CAR­RY­ING FOR­WARD THE LE­GACY

IN AN EX­CLU­SIVE IN­TER­VIEW WITH QATARTODAY, SA­JED JAS­SIM MOHAMMED SU­LAIMAN, VICE CHAIR­MAN AND MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR, JUMBO ELEC­TRON­ICS, TALKS ABOUT THE COM­PANY'S FU­TURE PLANS AND ANALY­SES HOW THE BRAND HAS BE­COME A “HOUSE­HOLD NAME IN QATAR”.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY UDAYAN NAG

Jumbo Elec­tron­ics started its op­er­a­tions in Qatar in 1980 with three peo­ple. Its staff now con­sists of around 1000 peo­ple from dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, and the com­pany is plan­ning to open its new head of­fice in En­ergy City, Lu­sail, in a cou­ple of years' time. Sa­jed Jas­sim Mohammed Su­laiman, the com­pany's Vice Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, says that they have been part of Qatar's de­vel­op­ment over the years and have grown along with the na­tion. The key, ac­cord­ing to him, is the com­pany's “cus­tomer comes first” pol­icy.

“We have been very proac­tive with our strate­gies. To us, our cus­tomers al­ways come first and we want to pro­vide them with the best ser­vice pos­si­ble. It's not just about sell­ing our prod­ucts any­more. It's about sell­ing a prod­uct, and once it's with the cus­tomers we make sure they can use the prod­uct and get the max­i­mum ben­e­fits out of it. And if there's any­thing they need in af­ter-sales ser­vice, we should be there for them. This is the essence of business.”

Su­laiman adds that with a pop­u­la­tion of around 2.7 mil­lion, the mar­ket in Qatar is small and word of mouth works re­ally well here, and that it's even more im­por­tant now that when a prod­uct is sold, the nec­es­sary spare parts are avail­able so that if and when a cus­tomer comes back dur­ing the warranty pe­riod, the ser­vic­ing/re­pair work is car­ried out smoothly.

Go­ing for­ward, Su­laiman says that re­brand­ing and up­grad­ing are go­ing to fea­ture in Jumbo's scheme of things. How­ever, he rules out do­ing any­thing dras­tic. “Our com­pany ba­si­cally has three main seg­ments – B2B, B2C and real es­tate. We are pre­par­ing our­selves for the next ten years. Cus­tomers should al­ways come to us and we should not look out­dated. One of our lat­est in­tro­duc­tions in re­tail is Spark, which is go­ing to be more than just an elec­tron­ics store; home au­to­ma­tion is go­ing to be a part of it. We did a test project in Dar Al Salam Mall. That was the first phase where we tried out how our re­tail should work. We have in­vested a lot of money in de­sign­ing, and we are likely to open an out­let in one of the most prom­i­nent malls within this year. We will be handed over the site in the next few months. This lo­ca­tion will al­ways have its ad­van­tages with re­gard to foot­falls since it's well con­nected and strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned.”

“I also re­call the early years of LG Elec­tron­ics in Qatar when we started our part­ner­ship in 1986 with Gold Star and how it has evolved as a solid brand will­ing and ca­pa­ble of win­ning the trust and loy­alty of con­sumers in Qatar and world­wide. We are proud to have been LG's faith­ful part­ner for three decades and will con­tinue to nur­ture this re­la­tion­ship while fo­cus­ing on what mat­ters most to our lo­cal con­sumers as we cater to their unique needs and life­styles,” says Su­laiman.

In con­nec­tion with the 30-year part­ner­ship, LG Elec­tron­ics hosted Video Home's hi­er­ar­chy at its head­quar­ters in South Korea last year. Ac­cess was pro­vided to their new projects, which were oth­er­wise un­der wraps, and to the high-se­cu­rity ar­eas in the man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties which was a rare hon­our ac­corded to LG's part­ners world­wide.

Among LG's lat­est prod­ucts in­tro­duced re­cently in Qatar, the en­ergy and time­sav­ing Twin Tub wash­ing ma­chine and the 8-star DUALCOOL In­verter AC are at­tract­ing a lot of at­ten­tion. The DUALCOOL In­verter AC works even at tem­per­a­tures of 650C. An­other of its key fea­tures is ‘Smart Di­ag­no­sis', which al­lows users to re­motely and con­ve­niently check set-up, in­stal­la­tion, trou­bleshoot­ing, and other in­for­ma­tion di­rectly from a smart­phone via a SIMs mod­ule. The AC's ex­clu­sive Gold Fin(tm) coat­ing, which forms a pro­tec­tive shield on the sur­face of the heat ex­changer, makes the sur­face more re­sis­tant to cor­ro­sion while im­prov­ing the over­all dura­bil­ity of the heat ex­changer.

“Of­fi­cials from the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry and Kahramaa were also present dur­ing the launch of the Dual In­verter AC,” says Su­laiman. “From an en­vi­ron­ment point of view, we are among the few brands which com­ply fully with the reg­u­la­tions. The AC has low power con­sump­tion. Hav­ing seen it work, I can tell you that it's quite user­friendly and has prom­i­nent pan­els on the cover where you can see the tem­per­a­ture quite eas­ily. At times it's so quiet that you don't even know whether it's on or not.”

