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INTRICACIES OF TRADE

Sharjah 2016 | TOURISM, CULTURE & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rajeev Bhatia, Managing Director of The House of S.T. Bhatia, on the importance of a diversified business model and how it has achieved such monumental growth.

Rajeev Bhatia
BIOGRAPHY
A graduate in marketing and corporate communications from Richmond, UK, Rajeev Bhatia pursued a comprehensive leadership program from Harvard Business School, US. A leader since college, he has introduced a strong sense of leadership and work ethic into The House of S.T. Bhatia. His exposure to western markets, invaluable insights into the intricacies of the trade, and thoroughbred management training was precisely what the group's duty free and club services required. As Managing Director of the group, his main focus is on the active development and sustenance of the existing and potential clientele, with the introduction of relevant and viable agencies worldwide.

Bhatia began operating in 1969 in the UAE. With almost 50 years of operation, what do you consider to be its main achievements?

The company's achievements are parallel to the country's achievements. We had the privilege of being able to establish ourselves before the union, and we have seen the advantages of the country coming together and the vision of every different Emirate becoming one country's vision. We forayed into logistics in terms of distribution networks and warehousing structures to support international brands and companies entering the UAE and at the same time being a hub for using neighboring or developing regions, such as Africa. A lot people say that the UAE is becoming the center of the world, but I believe it already is the center of the world. Whether it is from land, sea, or air, I do not know of any other country that has more than one different national airline, for example. In terms of sea ports there are new developments, such as Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Port, which is one of the largest ports in the region. And now with the new cruise terminal, connectivity is going to be enhanced throughout the Emirates. We are providing services to the port and for the cruise terminals in terms of logistics, distribution, retail, and the F&B industry.

The company has a diversified portfolio including wholesale, retail, and logistics, as well as hospitality. Which sector do you consider to be at the core of your business?

Retail, logistics, and distribution are at the core of our business. The F&B side and hospitality are the complimentary sides of our business. We have been venturing into real estate management more recently and are slowly expanding.

Are you planning to expand, both in the UAE and internationally?

We expanded to Abu Dhabi last year and are considering expanding into the Far East and Africa. We tend to partner with strong local players that have established themselves in the countries where we go for a long period of time. We pick those partners based on their local knowledge, because we have the business acumen and the business know-how, and we just need the local domestic, political, or just general day-to-day operational know-how. We try to create plug-and-play operations.

Are you also planning to start online shopping?

Yes, e-commerce is the next step we want to take. It would complement our current retail structure. We would like to target a niche market, or a slightly different e-commerce element to what everyone else is doing here.

Sharjah is expected to experience rapid growth in the next five years. What is your forecast for Bhatia in the next couple of years?

We like to refer to ourselves as a conservative business house, and that is why most of the financial and government segments see us as a worthy investment. We are a company that understands our limitations and our strengths. We take calculated risks; we only do what we are good at and we do not try to do what everyone else does simply because they are making a lot of money. Obviously considering the decline in industry at the present moment, we are conservative about how much exposure we want to take, but that being said our international growth is going to substitute for what we might be losing in the UAE at present. I think we will almost be on par with the double-digit growth we have seen in the past five or six years.

What are Bhatia's goals and priorities for 2016?

Our goal is to expand into these new markets using the UAE as our hub. We are negotiating to bring in new products and categories to the UAE market for both duty free and domestic distribution. At the same time, we are taking a lot of interest in expanding our expertise outside, such as the Far East and Africa.


 

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