The electronics boom

Electronics are certainly moving at the speed of light creating buzz and improving connections among different generations. With Emax being a one-stop shop for all electronics needs, Capital Business got talking to Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO, Emax who gave us insights into the retail industry and the latest trends intriguing customers in the Middle East.


How do you describe the retail landscape in the Middle East when compared to other parts of the world?

The Middle East is one of the best regions in the world. Despite the drop in oil prices, countries are trying to diversify their economies. I believe we are in the right place, especially with the very young population, which constitutes a great client base for electronics and technologies in the region. Therefore, we are very confident about the retail sector here.


Since its inception, how did Emax contribute to this development?

Our presence in the region for the last 40 years has made us experts in the retail industry. As part of the Landmark Group, we became the largest conglomerate in the region. Thus, we understand the market and the customer requirements very well. Moreover, our extensive experience in terms of stores, layouts and formats has allowed us to create benchmarks for others to follow.


What are the main challenges facing the retail channel in the region?

One of the challenges that we face comes from the quality of people that we hire. We recruit workforce from outside of the country; therefore, training new employees and keeping them up to date is always a constraint.

Moreover, sourcing trade policies and the availability of new products is also a challenge for us. Being in the electronics industry, the principles adopted by worldwide brands also put pressure on us and indirectly affect retailers.

The new challenge comes from ad hoc e-commerce players, which are stepping into the market and disrupting products pricing in a way that damages us as retailers. However, we are trying to cope up with this trend, and have already launched an e-commerce platform. 


So, does your growth strategy depend on e-commerce?

e-commerce is a very integral part of our growth strategy. We will follow a multi-channel strategy, instead of a pure e-commerce one that does not include retail. We aim to become a big omni-channel retail player.


The electronics industry is becoming more application-based, digital and mobile-tech friendly. Whether it is in entertainment, communication or social media, smartphones are at the forefront of the industry.


Moreover, electronics started to be used in health and fitness with smartwatches. This emerging trend will largely develop in the coming years. We have started implementing this technology in our retail outlet stores. Additionally, we have started launching a personal care, health and fitness section within our Emax stores.


In order to sustain our success and grow further, we will continue to reach out to our customers now that the concept of destinations is diluting. We are increasing our presence in the region with the launch of 10 stores in the last year and we will open 20 more by the end of 2016.


How are you keeping pace with smart technology and smart products?

Devices that are not smart are not selling. The new wave of smart devices and smart appliances is leading to the concept of a smart home, which secures security and safety. Today, when I am sitting in my office, I am capable of monitoring what is happening in my house or retail shops in multiple countries by merely using my computer or mobile phone. Through the internet protocol, everything is possible. We are always connected and everything is moving in the smart direction.


How do you see the e-retail industry moving in the GCC?

e-retail is becoming m-retail (mobile retail). It is moving fast and is fueled by the region’s young population, which is avid to immediately adopt the latest trends. Overall, GCC societies are affluent and people are very fast in picking up technology.


What differentiate you from competition in the UAE market in particular?

The UAE is an over competitive market. In order to cope up with the competition, one has to have certain standards. In our case, we emphasized on educating our sales force and training them well, from day one, in a way to assist buyers. Our tagline is Emax, electronics simplified. Thus, we like to simplify electronics to people and assist our customers in a language they would understand.


Customers like to be pampered through loyalty programs. This is something we excel at as Emax has multiple loyalty programs such as Shukran, which results from our affiliation with Landmark Group. We also have a strategic alliance with Emirates airlines and are part of their Skywards loyalty program. Moreover, we have participated in the Etisalat loyalty plan; all this allows our customers to get what they want.


Furthermore, our strong presence in the GCC is definitely a competitive advantage for us as we have 27 stores in the UAE, 65 across the GCC and we will be opening another seven stores by the end of the year. This makes us the largest retailer in the region in terms of footprint and presence. Customers will find us wherever they go.


We are also creating a unique selling proposition in terms of multi-channel retailing where a customer can buy from our stores and get the products delivered to their place, order online, or even return the products they didn’t like. We also have a very strong after sales network called “Smart care”, as well as a customer service helpline called “Hello Emax”. It is all about the overall experience that one gets with Emax, which makes an “experience relationship” rather than a transactional relationship.


What are your other plans for the next two years?

We hope to have 100 outlets by 2017. This growth will mainly come from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which will continue to grow with the increase in community malls and megamalls.

We are also looking to step into new markets such as Egypt, Iran and other countries in the Middle East.


The escalation in operating costs is a major issue for our industry. However, our operation efficiencies marketing efforts and our inventory managements are what will strengthen us in the long term. 


*Interview conducted by Jenny Kassis, Executive Editor


About Neelesh Bhatnagar

Neelesh Bhatnagar is the Chief Executive Officer of Emax. Under his management, Emax, the Landmark Group’s electronics subsidiary, has seen a meteoric rise to the sector’s leading position.

He leads leads the Landmark Group in Saudi Arabia. With over 26 years’ experience in the Middle East and with excellent understanding of the region’s business dynamics and culture, Neelesh has been the driving force behind the success of Landmark in Saudi Arabia. 

Prior to joining the group, he started his career as a Chartered Accountant and worked for several multinationals companies such as Xerox, Inchcape and TNT. He joined the Landmark Group in 1988 as the Finance Controller for its Bahrain Operations.


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