If you’ve been in Dubai long enough, chances are you’ve ordered your groceries at some point from Kibsons. Known for delivering farm-fresh ingredients and organic products straight to the doorsteps of thousands of UAE residents, Kibsons has become the go-to home delivery service for pretty much everybody these days.
Besides supporting local farmers and established start-ups in the region, the homegrown company also offers premium ingredients at affordable rates to all its customers.
In this exclusive interview with Halima Jumani, Director of Operations at Kibsons International, we find out about how she remains motivated in a highly competitive industry, and how she continues to overcome challenges in a business environment.
How was Kibsons born?
The mum within me was acutely aware of how blessed our family was to be able to enjoy the most premium quality fresh produce (no msg, no added hormones, no nasties) at the most unbeatable prices in town and that’s when the business bug first bit me! I set out to match the merchandiser jobs with the grocery needs of a few families, literally on excel spreadsheet that we spread amongst friends of friends, and just like that a beautiful e-commerce we all know as “Kibsons” was born!
What gave you the right motivation to go ahead with the idea?
Looking back, there were two big factors:
One was my deep concern for the 50 merchandisers who were to lose their jobs if I tried to walk away from the loss making distribution segment at Kibsons. The fact that these staff were Bangladeshis was even worse because they could not find another employment in the UAE due to immigration restrictions and this made my heart feel so heavy.
Second was my genuine empathy for so many family and friends who would often pay an exorbitant price to access premium nutrition for their growing athletes or sporty kids at home.
Who were your mentors along the way?
My mum’s voice echoes in my mind all the time. Not sure if that’s a mentoring voice, but it gives me the strength I need in my weak moments. It’s a force that believes in me. It reminds that I can do anything if I just put my mind to it and that if I have a strong mind, talent or skill, it’s my responsibility to put it to good use where it can provide assistance or support to others rather than just waste time and let life go by!
But the reality is that I am also blessed to be married to someone who truly let me be my own person, be independent, and supported in ways that were crucial to bring my vision to reality.
But my day-to-day mentoring comes from my amazing network of female fusion support in my life. The fact that I can pick up a call and reach out to a genuine supporting soundboard, in almost any time zone on demand, is the biggest continuous mentoring gift I could ask for!
What challenges did you come across in the business world?
Challenges in a business environment are a norm of life. The first thing as an entrepreneur is to overcome the mind, its fears and be truly in an independent state of mind that is able to ‘give’ more than it ‘needs’.
E-commerce is an extremely operationally demanding field with a sea of continuous challenges and I could probably write a book on how to navigate your way to achieve a LEAN e-commerce business model.
Was it difficult balancing work and home life?
I’d like to believe that I am an extremely dedicated, passionate, hands-on mum and the hardest part of finding a balance is to make sure that I am not trading my passion for work with my responsibilities of being a mum.
I think I spend my time thinking clearly and planning my “mum goals/tasks” and my “professional goals/tasks” and then it’s all about balancing the two sets of action plans.
Like anything else in life, even a holiday, it’s all about planning, prioritising and strategising.
What encourages and motivates you?
The feeling of being able to “add value to others using everything I have” is a single powerful feeling that deeply motivates me. Kibsons allows me to add value internally by creating jobs for so many people and being able to watch them and their families benefit from this opportunity, especially as many of them bring their dreams (back home) come alive.
Externally, so many families, I hope, are able to eat healthy and live well more affordably and conveniently in the UAE than a few years ago. Of course, the opportunity to be able to serve the community during the pandemic took this motivation to a whole new level.
Does anyone inspire you at the moment?
There are so many amazing examples around us in our day-to-day life that are incredibly inspirational and there is always something we can learn from every story we hear, every challenge we face, every rejection that hurts.
More recently, I have been thinking about the incredibly life and journey of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. So many of her quotes are real, insightful and powerful all at the same time.
From amongst the people I know: Mimi Nicklin, her views on empathy and her recent book launch (“The Softening Edge”) is a powerful inspiration that we all can learn from.
What advice would you want to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
It’s a tough world so prepare yourself to be mentally strong and independent before you step in. There will be people and situations that will need support from you and you only and hence you cannot afford be too needy of support from others if you want to be a real entrepreneur.
Start small within your own comfort zone so you can remain truly independent, practical about your goals. Remember it’s the small things you need to do and accomplish. The big things will follow. Not the other way around.
Always remain in a “do it”, I call it “Nike” mode. Don’t overthink and make plans that are too big. Just “go for it” in the most simple, practical way you possibly can. You will feel great and the positive flow will lead you on to bigger wins.
**Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity**