Uncertainty and disruption are the norm for many businesses, especially those operating in highly competitive sectors. Yet, even seasoned businesspeople found themselves not fully prepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This seismic event presented a completely new set of challenges and issues for companies across the globe.
“The past two-to-three years have been tough – there’s a lot of uncertainties,” explains Norazlinda Neimad, Head of Region Food Industries, Malaysia’s leading producer of quality authentic sauces, cold dressing and cooking paste.
“We are making sure we put the customer first and that our products meet specific quality levels.”
Despite the rapid changes facing the organization, from new government regulators to worker shortages and supply chain disruptions, Neimad’s almost 20 years of experience at Region Food set her up well to face these challenges head-on.
By prioritizing digitization systems to ensure that production would run efficiently, disruptions and shortages were kept to a minimum. After being categorized as an essential service during the pandemic and consumer interest increased, it was vital for the business to be as agile as possible.
“Where you do digitalization, operations can still run with minimal people, as certain things can be automated. For us to meet the demand, production needs to run continuously,” she says. “Awareness is higher now around the importance of embracing digitalization.”
Now that the worst of the pandemic is behind Malaysia, Neimad is putting a strategic plan into action. Continuing to build on Region Food’s brand, so that the company moves beyond a local firm to become globally recognized, is the first goal.
“We are making sure we put the customer first and that our products meet specific quality levels. We want our service to be excellent in terms of meeting demand and ensuring our products are relevant to our customers,” Neimad says.
As part of QSR Brands, a sister company to global brands including KFC and Pizza Hut, extremely consistent and high levels of quality are needed to be maintained by Region Foods.
“We are not only supplying to KFC and Pizza Hut in Malaysia, but our products are also being supplied and used in KFC Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam and Mauritius. We are leveraging our association with quality to expand into new regions and companies,” she adds.
Another key aspect of Region Food’s success is its focus on continuous improvement process, which closely involves suppliers.
Suppliers are brought into conversations with research and development teams around new product developments – discussing everything from what materials can be used to knowledge sharing and potential disruptions. This collaboration unlocks new efficiencies that would not be achieved otherwise.
“We are leveraging our association with quality to expand into new regions and companies.”
Important firms, such as Lifestyle Ventures, are critical partners to Region Food and work hand in hand together to gain the best end product. Neimad has seen firsthand how effective collaboration between suppliers has enabled the business to thrive, even when economic conditions are difficult.
“They already know our processes and they know our facility. When we have plans to make any change to our processes, we will get them involved so that we have the best knowledge by our side,” she explains.
Neimad and her team have made an effort to diversify their supplier base, in large part due to risk management considerations. “We make sure that we don’t have any single source material or sole source supplier – that’s a key part of the system.”
In the experience of Neimad, to be a passionate leader, you need to know your purpose and have clarity as to why you are taking different actions.
“At the end of the day, the thing that drives people is passion.”
While of course knowledge is an important element of being a strong leader, passion is key. Otherwise, the true leadership potential will be missed.
“At the end of the day, the thing that drives people is passion,” she says. “If you are a passionate leader, it shows when you communicate with your staff. You will start to share this energy with your staff. If you are passionate, they will be too.”