Jalila Mezni is a Tunisian businesswoman and entrepreneur. She is a co-founder and the CEO of Company of hygienic articles (Société D’Articles Hygiéniques, SAH Lilas). In 2015, she was named one of the most influential women in the Arab world by Forbes magazine. In 2020, the Forbes Middle East 2020 ranking of the 100 most influential women in the Middle East ranked her at the 37th position.
She is originally from Radès, a southern suburb of Tunis. Her professional career started in the banking sector.
In 1995, at the age of twenty-six, she quit her role in a Tunisian bank (she had worked there for five years). She started a business with her husband, Mounir el Jaiez— Société D’Articles Hygiéniques. The company makes diapers, tissues, sanitary towels and other products.
When their competitor introduced a new sanitary napkin—that was not accepted by customers—the company secured a new loan to boost the production of their sanitary napkins.
The sales began to climb, and SAH expanded its factory and staff. Today, the Lilas brand claims over 45% of the market for feminine care products and diapers.
For expansion, private equity became the next step for SAH. SAH got a $47 million investment from Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) in 2008. ECP acquired 49% of the SAH shares. The investment boosted sales; the turnover increased by 57 per cent, employee numbers expanded from 700 to 1,080. The company launched a manufacturing plant in Algeria in 2010. SAH became a vital employer in Tunisia.
SAH continued to thrive. It had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) in January 2014. It lists on the Tunis Stock Exchange. In 2016, SAH received a boost from the capital investor, Abraaj—they intend to expand into West African markets.
Jalila Mezni reaches beyond the Fast Moving and Consumer Goods (FMCGs) industry. She’s also an investor in the private education sector. Though not someone who embraces the limelight, however, her success has made her one of the most influential Tunisians.
Image credit: https://www.lilas.com.tn/Fr/nos-actualites_7_315_D47