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Sohil Mohammed: Financial accounting as an evolving role for business success

Gone are the days when an accountant is seen only as a back-office support role, someone who keeps a record of the financial transactions of a business. Today, more than a record-keeper, an accountant’s role is vital as the information an accountant gathers and monitors – empowers top executives to make sound decisions that could make or break a business.

For Sohil Mohammed, Commercial Finance Manager at Global Food Industries (GFI), his role and that of his team, is a collaborative one and mostly, a partnership with key components of the business, particularly across the supply chain and sales teams.

“We do financial planning, analysis as well as budgeting – making sure that these are aligned with the company’s five-year plan. It’s an important role in helping management understand where the business is progressing in terms of performance,” said Sohil.

According to Sohil, what they basically do is Project Management, “where we identify the key projects and priorities. We discuss these projects and priorities every week and we work very closely with the operation and supply chain team, as well as with sales team.”

In this Project Management role – Sohil and his team provide the operations and supply chain teams with information on the variances of production, process mapping and identifying potential savings in the production line. “For example, we closely monitor raw material and packing prices and highlight those to the supply chain team – providing them insights on how prices could impact the business.”

“Now, our biggest challenge is the rising cost of raw materials and shipping. We try to minimise the risks. So, whenever we get an opportunity, we are hedging against this price increase to cover ourselves and to minimise the risk.”

With the sales team, “We provide them with Channel-wise, Customer-wise, Country-wise etc. profitability. This helps us track their profitability versus the forecast. We provide them the product costing to assist them in determining the pricing for our products or evaluating new business opportunity.” Sohil leads the costing department which is responsible for the daily monitoring of the production work order that show the reasons for the variation in the product cost. “It’s a very competitive market which means our pricing should be competitive as well. But with prices of raw materials going up, we have a limitation on how much we can increase product prices. That’s where the challenge is.”

Another important role for the Finance team is doing feasibility studies of a proposed capital expenditure in the business. “We analyse whether a capital expenditure is justified. We look at when we could get the payback and assess its strategic alignment with our long-term vision. Based on our findings, we provide recommendations to senior management for approval.”

Despite the current challenges, Sohil is bullish about the company and sees it successfully meeting its five-year strategy under the leadership of CEO Ahmed Bayoumi. He cites the Frozen division, “We are expecting double digit growth this year compared to last year. That itself is a great achievement. We are seeing similar growth in the coming five years. It’s just a matter of time when we will be doubling our business.”

Originally from India, Sohil has built a solid career in Finance as a chartered accountant. Sohil heads the commercial finance function at GFI.  Before joining GFI in 2011 – he worked for a year at Reliance Industries Ltd, a multi-national conglomerate in India right after qualifying as CA in 2009.