The Business Year

Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim

UAE, DUBAI - Tourism

Eye of the Beholder

CEO, Paris Gallery

Bio

Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim is a member of the Al Fahim family, the founders and owners of the Paris Gallery Group of Companies. He is a graduate of Business Administration from Kentucky, US, and was appointed CEO of Paris Gallery in 2006. Prior to this he played a key role in establishing the group in Saudi Arabia.

"Every business exists on account of its customers, and customers have specific needs that have to be satisfied."

TBY talks to Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, CEO of Paris Gallery, on working with luxury brands, international expansion, and maintaining a prestigious retail experience.

THE BUSINESS YEAR How was Paris Gallery able to succeed during the global economic downturn?

MOHAMMED ABDUL RAHIM AL FAHIM The recession of 2008 was short lived, contrary to the opinions of the media, which exaggerated the effects of the crisis in the UAE. Fortunately, it passed very quickly with the leadership quick to respond and taking proactive steps to protect the economy. The banking sector helped keep afloat the sectors that were hit the hardest. For any company, regardless of whether you are a corporate or family-run business, if you have a strong set of values, a good understanding of how the industry operates, a good set of internal policies and procedures in place, strong and faithful management controlling the financial flow, and a good relationship with business partners and customers, then you are on solid ground. In addition, a team of employees that acts in a highly professional manner, who are loyal and cooperative, who stand with the company through thick and thin, is equally important. Paris Gallery has a great team. We didn’t have any reason to panic. We reduced spending during the downturn. Our employees were equipped with the tools that they needed to become more productive and effective. We were well positioned to weather the storm of 2008 because we had migrated from a family-run business to a corporate one in 2006. We had introduced internationally recognized standards with regards to processes, systems, and policies touching management, the value system, and cultural environment. Culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, and this includes the organization’s values, visions, systems, beliefs, and habits. This is taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, thinking, and feeling the Paris Gallery way. Switching to corporate governance was a major transformation for us, with changes applied to the legal structure, commercial systems, networking, distribution, and so on. It has so far prepared us to meet every challenge, helped us make good of every opportunity, and keeps us on the right course.

How has the cultural environment changed compared to the one you had before, and what are the values that you gain after the change?

Changing the culture was a large-scale undertaking, which began with the vision, mission, and values. We defined our strategic direction and decided what the culture should look like to succeed. We encouraged our employees to change to create the desired culture. We defined roles, and introduced measurement and control systems. We got our executives to support the cultural change. Constant training helped members of the organization understand what was expected from them and how to get used to their new behavior and roles. We practiced effective communication, keeping everyone informed about organizational changes, we reviewed the organizational structure, redesigned our approach to rewards and recognitions, and made changes to work systems that included pay practices, performance management, hiring employees, and employee promotions. We reviewed all the systems to make sure they supported the new culture that was adopted to accomplish our organizational goals. I am very proud of my team. They exceeded my expectations in understanding and accepting the new culture. Today, integrity is a fundamental value of our organization. Our employees work with passion, and they have a profound connection to the vision of the organization. They are ambitious, innovative, and great team players. The diversity is celebrated, perspectives respected, and fresh ways to address business issues are encouraged. They feel empowered. They have a passion for excellence. As a team, we are constantly thinking ahead for ways to better serve our customers, learning from our past mistakes, and making sure we continue to improve.

“Every business exists on account of its customers, and customers have specific needs that have to be satisfied.“

What makes Paris Gallery attractive to international brands and how do you manage the relationship with the labels you work with?

Mutual interests bring people or organizations together. Paris Gallery is a brick-and-mortar business with decades of physical presence and face-to-face customer experience. Paris Gallery is a name synonymous with luxury. We have succeeded through a strategy that combines high levels of sales assistance by our dedicated and trained staff, specialized merchandise, and a shopping environment that is viewed by our consumers as luxuriously special. We offer the best products in stores located at prime retail spaces in the region. When brands partner with us, they gain a strong market share, build a loyal customer base, and grow their overall business. They choose Paris Gallery for its opulence, its preferred-luxury-retailer status, reach, organized approach, and large customer base. Luxury brands require luxurious space, and that’s exactly what we provide in segments that include perfumes, cosmetics, watches, fashion apparel, sunglasses, and so on.

Does the company change the way it interacts with partners and customers depending on the market where it operates?

Every business exists on account of its customers, and customers have specific needs that have to be satisfied. And every business should satisfy those specific needs. Anyone entering Paris Gallery should receive the excellent customer service that Paris Gallery is widely known for. Though product offerings may differ in a particular area, a market or a region, the quality of service is standard. We hire people who we believe can be nurtured to accept these standards and values as their own. This is a tough task when you have people from different regions, cultures, and backgrounds, but our efforts have proven successful. Our guests enjoy the traditional Arabic hospitality that is central to how we treat our guests. Well-trained, polite, and attentive personnel make shopping at Paris Gallery meaningful and satisfying. We must understand the needs of customers in every market so that our offerings are meaningful and customers are best served. This is the primary objective of segmentation; to win and retain the customers we can serve well. It is important that potential customers in a market are identified and placed into different groups or segments with the same or comparable set of needs that can be satisfied by a distinct marketing proposition. This also helps us ensure that we meet the customer’s needs better than anyone else. We also take into account the newer or younger generations that increase by the year to cater to their needs, too.

What value does Paris Gallery add to Dubai’s retail experience? Why is it so popular among tourists and visitors?

Dubai is one of the most visited places in the world, and its retail experience is unlike any other. It’s so much more in one place than you could imagine. It’s a shopper’s paradise. It’s where you get high quality products and great customer service. And this is where Paris Gallery is a name to be reckoned with. Paris Gallery is synonymous with the word luxury. Our wide network of stores serves the needs of millions of tourists, expatriates, and locals. People travel from all parts of the world to Dubai for leisure and business, and they generally like to pamper themselves. We pamper our guests. We offer luxury with a distinctive, authentic Middle East flavor. We reflect the opulence of Dubai. We are a local company that meets every international standard. We are the local flavor. We are where our customers need us, and we provide what they want, and even more.

Which kind of services do you provide for the clients of your creations that the competition doesn’t?

Paris Gallery is a local company, and hospitality is ingrained in our culture. Our customers are our guests. One thing that’s unique to Paris Gallery is that customers can walk in, relax at the plush lounge, sip on Arabic coffee, feast on premium dates, have pleasing personnel attend to them, get information on the latest products, and have a fantastic shopping experience. Our customers receive first-class treatment in elegant, spacious, bright, and airy retail space, unlike other stores that cram up their retail space. Our customers also get to buy the most exclusive luxury products that one can only find at Paris Gallery. Many of the niche international brands are only available at Paris Gallery. Some of the world’s most expensive perfumes can only be found at Paris Gallery.

What major developments can we expect at Paris Gallery in the coming year?

We have plans to increase our foothold in the UAE and in GCC countries through new Paris Gallery stores and its franchises. We will inaugurate our franchise stores in Baku and Baghdad this year, with two more stores in Iraq planned for 2014. We will put more focus on fashion accessories and fine jewelry to gain a greater market share in fine jewelry, an initiative that we have just started in the UAE. Loyalty programs provide more value for our loyal customers.

This interview will be published in ‘The Business Year: Dubai 2013’. To subscribe please e-mail us at info@thebusinessyear.com

© The Business Year – May 2013

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