Najm Alawadhi’s business card may say ‘Director – Procurement Materials & Services and Warehouse Management’, but he increasingly believes it should say ‘Champion of United Arab Emirates economic growth’.
Last year, Emirates Global Aluminium spent over $1.6 billion on goods and services procured locally, around 45 per cent of the company’s total procurement spend. Najm’s challenge is to grow that even further, to the benefit of the UAE and its people.
“We greatly value our international suppliers, and fully recognise that some goods and services will always be produced more competitively in other countries. But we are also convinced that more can be done in the UAE than today. What we have to do is work with our suppliers to encourage them to provide us with materials originating from production facilities in the UAE, and also find new suppliers who can set facilities up here.
“Our demand can create local supply, and that will grow prosperity and create jobs in this country, as well as helping our own business,” says the Abu Dhabi-based Emirati.
Local production benefits both suppliers and EGA, Najm says, reducing transportation costs and the requirement to maintain stocks - a competitive win all-round.
EGA recently joined the In-Country Value Programme, set up by the Ministry of Industry & Advanced Technology to encourage local procurement as part of Operation 300bn, a strategy to grow the industrial contribution to the UAE economy.
“There are a lot of other companies who are on board. Together we can make a big difference. The UAE already manufactures everything from tea bags to buses, so Operation 300bn is ambitious but realistic,” Najm says.
Najm’s passion for local procurement is driven by his commitment to continuously improve EGA’s business, whilst also looking to provide new opportunities for future generations in the country.
“At EGA we have always encouraged the localisation of suppliers. The local market is our home turf and is our immediate focus when commercially competitive. Having more suppliers and manufacturers locally-based provides UAE nationals and residents with greater opportunities to be hired directly by these companies.
“I think there is still much more that we can do as EGA – we can increase our contribution to the local economy even more,” Najm adds. “As a company we have a bold aspiration to double our contribution to the local economies where we operate by 2040, as driving sustainable economic growth is one way we fulfil our purpose – Together, innovating aluminium to make modern life possible. Boosting our domestic UAE supply chain will play a major part in this.”
Najm did not imagine he would become a champion for UAE economic growth when he started his career at EGA as a graduate trainee chemical engineer almost two decades ago.
“I was a fresh graduate from an American university, and I was really happy to join Dubai Aluminium because it is the industrial flagship in Dubai,” Najm says. “As an engineer, there were a lot of knowledgeable and educated people around me that I could learn from, besides the allure of the operations themselves, which were directly related to my university studies. I knew that I was joining the biggest industrial company outside gas and oil in the UAE.”
The big career change came in 2008 – a year after he completed his Master’s degree in process engineering from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, on the sidelines of his full-time job.
“I decided to make the shift to procurement because it was related to the materials which I had been working with daily, in the plant. It was a big decision for me, and I am grateful that I had the courage and the confidence in myself to make the right decision,” Najm says.
Eager to learn and progress throughout his career, Najm has worked progressively in purchasing raw materials, process materials, capital projects, general materials, and has also worked within warehouse operations and managed logistics.
“I've kind of been to all the different departments within the supply chain of EGA!” he smiles. “I have attained a wealth of STEM knowledge through my studies and diversified work experience… I like to consider that am fulfilling my role towards UAE’s globally competitive, knowledge-based economy.”
As well as snowboarding and football – he’s a Real Madrid fan – Najm also has a huge passion for technology. Ask him to envision EGA in 2040, and apart from procuring more locally his mind turns to innovation.
“I would expect automation to control many of the procurement processes, which will result in the requirement for less intervention from people. We are already introducing a lot of automated systems in procurement, including using artificial intelligence to manage our inventory and predict what we need.”
Next year marks Najm’s 20th anniversary at EGA, and he is excited on what is yet to come. “I really feel a sense of belonging to EGA, and what it has given me. I feel the responsibility to give more because of the opportunities I have had.”