Outliers at work

How fast does your business run, and to what end?

Author: Alain Bejjani — CEO, Majid Al Futtaim — Holding

In the natural world, species must continually evolve to survive; the same is true for business. This is the Red Queen effect, inspired by the author Lewis Carroll’s words: It takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you have to run at least twice as fast as that.

I was reminded of those lines last week at the opening of CarrefourCity+, the region’s first checkout-free store.

There are many, many amazing details about this store: The technology alone is fascinating, beginning with the 97 cameras and AI-enabled computer vision capable of distinguishing one individual from the next and accompanying them separately and in tandem through their shopping journeys.

The enhanced app infrastructure that makes a ‘just walk out’ experience possible, the boost to our digital ecosystem including responsive inventory, the painstaking buildout of the store itself integrating never-before-seen tech, the applied data that helped identify and stock the most requested products for those on the go — these are just some of what went into the world’s first CarrefourCity+.

There are also many elements of CarrefourCity+ that we will spend more time talking about in the months ahead. Cashier-less, for example, does not mean employee-less — far from it. As with self-checkout experiences the world over, we will have MAFers on hand to help our customers navigate the new tech and use the store, assist with restocking etc. Additionally, the new heights of convenience afforded by this store, its integration into not just existing Majid Al Futtaim operations but into the UAE’s 4IR, innovation and advanced tech priorities — there is much to share.

For now, though, I want to share two of the questions I’ve been asked about the new CarrefourCity+. Some want to know if this is a fad or a white elephant, especially given the easy proximity to our Carrefour hypermarket. I’ve also been asked why we are investing so early in this futuristic concept, especially when we are already a retail leader?

For me, the answer is in that latter question. We invest because we are a leader, not in spite of it. Leading ecosystem evolution is good for us, our industry, our customers and for the communities, nations and region we operate in. We have chosen to run twice as fast because we want to get somewhere else — to serve the mainstream and yet not be part of it. We are outliers and proud of it.

My thanks again to all those involved in making the first CarrefourCity+ a reality — including our partners Aifi, our Retail team led by Hani Weiss and Nalla Karunanithy, our Shopping Malls team especially everyone involved from Mall of the Emirates, our Leasing & Legal and Retail Design & Delivery teams. This is a sterling example of collaboration across disciplines and departments.