Meet Mohammad A Baker, the Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG, a global well-being company retailing, distributing, and manufacturing an extensive portfolio of leading homegrown and international brands across the health, sports and food sectors.
Having started as a single butcher’s shop in 1977, GMG is now considered one of the leading family-owned conglomerates in the Middle East. With its rapidly growing global presence, GMG now has more than 7,000 employees in 12 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.
In many ways, GMG’s success mirrors that of Dubai. Just as Dubai has transformed from a humble trading outpost to a global commercial and tourism hub over the last four decades, GMG has also undergone sweeping changes since its inception.
When Baker became the CEO, he had a vision of transforming the company and making it future-ready Under his helm, significant milestones happened, such as expanding into Asia through the acquisition of popular Asian retailer Royal Sporting House and Géant, a chain of supermarkets and hypermarkets in the UAE, part of Groupe Casino, a French retailing giant.
Although born into a family that owns a successful and growing business like GMG, Baker explored multiple careers before joining his family business. After completing his education, Mohammad A. Baker served the banking industry for a brief period of time and later built his own business, which was one of the free-standing gyms in Dubai. However, in 2010, Baker joined GMG and spent his first six years immersing himself in every aspect of the business. In 2016, Baker took over as the CEO of GMG.
Since its inception in 1977, GMG has worked round the clock to become the most trusted partner for growth and innovation across its target markets. “From our modest beginnings in Dubai, our ambition and vision were to become global,” asserts Mohammad A. Baker.
In line with the ambition, the management team redesigned GMG’s business to reiterate the mission of promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle through four primary business verticals; GMG Sports, GMG Food, GMG Health, and GMG Consumer Goods.
At GMG Sports, the firm inspires and empowers the entire community through high-quality and authentic sports gear from the world’s leading brands. It also manufactures food products through its food division, which helps the organization add value to the UAE’s economy by producing locally and supplying consumers with fresh and nutritious foods. GMG distributes various popular homegrown food brands through its Consumer Goods division and oversees its Géant operations in the UAE. Additionally, the acquisition of Géant from Urban Foods has expanded the firm’s capabilities across the food value chain, covering food manufacturing, distribution, and retail.
On the other hand, GMG’s Health Division delivers a holistic approach to supporting consumer well-being through nutrition, pharma care, vitamins, supplements, etc.
“Across all of these businesses, we are daring ourselves and others to develop better products and experiences that change lives,” says Baker.
Baker has always believed that failures act as stepping stones to success. He says, “One of our values at GMG is to keep evolving. We must constantly challenge ourselves to meet ever-changing consumer demands and beyond. To do so, we must be the change we wish to see and inspire our partners and communities to do the same.“
He feels it is very important to understand the market’s pulse and be prepared to challenge the status quo. A business leader must be prepared to evolve and adapt to quickly changing situations.
The Greatest Accomplishment
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Baker and the team decided to launch a purpose-centric vision that could drive them to win globally, not just in GMG’s home market and GCC. This decision eventually led to GMG’s acquisition of Royal Sporting House, Asia’s leading multi-brand sports retailer, which opened the Asian market for the organization.
Entering the Asian market during the pandemic was a bold move as the business sentiments were low and markets were down. Still, the organization got an opportunity and went after it.
Baker adds, “This coupled with the extraordinary resilience shown by our people, our partners, and the community overall in rebounding from this challenge is an achievement I am extremely proud of.”
Implementing New Ideas
Baker and his team’s revitalized corporate vision and values set a clear direction for GMG’s next chapter of sustainable growth. They are focused on improving people’s lives through active living, nutritious food, and good health. Baker hopes to continue acquiring new international brands, developing homegrown concepts, entering new markets, and growing GMG’s existing partnerships in 2022.
As a business, GMG will also reap the benefits of the recent internal restructuring, including the newly established vertical divisions and reporting lines that optimize performance and explores new synergies.
As a growth company, GMG’s ambition is reflected by its ongoing journey to expand its portfolio and double its global workforce by 2025.
Baker says, “We see potential in delivering health and well-being across every market we operate in. A renewed focus on personal well-being is a trend we are witnessing across all geographies globally. In line with this trend and our wider ambitions, we have made some strategic partnerships and acquisitions.”
Last year Baker and his team expanded GMG’s Nike partnership to Iraq and Egypt, increased the investment in KSA, and scaled up some of the verticals.
In March 2022, GMG announced its partnership with an international lifestyle brand named New Era and became its official distributor across the GCC, Iraq, and Egypt. Later in April, it acquired Nike-only stores from SUTL Corporation’s sports retailing arm in Singapore and Malaysia. In the same month, GMG entered the food retail industry by acquiring Géant operations in the UAE. The organization also holds exclusive rights to expand these operations further in the Middle East.
“Our major retail partners have been with us for decades because they realize that we are never complacent despite our success. We will continue to focus on expansion, acquiring new international brands, developing homegrown concepts, entering new markets, and growing existing partnerships,” asserts Baker.