When Saveco’s CEO Noor Al-Qatami was pursuing a degree in the management of teams from Bentley University, right outside of Boston, Massachusetts, she had an unusual past time: grocery shopping. She roamed the isles of local supermarkets and discovered new brands and ingredients, admired displays and got lost in the possibilities.
She returned home to Kuwait in 2008 to a comfortable desk job as a director with Al-Qatami Steel. Yet she felt unfulfilled, “It was a waste of time for me and a waste of money for my father,” said Al-Qatami. “I would go in and sign papers and do nothing. At the end of the day when I sat with myself and reviewed what I did that day. I’d say ‘What is the thumbprint that Noor put in this world, what did I do?’ I didn’t do anything. So I told my father – I can’t do this.”
At home with nothing to do, Al-Qatami tried to go back to her favorite past time but found that the food shopping experience she loved was not available in her home country. She complained to her father constantly until one day he told her to stop complaining and do something about it. Then it hit her, starting a supermarket would be the perfect thumbprint for her.
But, it wasn’t just about the food offerings. Al-Qatami was still very concerned with making her mark and being a positive influence on society. Instead she came up with what she says is a fusion between a mall and a supermarket. Saveco offers everything from clothes to electronics and home appliances, food and kitchen gadgets and even has an indoor playground for kids. The megastore is massive with rows upon rows of imported goods, at bargain prices. Most important, a visit to Saveco is sure to be an educational one.
“The whole idea behind Saveco is that it is an educational supermarket,” she said. “It’s not a regular supermarket. If you go anywhere downstairs you will see educational signs everywhere, like health benefits of fruits and vegetables. There is a recipe printer where you can choose certain products and it will print a recipe for you”
The store has 12 sample stations that let customers taste healthy alternatives to their normal shopping list. Al-Qatami will also make recipes available for unknown products to encourage customers to try new items. But, the crème de la crème of Al-Qatami’s new venture is the Food Academy. Located in the center of the store, with glass walls surrounding the space, the Food Academy offers classes for moms, children and even the house cook.
“I wanted people to have a better way of learning how to cook,” she said. “The issue when they are learning in a regular classroom is they don’t have the items right in front of them. Here you have alternatives right in front of you, where you can go and get them.
The Food Academy has offered classes in healthy meals, Kuwaiti national dishes, cake decorating and making for kids, and even one on organic cooking. The twelve stations are equipped with products from Moulinex, Kandy, Pyrex, Brabantia, Geo, Salter and Ballarini, all sponsors of the academy. The gorgeous space is so well equipped it hosted an upcoming Ramadan cooking show for the Al Watan television station.
The classes have been wildly successful thus far. Participants have told Al-Qatami that the classes were the best they have had, and shoppers stop to watch through the glass windows. Comments that keep a broad smile on the young CEO’s face.
It is that personal connection with her project that indicates Saveco’s future success in the Kuwaiti market. She runs her own social media accounts to avoid a buffer between her and the complaints. When customers tell her they want to see a product on the shelves, she works hard to get it for them.
We took a tour of her store, and Al-Qatami stopped frequently to adjust shelved products and check on items that may need to be restocked. Whenever she stopped to talk to an employee she would address them by name, a difficult feat for anyone leading a team that large.
In the coming months Saveco will introduce a savings card that gives you a discount at check out and home delivery for all their products. Ramadan lessons at Food Academy for the whole family are sure to help you make your iftars memorable. Not to mention the plethora of healthy food choices that are bound to put you back on the healthy track. Saveco is here, and Al-Qatami is using her thumbprint to make grocery-shopping fun.
Saveco is located in Al-Rai off the 4th Ring Road. Contact them at 2228 7700 or visit their website at www.saveco.com. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram @saveco, or on Twitter @SaveCoQ8. For more information on the Food Academy you can call 9714 6363 or follow them on Twitter @FoodAcademyKw or Instagram @TheFoodAcademy.