Jumbo determined to reach new altitudes

Jumbo Electronics has enjoyed a reputation as a force in the UAE's retail market for 30 years, but the company's auxiliary division - Jumbo IT Distribution - is determined to ensure that it's not overshadowed by its opposite number.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  December 14, 2007

Jumbo IT Distribution is no market rookie. The business was founded 11 years ago, offers an array of brands from vendors such as HP, Acer, Lenovo, LG and Sony and boasts an in-country presence in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE. It also delivers into Egypt and Lebanon. But Bikas Biswas, head of Jumbo's IT division, admits the unit has only began to make a name for itself over the past three years following the ramp-up of its business.

"For the last three years we have continually grown over 100% year-on-year and this year we're likely to generate revenues of over US$270m," he said. "What differentiates us from other distributors carrying the same brands is the relationship we have with our customers in the region. Jumbo has been here for 30 years, and that has helped us create strong relationships over the years," he added.

Biswas claims the rapport the distributor enjoys with dealers in the souks and the streets across the region is one of its key assets. With competitors to Jumbo Electronics' retail division often opting to do business elsewhere - and many distributors spending much of their time and effort with power retailers to satisfy their high quantity orders - Jumbo's decision to focus on these resellers is hardly a coincidence.

In fact, Jumbo IT distribution claims it outlines its commitment to such resellers by treating its sister division like any other power retailer it does business with, but Biswas admits the power retailer still comprises "14% to 15%" of the distributor's business and reckons the same is true of the reverse.

"There is a distinction between the retail facet and the IT distribution facet of Jumbo," he said. "Jumbo as a retailer is also a customer of IT distribution, but it is free to buy from other distributors. Jumbo distribution treats Jumbo retail in the same way that it treats any other power retailer in the market," he added.

Meanwhile, Jumbo Electronics' retail division has high hopes for the UAE-centric operation. JP Nambiar, head of the retail division, claims laptop sales in the country are skyrocketing, and cameras, flat-screen TVs and mobile phones are continuing to show impressive growth.

"Three years ago it was mobile phones which actually paved the growth and then slowly laptops began to play that role," revealed Nambiar. "But now you find all four of these categories really contributing to the growth of the business," he added.

A fiercely competitive cohort of consumer electronics and IT brands - each grappling for a share of the market - have created a retail boom in the UAE, but Nambiar pours water on suggestions that the retailer's Sony-focused image may work to its detriment. He reckons offering consumers a select range makes their lives easier.

"Every customer needs choice, but at the same time they don't want to get into a choice paralysis," claimed Nambiar. "They would like to have a choice from a very edited version of the full portfolio," he added.

Nambiar revealed the retailer has a clearly-defined strategy, which involves steering clear of the new competitively-priced Asian brands entering the marketplace, and instead focusing on offering premium products and a pleasant customer experience.

"Our setting is comfortable to shop at; everything is evenly spaced out," he said. "We believe in a personalised and non-intrusive approach, we don't want our customers being hounded by sales staff - these differentiators cement our position in the market," he added.

Jumbo retail's next move is geographic expansion. The power retailer already has stores in each of the United Arab Emirates, but is now looking to transcend the country's borders. "We are opening a store in Oman - we have located a few sites but need to finalise the paperwork," divulged Nambiar. "There are also discussions about Saudi and Kuwait," he revealed.

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