With over five decades of experience in Automobile manufacturing industry, Albert Grunenfelder left a mark as a successful and one of the most innovative Swiss entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
As co-founder of the CGS Group in Saudi Arabia, Albert Grunenfelder proudly builds a venture that is solely dedicated to Transport Refrigeration and Customized vehicle manufacturing hub. Albert Grunenfelder Sen., was born on 4th July 1927, second of 4 children. He was affectionately known as "GK''. In 1954, GK took over his father's company and started to manufacture Truck Bodies and Trailers for the growing truck industry.
In 1963, Grunenfelder started to build a completely new factory in Kriessern (Switzerland) where they still are today under the umbrella of GK Grünenfelder AG. Esmat Al-Saady is the patron and founder of CGS. By profession, a trained pilot and started his career in the Air Force in 1959. He served in the Air Force until 1971, when he left as quadrant commander and operations director. He later joined Northrope, where he worked for a year before moving to Abdul Latif Jameel Co.; where he was appointed GM for Toyota & MAN trucks.
Grunenfelder started to explore the Middle East market for business opportunities. His dream was to establish a manufacturing company for Truck-Bodies & Trailers outside Switzerland. In 1975, together with a Swiss colleague, he traveled to Beirut. However due to unfavorable situation back at that time they have to move out of Beirut and proceed towards Saudi Arabia and landed in Jeddah. In Jeddah, their contact advised them to continue to Riyadh and eventually came into contact with Esmat Al Saady. After several discussions finally Al-Saady declared his interest to join Grunenfelder. The two businessmen faced many challenges in their joint venture, they did not speak the same language and there was no guarantee on the investment. When asked about what convinced Grunenfelder to such a match, he cajoled that "[it must have been] the spark in his eyes''.
Finally, in 1976, they came to an agreement and signed a letter of intent for a joint-venture company with the name "CGS Conato-Grunenfelder- Saady''. The parent Swiss company pre-manufactured the first steel hangar and few bungalows for the personnel and purchased machinery and furniture.
Four young Swiss craftsmen, few body builder technicians were initially on board and CGS start it small humble assembly hub. By end of October 1976, all the materials including steel hangar, bungalows, machinery, furniture, and kitchen were loaded onto one semi-trailer and one rigid truck with tow-bar trailer left Switzerland for the 8'500 km trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Towards the end of 1976, Grunenfelder along with his crew of 5 employees traveled to Riyadh, marking the start of a lifetime adventure. Many obstacles were waiting ahead and it was not a smooth sail. Soon the group purchase a 5'000 m2 of land outside Riyadh where they built their factory and the workshop till was relocated to its present production area in the II Industrial City in Riyadh.
During this set-up period of the company in 1977, Mr. Al-Saady and Mr. Grunenfelder bought out one of the initial partner and from then on, CGS became Consolidated Grunenfelder Saady Co. During its expansion phase another name was added to the existing Co. as "Coldstores Group of Saudi Arabia''.
Through-out the business years Al-Saady and Albert Grunenfelder share a unique bond; a relationship that prospers despite many geographical, cultural and language barriers. It is their trust and friendship, which leads the company forward to achieve success.