“We started this company five years ago and I am awed with what we have been able to achieve in the past couple of years,” exclaims Shazad Ahmed, the Chairman and CEO of Blue Ocean Global, as he sits down at his office in Dubai Motor City, to speak to me about the company’s plans for 2019. Having signed up with NEC as the master distributor for UAE, Oman and Iraq, just a couple of months ago, Ahmed seems to be pumped up for more.
“When we started five years ago, we initially had Siemens Gigaset range of products. Later on, Siemens started divesting some of their business units and the brand finally came to be known as Gigaset. The brand was very well known in MEA region and today, it is available in many markets such as Australia, South East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and so on,” adds Ahmed.
Blue Ocean Global has three companies under its portfolio. Blue Ocean Global FZCO is a Jebel Ali based company, which covers around 40 countries globally. Blue Ocean Trading LLC is primarily a B2B business which does business in the UAE. And finally, Al Mazhar Distribution is the company’s retail arm.
“Having started with Giagset, we today represent a wide range of brands such as SKross, HTek, Black & Decker, NEC, Motorola, and so on. In five years we have been able to create quite a diversified portfolio. As a company we specialize in telecom. However, we have also been able to add diversified products to our portfolio,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed prides in the company being channel first. “We only work with channel partners. We have a complete list of solutions and products our partners can offer to their customers – right from PBX, terminals and so on, to surveillance products from a brand called Vantage. For B2C products, we today deal with almost 300 retail outlets, electronic stores, and so on. We also work with the big boys such as Carrefour, Lulu, Nesto, Manama, Safeer, and so on. Our product range is huge – just for Black&Decker, we offer more than 300 SKUs on the market,” explains Ahmed.
Blue Ocean also works with eCommerce platforms such as Souq.com and Noon.com in the region. Ahmed says that since the eCommerce industry is growing rapidly, this year his target is to achieve 3X of revenue. “It’s surprising that almost 20% os our sales happens through our online channel today. We are hence positioning ourselves as an online specialist, and hence we supply around 20 brands on the eCommerce platforms we work with,” says Ahmed.
The company is also thinking beyond technology products when it comes to online sales. The company has recently added a leather accessories company called Wild Horn to its portfolio. Ahmed says that the company also plans to get into the baby products market with products such as strollers, car seats and so on. “We will also be getting into the institutional part of the channel. We will start focusing on hotels, hospitals and so on,” adds Ahmed.
According to Ahmed, the company had around 250 channel partners and after they signed up NEC, they added 250 more channel partners, bringing the total of their channel community to 500 partners. “When it comes to NEC, there is an installation base of 30,000 – 40,000 NEC products in sectors such as medical, hospitality, banking, retail, petrol stations, education, airports and so on. And hence, we need lots of channel partners to service such a diverse range of industry sectors,” explains Ahmed.
The company plans to offer a channel partner program called Blue Diamond Partner Program for its NEC partner community. The program will offer additional advantages of working with NEC and will come with lots of value in terms of picking up the stock, providing services to customers, and so on. Ahmed says his company will also offer lots of incentives as the program is deployed across the company’s partner network. The program is expected to offer three tiers of partnerships – Single Diamond, Double Diamond and Triple Diamond.
“Today’s market is quite challenging and the only area that separates you from others is how much of trust and transparency you are offering to your channel partners. So we want to be continuously engaged and be supportive of our partners in order for them to increase business. We will also be offering certification programs, through regular training sessions on a weekly basis. We will be inviting our channel partners to our demo room and will be offering NEC certified training,” adds Ahmed.
For 2019, Ahmed says his company’s focus will be on telecommunications, small domestic appliances, and their online business. “We will be adopting a multi-pronged strategy – this is because, in order to reduce market risk, it is important to have more than one area of specialization. We recently signed up with HP for their printer, inks, toners and so on, only for the online part. Today, the customer is the same. If you want a printer, a phone, accessory, ink, and so on, all you do is, go to your screen and order what you want to. So we are trying to give convenience to the customer by offering a wide range of products under one roof.”
While Middle East is at the core of Blue Ocean Global’s strategies, the company plans to enter the European region through the UK market, where it recently registered a new company. “Our next step is to enter that part of the world through the UK market in addition to increasing our focus on the African market,” concludes Ahmed.