Among the lat­est prod­ucts in­tro­duced by the com­pany are the LG SIG­NA­TURE col­lec­tion which in­cludes 4K OLED TVs, the much-awaited Wall­pa­per TV launched re­cently in Home En­ter­tain­ment and TwinWash wash­ing ma­chines in Home Ap­pli­ances, and LG G-6 – the star of the GSM range.

LG SIG­NA­TURE prod­ucts bring to­gether the com­pany's best tech­nol­ogy and de­signs un­der a sin­gle name, where each prod­uct stays pure, so­phis­ti­cated, and true to its essence.

Qatar's con­sumer elec­tron­ics mar­ket is one the most lu­cra­tive in the world with high in­comes and a strong con­sump­tion cul­ture. Over the last 30 years, Video Home & Elec­tronic Cen­tre has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in estab­lish­ing the LG brand across house­holds in Qatar. Since 2000, the com­pany has achieved a com­pound an­nual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.57%. Video Home ex­pects to reach QR500 mil­lion in rev­enue with the LG brand by 2016 - 17.

As far as Jumbo's LG side of busi­nesses are con­cerned, Su­laiman says that the com­pany achieved a turnover of over $100 mil­lion last year, which was a land­mark achieve­ment for them. He fur­ther says the com­pany is im­mensely proud of what it has achieved in the last 37 years. “The con­stant drive is tak­ing us for­ward. Since our be­gin­ning in 1980, we have come a

LG'S DUALCOOL IN­VERTER AIR CON­DI­TIONER WORKS EVEN UP TO 650C. ITS ‘SMART DI­AG­NO­SIS' AL­LOWS USERS TO RE­MOTELY AND CON­VE­NIENTLY CHECK SET-UP, IN­STAL­LA­TION, TROU­BLESHOOT­ING, AND OTHER IN­FOR­MA­TION DI­RECTLY FROM A SMART­PHONE.

long way. We are open­ing one of the best build­ings in En­ergy City in Lu­sail, as our new head­quar­ters, within the next two years.”

In Qatar, Video Home & Elec­tronic Cen­tre is also the sole dis­trib­u­tor for some of the world's most prom­i­nent brands like LG, In­de­sit, Aris­ton, Brother, JBL, Har­man Kar­don, AKG, Ky­ocera, Onida, Aris­ton, Ken­wood, Mor­phy Richards, Supra, Olym­pus, Sa­fari, Cam­po­matic, Sun­stech, Nikai, Bi­na­tone, Rot­punkt, Sym­phony, Dometic, Secutron, Bosch Ad­van­tage Line, Hi­tachi Power Tools, etc. And it is con­stantly adding to this list of world­class brands.

The com­pany un­der­stands the needs of the con­sumers well and knows that the dis­cern­ing cus­tomer wants prod­ucts with fea­tures, style and the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. Keep­ing this in mind Jumbo launched Os­car, its own brand of elec­tron­ics and ap­pli­ances.

Os­car's wide prod­uct range in­cludes a va­ri­ety of air con­di­tion­ers, re­frig­er­a­tors, chest freez­ers, wash­ing ma­chines, tele­vi­sions, etc., cover­ing a wide range of elec­tron­ics, home ap­pli­ances and small kitchen ap­pli­ances.

“We will be tak­ing the prod­uct for­ward in other GCC coun­tries as well. We have al­ready started sell­ing them in Bahrain. Right now, things are at a very ini­tial stage. How­ever, as we go along, Os­car might be­come one of the big names in the mar­ket.”

Su­laiman's opin­ion on deal­ing with the slow­down in the econ­omy is clear-cut. “When things get chal­leng­ing, like in 2016, you can ei­ther crib about it or fight the chal­lenges. We found av­enues be­yond the scope of our business to keep our turnovers go­ing. We have been more ag­gres­sive with our place­ments across the coun­try. Though we were def­i­nitely af­fected, the im­pact was min­i­mal.”

How­ever, he an­tic­i­pates a shift in mo­men­tum as the na­tion gets closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and ex­pects Jumbo to be a part of that mo­men­tum. “Things are pick­ing up and will get even bet­ter from 2018 on­wards. We will try to get the max­i­mum ben­e­fits from the sit­u­a­tion. Hav­ing said that, we will also sup­port our govern­ment to carry out one of the best FIFA World Cups ever.”

And, on the sub­ject of Jumbo be­ing in­volved with Qatar's World Cup projects, Su­laiman feels that there will be a mul­ti­tude of ac­tiv­i­ties that the com­pany will be in­volved with, not only with re­gard to the World Cup, but also for Qatar's 2030 Vi­sion, e.g., air con­di­tion­ing, sig­nage, and park­ing man­age­ment sys­tems.

“Cur­rently, most of the World Cup projects are as­so­ci­ated with civil works, but as soon as the con­tracts for other projects start be­ing awarded, there will be plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for us.”

