Talks are ongoing between hypermarket giant LuLu and leading institutions in Qatar for the development and growth of the country’s entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem, an official told Gulf Times.
Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Hypermarkets, Qatar, stated that the initiative is part of the hypermarket chain’s efforts to contribute to Qatar’s economic development, as well as self-sufficiency.
Althaf said the discussions include an incubation programme to help new startups penetrate the mainstream market. “Our aim is to create and handhold these industries, enabling them to mature and become large scale,” explained Althaf, who is also a member of the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA).
Another initiative, according to Althaf, is to promote manufacturing in Qatar. He said LuLu has been co-manufacturing with local companies to produce a wide variety of products that carry the LuLu private label.
“Many of the products that we used to import from other countries are now being manufactured in Qatar. What we are doing now is value add production by co-manufacturing with local companies.
“This provides supply chain security and it is now easy to communicate our needs; it is a very good end-to-end development,” said Althaf, who noted that LuLu is developing its logistics facility in the Industrial Area, and is looking to setup at the free zones.
Similarly, Althaf noted that LuLu has been working with local farmers by sourcing out different farm produce, such as fruits and vegetables and poultry, among others. These items, he said, are located in a special area inside LuLu hypermarkets dedicated to ‘Made in Qatar’ products.
“One of the deeper partnerships that we have right now, which we want to strengthen further, is with the local farmers. We have a ‘farm-to-store’ initiative wherein anything that is harvested should be in our shelves in the next four hours.
“Because of this, we have a lot of data sharing, so that the farms know what to provide and we know what they are capable of producing. This process benefits everybody; there has been a lot of reduction in shrinkage and wastage,” he said.
Althaf also lauded the Qatari government for its quick response in managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the national economy, citing the QR75bn stimulus package released to the private sector. He also noted that Qatar’s economy “has picked up quite faster than expected” after the gradual lifting of health and safety restrictions related to the pandemic.
“This (stimulus package) was helpful to many companies in Qatar, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in terms of coping and managing the challenges of the health crisis, such as payment of utilities, rents, and payroll, among others. Overall, Qatar has survived the pandemic through a lot of government support, allowing most of the companies here to remain quite healthy,” Althaf emphasised.
As Qatar’s economy expands, Althaf said LuLu is also expanding its hypermarket base in the country. Currently, LuLu has 13 hypermarkets across Qatar. In the next year and a half, Althaf said LuLu expects another 11 hypermarkets to be completed in different locations.
“Majority of our new outlets will be ready by 2022…our expansion plans reflect our confidence in the Qatari economy,” said Althaf.