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”.
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 Customers should always come to us and we should not look outdated.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.”