‘Our vision was not just to export frozen and chilled fish, but to fully explore every single possibility available from fish. This was our guiding ethos from the start and in all of our ventures and even now,’ these words from Ensis founder Mohamed Waseem Ismail are stunning ones.
We sat down with Waseem to talk about how Ensis came into being and how their core values shaped over the years to become the driving force changing an industry.
‘Ensis started around 18 years back. Wahid, Saeed and myself are really close friends. We deliberated on starting a business and we started a souvenir shop to cater to the tourist market, selling embroidered items. That was the first business venture. We made the setup, a printing one, expanded that. In 2002, we created Ensis fisheries and entered the fisheries market,’ Waseem reminisced.
The founders’ decision to enter the fisheries market proved to be a worthwhile and strategic endeavor.
‘When we first started in this business, MIFCO was the only party exporting fish at a large scale to a limited market. We wanted to expand the market, go into new markets. Then I think MIFCO was only focused on the UK market. We wanted to broaden that. We had to work really hard for this goal. I had a personal goal as well. I wanted to fully utilize and market the value chain of this sector to a global audience,’ he added.
Expanding the market had ensured that Ensis is now the market leader in fish exports.
‘Ensis now exports to all major markets including US, Australia, Japan. Main market is Europe, secondary market is the US. Fisheries in the Maldives is very unpredictable, reliant on weather. We have to take into account this and other similar limitations when we are marketing our products. When we first started marketing our products three years back, we first formed an office in Germany as Ensis GMBH, same with the US. Our companies in Europe are performing well,’ Waseem noted.
Ensis is now poised for further growth with a brand new factory in Huluhmale’, where they had set up operations in the start. Back in 2007, Ensis had set up operations in Hulhumale’, even though the city at that time was still in its infancy. The new factory has the capacity to churn out 25 tons of fish and is scheduled to open around October this year.
While fish in itself is biodegradable, ingraining ethos of zero waste into all processes of business is a monumental task.
‘When taking into account our zero waste philosophy, it must first be noted that it is not an easy venture. From a business point of perspective, we do not get a good return out of that either. But our focus was to ensure that we had an ethical perspective to our company in addition to our core business of selling fresh yellow fin tuna. The market had accepted our products, our products have become something we are proud of.’ Waseem said.
— Ensis Group (@ensisgroup) August 19, 2017
Using this philosophy to create a new business is even a more monumental task.
‘Enzi was born out of our determination to ensure that we adhered to a zero waste policy from our core businesses. What we do at Enzi is create value added products from the byproducts form our factories. These go to both local and export markets. Enzi bakery was an addition to this. So far we have been very successful in this endeavor as well,’ he said.
Waseem also talked at length about the about their other guiding philosophy.
‘We at Ensis not only focus on ensuring that our shareholders have a return but also to ensure that we are a socially responsible. Our biggest stakeholders are fishermen. We ensure that we give the best price for their catch, make their lives easier. The most important aspect of the transactions with our fishermen is giving them their payments. We make sure that we pay them on the day. The next thing we focus on providing them with required ice and fuel. Fishermen are our biggest partners in this venture and we make sure that their needs and requirements are taken care of. Taking care of the environment, our staff are our key tenets. We presently employ 450 staff here. We prioritize on ensuring what they need is met. We employ both locals and expatriates, but we do not differentiate between both,’ he said.
Waseem also spoke about the challenges facing the sector. He lamented that while Ensis wanted tore hire locals as much as possible, there were not many new entrants into the field.
‘We don’t have many new entrants, school leavers entering the market. Many still want a resort job or a desk job. Maybe they’re not aware of the opportunities present. In spite of this there is still some who are entering the sector. What they make is also quite impressive. There are a lot opportunities available, not just on the floor, but also in management, technical fields. We focus on hiring locals, train them as interns,’ he noted.
The Ensis story, and Waseem’s story with it, is a testament to what can be achieved in terms of business growth while adhering to core values of sustainability and ethics.