Global Growth

Dabbagh Trading

When Business in Focus featured Dabbagh Trading two years ago, the family owned company was already one of the largest Australian exporters of chilled meat by airfreight, shipping seven days a week to 15 different countries…
But Operations Manager Basel Dabbagh insisted this was only the beginning – and his predictions quickly proved correct. We caught up with Mr Dabbagh this month to get the latest news on his company, and he had plenty to share about the exciting growth of his family’s export of meat and sheepskin operation.

“We expanded our business; we’ve relocated to a bigger premises,” Mr Dabbagh reports. “We’ve hired more staff. We are probably Australia’s largest chilled lamb carcass exporter now.” Dabbagh Trading also dramatically increased its geographical reach. Previously, sales were largely limited to the Middle East, and the Gulf region in particular, and the team has been busy gaining a foothold in more areas across the Middle East, as well as other regions of the world. “We just started in the last year exporting to different markets in Europe, Africa, and a few Asian countries,” shares Mr Dabbagh.

Dabbagh Trading was launched by the Dabbagh family in 1996 to supply quality animal skins to the company’s manufacturers in Turkey. Based in Victoria, the business grew steadily and soon expanded its scope to export animal feed to farmers and halal meat to international buyers. While skins are still an important part of the business, the company’s primary focus has shifted to lamb and mutton, as well as goat and beef.

“Our partnership with Frew Group has grown since we started our Export Venture together, taking over 70 per cent of Frew’s total volume each week. Both CEOs, Marwan Dabbagh and Robert Frew, share a commitment to our customers, producing the best chilled and frozen lambs in Australia.”

Offered chilled or frozen and in an assortment of cuts, the company provides a large variety of quality halal products to supermarkets, wholesalers, and government contractors throughout the world. “We have all sorts of range,” Mr Dabbagh points out. “We can cater to all the customer’s needs under one roof. We can provide them with all the products that they require; we cover the client’s requirements from A to Z.”

While not as large as the side of the business that supplies halal meat, the company’s skin division has also enjoyed substantial growth over the last two years. Currently, Dabbagh Trading operates a tannery in Turkey that processes the skins of Australian-raised animals, supplying a variety of finished leather, double face, mouton & Nappa products to India, Pakistan, China, and Europe. “That has been another avenue for us that we have expanded on. We’ve probably got a couple hundred more people that we have employed over the last two years across the world.”

One of Dabbagh Trading’s new ventures has also started utilising over 3 million sheep and lamb casings where they are washed cleaned and ready to be exported into Europe for sausage manufacturing.

The company’s high rate of growth has certainly come with new challenges, but the team’s underlying strategies ensure that Dabbagh Trading stays on top. “Being number one in Australia took a lot of work,” Mr Dabbagh admits. “It took a few years to get to that sort of level.” Building strong relationships with clients has been key. Understanding the complexities of multiple overseas markets has also been foundational to success. This means that the company must have a staff who “understand what the clients want,” and are savvy to the subtle market differences from region to region.

Dabbagh Trading has been careful to capitalise on this understanding, creating product lines that are tailored to each market. “We understand what each market needs and we started developing the type of product for each market area,” Mr Dabbagh explains. “We are where we are because we understand all our clients; we understand all their requirements. We’ve been out there to see them on a regular basis and understand their market and how to work within their market.”

Keeping a finger on the pulse of multiple markets around the world requires ongoing effort. The team works constantly to maintain connections, travelling around the globe on a regular basis to attend trade shows or to meet face to face with clients. In fact, Mr Dabbagh barely squeezed in the interview for this article before whisking off to Europe for several weeks of tradeshows. Maintaining locations in multiple countries also helps keep the company informed. “Having an office in Dubai and having an office in Qatar and Bahrain helps us understand what the consumer needs and [helps us] make sure that we advertise the right product there, that we put the right product into that market,” he explains.

In every region in which the company operates, there has been a strong positive response to Australian product. “There is a lot of demand for the Australian product into those Middle Eastern or African or Asian markets at the moment,” says Mr Dabbagh. One of the key reasons is the level of quality that is inherent in Australian meats. “There are certain standards that every company has to comply with. We have quality control.”

In fact, the company’s commitment to – and reputation for – quality is what put Dabbagh Trading on the map and secured a sizable share of the international market. As a result, the company acts as an ambassador of sorts for the quality of Aussie meats. And Dabbagh Trading is eager to continue promoting the nation’s quality fare. “We have been trying to make sure that the clients overseas consume the Australian product.”

Cultural clashes can occur, however, so the team’s understanding of international customs, dietary requirements, and traditions is key. “You have to understand each other’s culture so the business runs more smoothly,” Mr Dabbagh points out. “We have different staff members who understand different requirements for different countries. [That way] we provide [the customers] with the right product; we make sure they feel more comfortable with the product, the way the product is produced, the way the product is slaughtered, the way the product is presented. We make sure that the customer is satisfied with the Australian product that we send from here.”

Much of this effort is directed toward reassuring clients that an Australian product can be 100 per cent halal certified, which means that strict rules for slaughter have been followed as required by sharia law (requirements include humane treatment of the animal, a recitation to God, and draining of the animal’s blood.) The team has provided tours of their facility to prove compliance, encouraging clients to speak with the men who actually slaughter the animals and to witness the conditions. The efforts have paid off, with international sales continuing to rise.

Supplying the proper quantity of product is also an issue when dealing with multiple markets around the world. The team must successfully predict not only what type of product will be needed, but when and where it will be in demand. “Quantity is very important,” Mr Dabbagh says. “[We have] to make sure that we supply enough stock of a certain quality. We have to make sure that we have enough lambs in season, that we’ve got enough lambs to supply all of our customers over the period in winter when there is shortage of livestock. We make sure that there is enough stock in our feedlots to supply all our customers.”

The company’s key strategies have all worked together to deliver substantial recent success. “We’ve doubled our turnover and the product that we’re producing. Now our product is known across the world in the Middle East and the Gulf region. People request our product by name. They want that brand. They want the Dabbagh Group product.”

And the team intends to continue expanding. “We are here to stay,” says Mr Dabbagh. “A few years ago we said that we were going to go into the European and African countries and we have reached that stage. Next, we are looking into expanding our product and the brandings that we provide into the market.” If the last two years are anything to go on, the team is more than ready to meet the company’s latest goals.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:34 AM AEDT