In an exclusive interview with PC Magazine, Vasant Menghani, the Managing Director of Quality Gulf talks about how his business has grown over the years, his keenness on providing quality and value for money products to his customers and his plans to reach the 1000 mark by end of this year, as far as his every growing product portfolio is concerned.
How has the regional IT and consumer electronics market grown over these years?
I believe that the regional IT and consumer electronic market has grown within last three years by approximately 37 percent per year, by volume and sales. We have grown over the years, too. When we started operations in 1988 there were only five stores dealing in IT products on the market. Today there are more than 600 stores selling the same products in one market. This has significantly increased competition and reduced profit margins on such products over these years. Also, earlier we used to have new products being launched maybe three or four times a year, which helped people stock goods for a longer period of time as a particular technology did not go obsolete so quickly. However, with new products flowing in every other day, the margins have again reduced and the pressure to liquidate stocks has increased over the years. Dubai being a trade hub since its inception has been successful in making that statement and has been living up to its image. It is a central port for all the neighbouring countries (the GCC and countries in Africa and Russia). Due to this image and its increasing importance, more and more buyers from such GCC, African and Russian countries are coming to Dubai to buy products, thus helping the UAE consumer electronics and IT market grow every year.
Which markets do you concentrate on, at the moment? Any plans to branch out to other untouched markets in the region?
Touchmate as a brand is now well know across the GCC region. Over the last two years, we have been heavily concentrating into emerging markets such as oil rich countries of Russia, North-East Africa, India and some parts of Europe. In fact recently in February of 2008, we opened Touchmate’s IT megastore in Turkey, which is spread across an area of approximately 14000 sq. ft, with our local partner in Turkey. In May 2008, another retail showroom was inaugurated. We plan to open about three more IT megastores in Turkey by the end of this year. In terms of our plan to branching out into other markets, we are under the process of launching operations in India as well as starting a regional office in Holland to cater to our European customers.
What market trends do you foresee in the regional market?
We foresee that in the regional market, there would be a growing demands for IT and consumer electronics products, irrespective of the fact that inflation has hit us hard over the years. The cut-throat competition will only increase making this market the most desirable market for buyers. More on more opportunities will arise with Dubai growing at an intense pace. But as IT is mostly a retail-based industry, nowadays many buyers from the African and GCC countries see a trip to Dubai as a needless affair, especially because of the expensive hotels and the increasing traffic. Hence, I believe that the online retail business will grow more. Touchmate will soon be launching its online retail business by the name “DubaiITOffers.com” wherein all of our vendors and channel partners will be able to sell their products online to customers from around the world. The new website will be functional by July this year.
You recently launched a series of notebooks in the regional market. However, the regional notebooks market in the Middle East is quite crowded right now…
Touchmate has started launching its new notebooks range on the market in collaboration with Intel. Yes, I see lots of notebook brands available on the market. It is true that there is a lot of competition as well as lots of brands selling notebooks on the market. However, we have not positioned our notebooks as a mass selling product. We are catering to a niche segment of high-profile customers who want a notebook to be a status symbol, as well as a fashion accessory that can be carried around. For instance, with its stunning looks, colours and performance, Touchmate’s new range of MiniWonder notebooks with a 12-inch display provide outstanding performance using the world’s fastest Intel Extreme processors. I would view Toucmate’s MiniWonder notebook akin to a Masserati car, which means power with lots of style. The notebook is available in many colours, is light-weight runs Microsoft Windows Vista Premium, and comes packed in a crash-proof technology.
Do you feel that Quality Gulf will be able to cash-in on the growing regional notebook market? How?
Yes. As a company, we have been successful over the past 20 years of our existence in this market and we would like to replicate the same success in the notebook side of business. In fact, we have been successful in the 14-inch and 15-inch notebook market already by selling a good quantity. Now with the support of our hypermarket and IT megastore partners, with whom we have had a furitfull relationship for over 12 years, I am positive that we will be more successful with our 12-inch notebook range. We will soon be also launching mobile phones with features such as mobile TV, dual SIMs, multimedia, and internet options.
Do you have plans to grow your product portfolio sometime soon?
Well, that is a plan I live with. I started Touchmate with 15 products and today we are carrying more than 850 products under our product portfolio. My current mission is to get to the 1000 mark and then see how it goes from there. My plan is simple. Keep adding, keep growing, support channel partners and sell the best value for money products to customers.
Where are your manufacturing and R&D facilities located?
Most of the manufacturing and R&D of our products is done in Dubai and China. We currently have two manufacturing plants here in Dubai – one in Ras-Al-Khor (Aweer) and the other one in Jebel Ali. This is where all the manufacturing is done under the international standards approved by Intel and Microsoft. Furthermore we have an R&D unit in Dubai and one in China, which are dedicated at evaluating every product that Touchmate adds to its product portfolio, thus making sure that the product is delivered to our consumers without any flaws. Touchmate was in fact the first company in Dubai’s IT industry to start a manufacturing plant in Dubai. It was blessed and inaugurated by Sheikh Gargawi (the Minister of Information Technology) who encouraged us to bring to the world, one of the best IT brands from Dubai. Today, we are on that path. Due to this, we are well updated on the requirement of local consumer and having a manufacturing facility here allows us to deliver top notch and the latest IT products to our customers as and when a technology gets launched globally. For June this year, we plan to launch a new assembly line for assembling our new range of notebooks at Aweer.
How do you distinguish yourself from other similar vendors? What according to you is your unique selling point (USP)?
We are a brand that understands its consumer well enough and hence we are able to accommodate their growing needs. We are one of the brands that started locally and today we have grown into a brand that is giving a tough competition to established and international brands on the market. Our consumers have acknowledged and appreciated our honest efforts to provide them with a basket of products to choose from wherein they can get assured that they will get only high quality products. All this at a very competitive price and with a prompt and efficient after sales service to back up the products they buy. We currently have eight service centres across the UAE. Also, the fact that we have over 800 products in our product portfolio means that there is something for everyone. Touchmate today is a one stop solution brand. This makes us different from other vendors.
Are you also present in growing markets such as Africa and Iran? If yes, what is the extent of your presence?
Of course we have presence in these markets. These are the most potential markets today and like everyone else we are also supplying our products into these markets. In Africa we are one of the most successful brands as far as computer, accessories and peripherals market is concerned. Our presence is to such an extent that the Ethiopian Army uses Touchmate PCs at its military base. Also, if you walk into a small computer store in Togo (Africa) you are bound to see Touchmate products being sold there, too. We are currently planning to reach into other major cities of Africa and Iran to become the market leaders and have an edge over the other brands such as we are here in the UAE. Overall we cover major African countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Congo, Zambia and many more. We also plan to enter the South African market by 2009.
Tell us about your after sales service and technical support initiatives?
We have a number of service centres all over UAE. These service centres have highly qualified staff that provide prompt after sales service. We have a hand to hand replacement policy for all our accessories, while with our PCs we usually get things sorted out within a span of 24 hours. However, this again depends on the intensity of the problems and components available. But then, we assure all customers 99 percent satisfaction, as 100 percent is not always possible in this industry.