In this enlightening interview, we had the honor of conversing with Naoufel Aoun, a distinguished Entrepreneur, Board Member, and Advisor. Naoufel Aoun voyage through the diverse stages of his professional life, spanning from high-ranking positions in finance to global ventures and entrepreneurial undertakings, offers a treasure trove of wisdom and experience.
Throughout our conversation, Naoufel Aoun generously shares significant milestones, the driving forces behind his entrepreneurial ventures, and invaluable insights on nurturing innovation, attracting and retaining top talent, mitigating risks, seizing emerging opportunities, and offering guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs navigating the ever-evolving business landscape. We invite you to join us as we embark on a journey through Naoufel Aoun extraordinary career and the profound wisdom he shares along the way.
A complete journey about the company? When Naoufel Aoun has started, how and where?
I am currently deeply involved in various facets of the food industry supply chain, embarking on this exciting journey in partnership with a dear friend, with equal ownership in our venture. Our adventure commenced with the investment of a greenhouse farming corporation specializing in the cultivation of premium tomatoes. These exquisite tomatoes are primarily grown for distribution in the European and Middle Eastern markets during the winter season.
Situated in the southern Tunisian region of Al-Hamma, our farm harnesses the power of geothermal energy sourced from deep wells. This energy is used to heat our greenhouses via an elaborate network of pipes. Additionally, a portion of this geothermal water is directed to PVC basins, where it undergoes cooling before being repurposed for irrigation.
Drawing upon our collective expertise in business revitalization, we have successfully transformed this company, garnering a stellar reputation within our industry. Our dedicated workforce, consisting predominantly of female breadwinners, not only contributes positively to their own families but also plays a pivotal role in benefiting the broader local community. Around 150 workers are reaping the rewards of our functions under the banner of “Parfums des Oasis.”
Our future aspirations encompass strategic diversification into more sophisticated product lines, specifically expanding into the manufacturing of a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Our overarching objective is to craft high-quality, ready-to-cook products that cater to the needs of both individuals and institutions.
The inspiration for this exciting venture is deeply rooted in my tenure at Sodexo. During my extensive travels across various countries, I keenly observed untapped opportunities within the food supply chain. Serving as the GCC VP for Sodexo, I played a pivotal role in orchestrating comprehensive travel programs for procurement and finance managers. These plans were meticulously designed to optimize food procurement processes in source countries. On several occasions, I personally partook in these missions, and I was profoundly impressed by the untapped potential I witnessed.
The journey of the entrepreneur (Naoufel Aoun)
Over the course of my career, I have experienced four significant transformative phases. Initially, in Tunisia, I spearheaded the financial markets division at Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie, where I acquired profound expertise in brokerage, fund management, stock and bond issuance, as well as custody services, all while maintaining a keen focus on both domestic and global economic dynamics.
After a brief tenure as Deputy General Manager at Tunisia’s Volvo dealership, Magrimex, I embarked on a remarkable journey with Sodexo, assuming diverse roles spanning Tunisia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the broader GCC Zone. This journey ultimately led to my appointment as Vice President for the GCC region, affording me extensive international exposure and fostering collaboration across various echelons of the organization.
Subsequently, during my tenure as CEO at El Seif Operations and Maintenance in Saudi Arabia, I orchestrated a remarkable resurgence of the company. Through adept change management strategies, I repositioned it as a pivotal player in the Saudi market.
Now, I find myself in the midst of a transition from a C-level executive role to that of an Entrepreneur, Board Member, and Advisor. This shift affords me greater flexibility to explore innovative ideas and seize emerging opportunities. Nevertheless, it also offers its own collection of difficulties, especially in maintaining essential management practices. Achieving a harmonious balance between these demands, alongside effective delegation, becomes paramount for continued success. This balance is further reinforced by the presence of the right individuals who can transform visions into tangible realities.
I hold a steadfast belief that, despite the ever-evolving landscape of technological advancements, the crux of business success remains rooted in the realm of human skills and relationships.
How does the company plan to achieve its goals?
“Parfums des Oasis” forms the cornerstone of a business poised for transformation into an agri-food group, carrying a well-established Tunisian brand that extends its reach across Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. This vision is not only a personal aspiration but also a national one.
Our current achievements represent only the initial steps in what promises to be a long and challenging journey, often marked by its most formidable hurdles. Successfully joining the market with a single product serves as the foundation upon which we will build for future expansion.
In the short term, our strategy entails augmenting the production capacity for our flagship product and diversifying into additional offerings within the next three years. Simultaneously, we will commence laying the groundwork for our business transformation, a process that will unfold over the subsequent two years. Achieving this transformation necessitates forging financial and technical partnerships, intensifying our commitment, both my partner and I, and assembling a highly skilled core management team to bring our vision to fruition.
Our ultimate objective is to firmly set our brand by the year 2030. In the interim, we aspire to become a publicly detailed business, maintaining our standing and unlocking fresh possibilities. As we move forward, this journey will continuously evolve, adapting to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
How do you incorporate creative ideas to differentiate yourself?
To achieve efficiency and realize our desired outcomes, it is crucial to instill a culture of innovation within our organization, permeating every level. However, accomplishing this objective is not without its challenges, as human nature often leads us to favor the comfort and convenience of the status quo and familiar routines.
At ESOM, we have made significant investments in fostering an innovation-centric culture. This initiative includes the creation of a dedicated senior-level position focused exclusively on Innovation and Technology. A substantial portion of the quality objectives for our senior managers is now earmarked for the introduction and execution of fresh, groundbreaking ideas. Moreover, we actively encourage our team’s participation in global fairs and presentations to facilitate the exchange of new experiences. This critical aspect has been seamlessly incorporated into the learning and growth strategies for both our senior and middle managers.
To further incentivize innovation across all levels of our organization, we have instituted a rewards system. This system recognizes and rewards employees for their innovative proposals that are subsequently implemented by our management team.
A comparable approach has been adopted at Parfums des Oasis, leading to the emergence of pioneering technologies within our irrigation system. These innovations empower us to make precise adjustments to meet plant needs in harmony with the quantity of natural fertilizers, consequently bolstering our ability to control costs and promote vigorous plant growth.
What motivates Naoufel Aoun to persevere through difficult times?
Evaluating and managing business risks constitute essential aspects of ISO implementation, undergoing regular reviews and updates. Typically, risk assessment relies on historical events that have impacted both the company and the industry. For instance, when a virus affecting tomato plants surfaced in Europe, we promptly integrated this factor into our concerns and enforced strict hygiene standards and access conditions within our greenhouses as precautionary measures.
Our monthly project reports meticulously outline risk assessments and mitigation plans for each project at ESOM. In order to formulate a comprehensive risk mitigation strategy, we combined all project-related dangers with company-level threats. This plan was regularly reviewed, particularly when significant events transpired.
Our bid process involved carefully identifying and addressing project-related threats. In cases where comfort proved to be complicated, we factored in extra expenses as a contingency. A financial provision was not deemed necessary when the risks were deemed adequately down. Ultimately, decisions regarding the significance of risks always rested with the management team.