Professional journey: Mohamed Fazal Mawjood’s professional journey began many years ago as a teenager when he apprenticed under his grandfather who was a well-established industrialist in Sri Lanka. “I usually assisted my grandfather in matters largely unrelated to managing his many businesses, but this allowed me to learn directly from him simply by watching and asking the occasional question,” he commented. Mawjood worked in many industries in the UAE, performing a wide variety of tasks. He worked as a purchasing manager at Deutsch Babcock, the main contractor for Umm Al Nar Power station in Abu Dhabi. In the year 2000, he recruited a small team consisting of three staff members and founded Heartland Trading Co. LLC as a small-scale distributor of Sri Lankan dry foodstuff.
Core area of business: Heartland General Trading Co. has since grown into a large-scale multinational importer and exporter of agricultural commodities including grains, spices, pulses, frozen meat and seafood. Its Sri Lankan agri-food distribution sector has also flourished, extending to the shelves of over 470 of the Gulf’s largest retailers. Heartland General Trading Co. is the licensed distributor of a host of popular Sri Lankan snack and condiment brands in the UAE, and the company stocks a number of pantry staples such as ground spices, flours, mixes and condiments under their flagship brands; Kelani Lanka and Golden Range.
Competitive edge: The company’s ethos revolves around placing the customers’ needs above all. Heartland caters to each customer individually, devising operations in a manner that allows for continuous supply as and when required. Employees operate 24/7 to ensure smooth deliveries and continuous access to support for customers. Through this, it has built a reputation for uncompromisable efficiency and satisfaction in service. “We are very grateful to our customers for choosing us, and we feel a strong obligation to ensure they are completely satisfied.”
Bearing the Pandemic: Heartland General Trading Co. values its staff highly and makes it a priority to protect every employee from the impact of the pandemic, with wages provided in full and on time regardless of any losses the business may have incurred due to Covid-19 disruptions. “Our employees keep our distribution running smoothly day and night, and we show immense gratitude for their daily efforts.” The company also worked with a number of organisations as well as independently to provide underprivileged and newly unemployed members of the community with food, shelter, medicine and support to return home.
Key milestones: One of the major achievements for Heartland has been its growth from a small-time distributor of ethnic products into a multi-national general trading company with a global network spanning the continents. The company has also been successful in creating its own ethnic product brands, Golden Range and Kelani Lanka, complete with an ISO:22000 and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified production and packaging plant along with strategically located, temperature-controlled warehousing facilities.
Vision: Going forward, Mawjood has set his sights on further vertically integrating both the company’s ethnic product distribution and commodity export sectors. The company will also be launching a premium line of sustainably sourced and organic products and incorporating an online vendor portal for its retail customers, and a B2C online retail platform to improve efficiency and accessibility for anyone who desires high-quality sustainably sourced food products.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs: Drawing from 30 years of personal experience in the country, Mawjood believes that young business-minded people are in a prime position to take advantage of the unmatched infrastructure, support and attitude towards success the UAE has been breeding for decades. “I would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to dream big. Having travelled to many countries, I can say there is no place more conducive to innovation, trade and business than the UAE,” Mawjood concluded.
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