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Jun 14 2013

Al Madina Supermarkets in expansion mode

By VM Sathish

Al Madina Supermarkets chain is run by expats from the Malabar region of Kerala
A landmark that can be spotted in many nooks and corners of the UAE, especially in areas where expatriate bachelors and blue-collar workers reside in large numbers, Al Madina Supermarkets is planning to further increase its footprint across the country and the region.

'Al Madina' (Meaning the City in Arabic) is a household name among blue-collar workers and those living in bachelor accommodation, and the number of supermarkets with the name has proliferated over the years.

The management of most of these Al Madina Group of supermarket chains is directly or indirectly related, with people from certain pockets of Malabar region sharing the ownership of these firms. The chain has survived several cycles of boom and slowdown, and it continues to thrive.

Says Akhdar Aboobaker, Chairman of the New Greetings Al Madina Hypermarket Group: "It is true that there are many Al Madina supermarkets in different parts of the UAE. We are planning to expand our branch network to 25 New Greetings Al Madina Supermarkets by 2015. By the year 2025, we are planning to have a network of 50 hypermarkets chain in the UAE. We are also planning a major shopping mall in Al Ain, which will be soon be operational."

He says the secret behind the success of the small supermarket chain is its pricing, backed by its ability to source products at bargain prices from suppliers owing to economies of scale.

Greetings Al Madeena was established in the UAE in 2006 and their branch network has been steadily increasing, despite the departure of thousands of blue collar workers and bachelors to their home countries during the years of the construction slowdown.

These chains targeting the Asian blue collar workers have a unique marketing style. One group was established in 1971 in the UAE and operates a wide chain of Al Madina supermarkets. Other names in the same category include Al Madina Group , Emirates Al Madina Group , etc.

Al Madina supermarket was first started in the UAE by members of the Pottankara family from Kodathoor near Panoor in Kannur district of Kerala. "There are many Al Madina supermarkets in the Gulf and each name has a different prefix to it. Eighty per cent of the Al Madina Supermarkets are owned and managed by business people from Kodathoor or Payyoli in Kannur in the same way most of the cafeterias in the Gulf region are owned by people from Nadapuram, in Kerala," says Afsal P, an expatriate hailing from Kannur.

He said after the thumping success of the original Al Madina supermarket, some of the employees who worked in the market saved enough money and started their own chain. "The owners of original Al Madina group agreed to their request of starting another supermarket with the same name. Thus the number of Al Madina shops has mushroomed and now there are Al Madina shops run by Keralite expatriates from Trichur and other parts. However, a majority of the markets with the name Al Madina in their names are owned by people from Panoor, Kannur."

The next branch of New Greetings Al Madina Supermarket in International City is coming up at the Emirates Cluster, with shows and raffles lined up to attract customers.

"We are opening the next market with amazing offers and among other entertainment events, a belly dance to attract the Arab residents of International City. The Moroccan or other clusters in the International City have many Arab customers, who will definitely enjoy the belly dance. To attract the Asian crowd, especially the South Indian crowd, the opening of the market is by Swetha Menon, a popular Cine star of Malayalam movies and an event management company, Ambient, is roped in to manage the show."

Says Sirajuddin, General Manager of an Al Madina Supermarket chain: "The Al Madina brand of supermarkets is identified with blue-collar workers and low-income earners. We are trying to change that image by setting up a different set of supermarkets catering to the middle class and upper middle class customers." Al Madina shops have started appearing in Kerala too.

"The Al Madina name is very commonly used in supermarket business. While the original Al Madina was started by a group of Keralites from Malabar, others are started by former employees or relatives of the original owners. Different prefixes are added to the name depending on the sponsorship of each branch or LLC company. The name is quite familiar to any blue-collar worker or bachelor resident," said Aboobaker, manager of an Al Madina market in Al Quoz.

"It is a landmark name in the UAE because there are a number of such markets present everywhere. Most of them are owned and operated by business families from certain pockets of Malabar in Kerala. "Al Madina supermarkets is not limited to the UAE. Markets with similar names are operating in other Gulf countries too," added Aboobaker.

© Emirates 24|7 2013


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