Day in the Life: Carton of milk at the end of the rainbow for Dubai dairy MD

The managing director of dairy company, FrieslandCampina Middle East, believes observing shoppers in a supermarket is a great way to gain insight into how his company's products are consumed.

Maurits Klavert, managing director of FreislandCampina Middle East, pictured with Rainbow Milk, one of his company’s products for sale at Lulu Hypermarket in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
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Maurits Klavert is managing director of FrieslandCampina Middle East. FrieslandCampina is a dairy cooperative owned by about 19,000 farmers in western Europe with a regional office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai. Before joining, the Indonesian, 52, worked for Friesland Foods Indonesia, HSBC Indonesia and Nestlé.


I’m an early riser. I think it comes from my childhood, as my parents would always raid my bedroom early in the mornings and pull the blankets off my bed. Upon waking, I take 15 minutes to reflect what’s ahead in the day.


I’m fortunate to live in Jumeirah Islands, a nice area to do a bit of jogging. Three times a week I run for 45 minutes as the sun is rising. Then I shower, have breakfast and chit-chat with my wife. I also take time to connect with my kids. I have four children, two are already working and married and the other two are studying in Holland. I’m from Indonesia but I have some Dutch heritage – there’s 350 years of history between the Netherlands and Indonesia.


I drive to the office and once there, start tackling my inbox. We have 60 people working in our JLT office serving the UAE market as well as the wider region. That includes GCC countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. We were at the early phase of developing the business in Iraq and Syria, so the impact of the unrest to total business was relatively small. In my role I travel a lot, mostly to Saudi Arabia as that’s our biggest market.


My meetings start, which are mostly internal with people such as the sales director, marketing director or supply chain director. I joined the company in Indonesia in 2007 as a sales director and became managing director of the Middle East region five years ago. Rainbow Milk is our main brand here. It’s been in the region for 60 years and is part of the culture here – so much so that the consumer has given it a local Arabic name, Abu Cos, meaning the father of the arc. There’s a very common local drink (chai haleeb) which is tea made with rainbow evaporated milk. As well as condensed milk, we produce ready-to-drink long-life milk in our factory in Jeddah.


I catch up on other set work such as authorisation of documents. We recently launched a new refreshing dairy-based drink in two flavours, orange and strawberry, called Rainbow Freshy. Dairy is a huge market in the Middle East, and it’s growing by 5 to 6 per cent every year. More and more people consume dairy in countries that are growing in terms of economy and population, it’s the same trend we see everywhere. As people become more affluent and educated, their diet habits also change and dairy becomes a more important part of their diet.


I stay around JLT for lunch because there are so many restaurant options within walking distance. From time to time I invite somebody from the company to join me for lunch. I like to take the opportunity to have more of an informal discussion.


I connect with head office in Holland by conference call. I update them on how the business is going and on strategic issues around marketing and sales. We often discuss issues around supply chain, because we import about 75 per cent of our business from Holland. We sell Dutch cheeses Gouda and Edam, which are produced in the Netherlands, under our Frico brand.


If I’m free, I go to a supermarket or tea shop to check on our products by taking a look at the shelves. If I happen to meet a consumer I can interact with, then I get some feedback on whether they’re happy with our products and if not, what can be improved. If you don’t do that, you miss a vital opportunity. I find it interesting to observe people shopping; when consumers put our products in their shopping baskets, what other products are they buying.


I reserve time in the afternoon for staff to come and talk to me, even if they don’t report directly to me. We apply an open-door policy here so we’re not restricted by levels. What I like most about my job is interacting with different kinds of people from different disciplines and giving them empowerment.


I happen to be a passionate golfer so if the sun is still out, I go to the Jumeirah Golf Estates driving range to practice my swing. But I only play proper golf at weekends.


My wife typically cooks Indonesian food such as beef rendang or sweet and sour fish. I eat whatever she serves. What I do religiously before I go to bed is read at least a few pages of a management or other non-fiction book. By 9pm I’m off.

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