“Re­cently we in­tro­duced a ve­hi­cle in­spec­tion sys­tem suit­able for in­spect­ing ve­hi­cles en­ter­ing high-se­cu­rity ar­eas, res­i­den­tial com­pounds, man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, etc. Since se­cu­rity is get­ting more im­por­tant by the day, our prin­ci­pals in Ger­many have de­vel­oped a state-of-the-art se­cu­rity ramp for sev­eral us­age pur­poses. Mean­while, we un­der­stand that they have re­ceived very pos­i­tive re­sponses from Euro­pean air­ports and har­bour se­cu­rity com­pa­nies.”

Su­laiman feels that there is still quite some time to go be­fore Jumbo starts on its

“WE HAVE BEEN VERY PROAC­TIVE WITH OUR STRATE­GIES. WE AL­WAYS PUT OUR CUS­TOMERS FIRST; WE WANT TO PRO­VIDE THEM WITH THE BEST SER­VICE POS­SI­BLE. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT SELL­ING OUR PROD­UCTS ANY­MORE.”

ex­pan­sion plans out­side the GCC, and that there's a lot hap­pen­ing in Qatar as well as the other GCC coun­tries and that pat­tern is go­ing to con­tinue in the years to come.

“Cur­rently, we've got enough on our hands for the next 4-5 years. We have an ex­port business out­side Doha which we run from here, and we are also plan­ning to open an of­fice in Dubai. Af­ter 2022, we might be look­ing at spread­ing our wings, but cur­rently all the at­ten­tion is fo­cused here, where the com­pe­ti­tion is in­creas­ing ev­ery day.”

He also talks about the com­pany's Oryx group of food ser­vices – Nando's, Ocean Bas­ket, and Cap­tain Billy's. “We in­tro­duced Ocean Bas­ket in Mall of Qatar. We'll have a to­tal of 12 out­lets in Doha by the end of this year. Be­cause of the cur­rent chal­lenges, we are post­pon­ing some of our de­vel­op­ment sched­ules to next year. So we'll have 12 restaurants run­ning in Qatar.”

“Two of our new Nando's out­lets are com­ing up at Doha Fes­ti­val City (DFC) and the Amer­i­can base. Har­man House, which we opened at DFC, is one of our most beau­ti­ful out­lets. Some of our re­ally high­end prod­ucts like JBL are avail­able there. Har­man House has a huge range of prod­ucts, with a price range of QR100 to QR25,000. And the qual­ity main­tained in the whole range of prod­ucts is phe­nom­e­nal.”

Jumbo Elec­tron­ics' new head of­fice which is go­ing to be opened in Lu­sail is a smart build­ing with so­lar pan­els. Su­laiman points out that 70% of en­ergy in the build­ing will be so­lar-driven, and the idea is to fur­ther pro­mote the con­cept of smart build­ings be­cause LG's prod­ucts epit­o­mise just that.

“As soon as the door is opened, the AC switches on au­to­mat­i­cally, and as soon as you leave the room, the lights go out, the TV shuts off, etc.,” he says. “This is some­thing that LG has al­ready started in Korea. The smart cities there have sig­nages on the road which tell you about the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion, so maybe they should be in­tro­duced in Qatar be­fore 2022.”

Su­laiman also cites per­son­alised ser­vice pro­vided by Jumbo, which ac­cord­ing to him is unique. He says that when any of their cus­tomers are mov­ing house, the com­pany pro­vides as­sis­tance in the shift­ing of their prod­ucts at nom­i­nal charges. “How many com­pa­nies do that? We also have mo­bile units that go out to re­mote parts of Doha for ser­vic­ing, be­cause when you go to those ar­eas, you need to carry spare parts. In­stead of bring­ing it back here, we fix it then and there. Our ser­vice cen­tre is the largest af­ter­sales fa­cil­ity in the coun­try for elec­tron­ics and home ap­pli­ances.”

Jumbo Elec­tron­ics' 37-year jour­ney thus far has come with its fair share of chal­lenges, and Su­laiman stresses the con­stant need for im­prove­ment and in­no­va­tion. He says that keep­ing the business sus­tain­able over the years has not been easy, and ex­ceed­ing one's ex­pec­ta­tions in terms of growth comes with its share of prob­lems.

“At times our sales were so high that if was dif­fi­cult to keep pace with our af­ter­sales ser­vices. An­other chal­lenge we faced was the re­quire­ment of a sta­ble part­ner, and then LG, which has be­come like a fam­ily for us, came along. The nu­mer­ous hy­per­mar­kets have also made things chal­leng­ing, and the com­pe­ti­tion now is much more than be­fore.

“The mar­ket to­day is such that if you don't in­no­vate you'll be left be­hind be­cause the times, business and com­peti­tors are chang­ing. It's very im­por­tant that we put our A game on the ta­ble all the time and if we fall even a lit­tle bit be­hind, we'll be left out. So, we would like to end by say­ing a big thank you to our cus­tomers, deal­ers and hy­per­mar­kets for their mar­vel­lous sup­port.”

“ONE OF OUR LAT­EST IN­TRO­DUC­TIONS IN RE­TAIL IS SPARK, WHICH IS GO­ING TO BE MORE THAN JUST AN ELEC­TRON­ICS STORE; HOME AU­TO­MA­TION IS GO­ING TO BE A PART OF IT.”

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