TBY talks to HE Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, CEO of Paris Gallery Group of Companies, on understanding customers, international expansion, and attracting partners.

HE Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim
HE Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, CEO of the Paris Gallery Group of Companies, is a member of the Al Fahim family, the founders and owners of Paris Gallery Group of Companies that now operates a network of retails stores and distribution channels throughout the UAE and the GCC region. Al Fahim joined the family business in 1996 soon after graduating from the University of Kentucky, when he moved to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and got deeply involved in the family business. He played an active role in developing the Group’s overall strategic plans, helping it take its first steps into the luxury retail sector. He was instrumental in restructuring the management and rewriting company policies, resulting in high employee satisfaction levels.

How does the Paris Gallery Group work towards understanding the customer better and ensuring their satisfaction in Dubai's highly competitive luxury retail sector?

Customer satisfaction is one of the most challenging and demanding areas for all service providers. In the luxury segment of the market where we operate, expectations are even higher. We follow our customers closely on the floor to learn about their needs and how we may or may not be meeting them. We conduct research through an internal team using the services of an external agency. We regularly host focus groups and take corrective actions when needed to fix elements that can improve our service, which could be individual sales teams or supervisors, the services and products available, promotions, or the ambiance of the shop. Last year we made intensive changes to enhance the ambiance in our stores and improve our services. We pay close attention to the floor, the lighting, and the flow, the merchandising and list of products, our employees and their interaction with customers and understanding of different cultures, and our customers' expectations when they walk into Paris Gallery stores. We launched a loyalty program in January 2014 to help us understand our customers' preferences, habits, and behavior, thus allowing us to be better prepared to interact with and serve them. The program has attracted over 300,000 members. We have also firmly established our presence on different social media platforms. We utilize customer input and reply to comments, positive and negative, and if something does not fit our customers' needs, we remove it from our portfolio.

How would you describe your overall international expansion strategy?

We have a presence in many locations across the region, and our strategy has not changed. We want to be the pioneers in countries in which other retail companies are hesitant to move. We have made progress towards opening our new store in Oman, and we are close to opening in Baghdad and Baku. In Morocco, we are studying the market and looking for the right strategic partner. Many shopping malls are being built in this area, and we hope that the momentum of these positive changes will somehow be amplified. In Egypt, when the situation was unclear after the elections a few years ago, quite a few real estate developments happened, which helped the luxury retail business. Huge shopping malls in Cairo plus many new projects increased the purchasing power of the population, which primed the environment for others to do business. Many companies had not foreseen this, and failed to gain an early presence. We are talking with many new shopping mall managements and developers, and Egypt is an integral part of our expansion plans as it is the country with the most potential in the region. Looking beyond the region, our ambition is to have businesses in London, Paris, or Milan; we are just looking for the right opportunities.

In which ways are you attracting foreign companies to enter into strategic partnerships with Paris Gallery Group in the UAE and beyond?

We are always on the lookout for strong and reliable partners. In the case of foreign companies, we explain to them how the UAE, and Dubai in particular, could become a good platform for their businesses. The experience I have had with potential partners is that many aspects of the services available here are unknown to them. We educate them and give them tours occasionally so that they can see for themselves how beneficial a partnership can be. Some companies already have ambitions to be in Dubai because it is the capital of luxury retail.