CEO Middle East
DRIVEN BY A VISION
Dr. Saeed Dana of Pegasus Automotive Group shares insights into his leadership, experience and driving the company forwards through the pandemic
PPEGASUS IS A LUXURY LIFESTYLE HOLDING COMPANY WITH OPERATIONS IN LONDON, GENEVA, KUWAIT, ABU DHABI, DUBAI AND IS EXPANDING IN THE USA AND THE FAR EAST.
The company owns several of the world’s leading brands in the field of luxury products, with strengths in the automotive and retail industries as Pegasus Automotive Group. They represent iconic brands including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce Motor Cars, Koenigsegg and Sports Classics Heritage.
You have been a part of the automotive industry for a long time now. Why and when did you decide to join the sector? How did your interest in cars start?
Being the fourth generation of my family in the automotive business, I never thought of any other profession. As a child, I was passionate about cars and fascinated by their mechanics. I remember spending countless weekends in the family dealership.
At four years old, I painted a beautiful long white line from bumper to bumper on my grandfather’s brand-new car, my first automotive project. My first car was an orange Citroen Mehari. I remember driving in the countryside, terrorising the neighborhood with my first home made racing exhaust. I was eight years old!
I started as an apprentice at the age of 14 and began by cleaning the workshop, tools and cars. I have learned every aspect of the business on my way up. When people ask how long I have been in this industry, I usually give my age because that is how long I have been exposed to this world. It’s in my DNA.
I worked for many years in Formula 1 for Toyota and Renault, responsible for the optimization of engine calibration, gearbox and clutch control strategies and data analysis. Then I joined the business side of the industry, where I had the privilege of being a part of a number of brands including Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin, while acquiring a Doctorate in Business Administration in parallel.
What’s the key to keeping a step ahead?
I never cease to learn and I have a systematic approach to understanding new technologies and updating my skills to be up to date in this fast-changing industry. For me, learning is always purposive and goal-directed.
How do you overcome challenges?
It is vital to see challenges in a positive way. Overcoming obstacles is hard, but life is
full of challenges and we have to summon the courage to face them and not to beat around the bush. I get a sense of satisfaction from facing challenges head on, as it brings me a sense of accomplishment. I seek challenges to learn and grow from them. Life’s most effective tool towards growth is experience.
You have held positions in major companies. How did your previous roles help you in your current one?
My career, which spans over 25 years, has provided me hands-on technical skills necessary to understand the requirements of technicians and engineers, paired with the operational and strategic acumen necessary to develop and implement retail network strategies across 62 countries.
In addition to my experience in retail and OEM, my skills from cross-functional expertise, premium-niche and commercial segments, have all helped my ability to analyse, restructure and optimize business operations at national, regional and international levels.
How is this market different from the other markets that you were previously involved in?
Every market has its unique opportunities and challenges, and my experience has provided me with the ability to differentiate between varying needs at a country-specific micro-level. The United Arab Emirates automotive market is slowly shifting towards a service-oriented model, focusing extensively on customer experience and transitions in the market are providing opportunities. Customer experience is the next competitive battleground, it’s where business is going to be won or lost.
Describe your leadership style and how it helps propel the company?
Good leadership is essential to productivity. Motivation is also necessary for everyone in the team to grow and reach their potential.
People are the most important asset of any company, one can have the most attractive
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PROFESSIONAL, MOTIVATED, COMMITTED AND ENGAGED TEAM, IT WILL NEGATIVELY IMPACT THE BOTTOM-LINE.
showroom with top of the line products, but if you don’t have a professional, motivated, committed and engaged team, it will negatively impact the bottom-line.
In today’s leadership scene, ensuring the mental and personal well-being of the team is a core pillar to establish harmony between the team, which is reflected in the company’s culture. When these aspects are addressed, we can start seeing improved financial results as well as talent retention. During tough times, it is important to make employees feel safe. When you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients and the business will take care of itself.
As any company, we have had our ups and downs during COVID-19, however I am proud of how the team collaborated in facing this adversity. It is pure teamwork that has led us to where we are as a company now, and what will continue to motivate us to grow.
To date, what are some of your bestselling cars in the region?
Aston Martin DB 11 is our best seller here in the UAE. However, having the DBX, Aston Martin’s first luxury SUV arriving this year, we have positive expectations. In my opinion, the DBX will take up a significant share in the market.
WHEN YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR EMPLOYEES, THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF THE CLIENTS AND THE BUSINESS WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.
How do you think the pandemic has changed Pegasus and the entire industry?
COVID-19 has changed not only the automotive sector, but the entire retail business. Many markets have experienced this decline, but the challenge is how to maintain one’s connection with the customer.
Adapting to the challenges has been a major eye-opener. Interest in cars has not stopped, but the way we engage the business had to become more innovative.
Helping customers to maintain their emotional connection with the brand was
a priority, Pegasus focused on this and strengthened our digital capabilities to creatively engage our customers. We brought the showroom to virtual platforms, conducted sales consultations via online platforms and even walked the extra mile by sending cars to their homes upon request, including test driving the vehicle.
Sanitizing the car has become a major protocol throughout the business and has become part of our services as well.
The consistency of our efforts in this during these challenging times made all the difference and resulted in positive outcomes. The last cars we sold were actually completed through our Virtual Consultation service.
What needs to be done in order to navigate through this crisis?
It is important for business leaders to act swiftly and decisively, not just for the good of the company, but for the industry, considering its growth is hinged on the global economy.
Our priorities are focused on closely monitoring macroeconomic indicators and changes in consumer behaviour; constantly reviewing our contingency plans as new information becomes available; exercising rigor in managing our finances and utmost prudence on cost reductions.
Most importantly, we continue to innovate our sales approaches, focusing on specific customer segments and geographies using digital tools. Moreover, we remain active and prepare our operations for recovery by taking critical steps to promote a safe working environment.
Can you describe success in five words?
Success for me is defined in the following words:
What do you love doing outside of work?
At this time, maintaining a balance in our lives has become a task in itself. Over the course of the past year, spending quality time with my family has taken top priority. I would love to get back to my long-time passion, which is horseback riding. I would certainly go back to practicing this regularly now.