was not going to be able to do it. I had faith in myself, I had faith in my abilities, and I had faith in God,” she says. In 2003, Manal and her team opened the flagship store located in Zinj. Throughout this, Manal says her determination and spirit did not give up, and one of her biggest help was her younger brother, Zayed Al Zayani, who would not only push her, but mentored her through her work. During this time, Manal says that though she was focusing on all aspects of her life and work, it was difficult to focus on herself as a person; she was happy to be able to develop strong bonds with her children as well as prove to herself that she was strong and accomplished. She adds that though initially the flagship store took some time to take off, she was not defeated by the hardships, rather looked for the opportunities in the adversities. “I do not give up; I am not that type of person. You learn this way. As children we are taught not to fail, but when you do not succeed, it does not mean you have failed, it means you have added to your learning curve.” Manal’s commendable attitude has allowed her to launch three more stores around Bahrain, in Riffa, near Lulu Hypermarket in Hidd, and in Ramli Mall in Al A’ali, and with plans to expand further.
The wide ranges of products offered at Rifai are unmatched in quality and taste as Manal says they get only the crème de le crème of nuts, coffee, seeds, and kernels. In addition to offering multiple varieties of the famous nuts to suit everyone’s taste, Rifai also houses homemade nut and dry fruit mixes, Malban confectionary, some of which is only exclusive to Bahrain, ready mix food powders, chocolates, distilled rose water, olive oil, dates and jams among others. Their services also extend to providing gift baskets for personal or corporate events and they easily accommodate to their customer’s budgets. For weddings, Rifai creates mixes according to their customers’ needs and at the day of the event, package and serve the packets themselves. Also providing products to various hotels around Bahrain, Rifai does all the packaging to ensure the health and well-being of their customers are cared for and their standards are maintained. Manal says she personally goes to the Ministry of Health to have them check her samples before she retails anything, and makes sure that her shops are immaculate at all times.
Adapting the new concept of accessibility, Manal says they are looking to set up kiosks in highly accessible areas to make it easier for customers to get what they are looking for instantly. The kiosks will also allow the customers to connect with the flagship store and pick up their orders directly from the kiosks, a 24-hour notice would be required to acquire the item and the customers can pick it up from the main store. With a new branch opened in Muharraq in the same complex as Lulu supermarkets, Manal says they plan on opening more branches in central Bahrain.
“Never give up. Find the silver lining in every black cloud” Manal advises and says that the younger generation should not be easily discouraged, but rather follow their passions and their dreams no matter how difficult it may be.
For more information:
Zinj: Location No. 100 Building No. 106 Road No. 20, Block 331 Zinj, Al aali Complex
(00973) 1727 1123
Riffa: Building No. 91 Road No. 14 Block 914, Mashtan Road Al Shamali – West Riffa
(00973) 7713 3123
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