By Andrew Seymour
A chat with Dharmendra Lalai, who knows the ME retail scene inside-out having spent 15 years charting Sony's path in the region.
Dharmendra Lalai knows the Middle East retail scene inside-out having spent 15 years charting Sony's path in the region. We thought it was time to get to know a little bit more about him...
What's your career history in the industry to date?
Post graduate specialisation in marketing and 22 working years - seven in India with Unilever and the Indian subsidiary of British American Tobacco among the majors and 15 in the UAE with Sony Gulf, including two and a half years in the Lebanon branch.
What is the proudest moment of your career to date?
The preparation and launch for VAIO in the UAE. The business model was so deeply considered that I, along with my colleagues, had to work very hard to ensure that the business platform was created from scratch. Now we are in the 10th year and to see a niche brand listed alongside the top industry vendors makes me proud.
What is the best deal you have ever closed?
This is one part of doing business which I miss now. I used to do a lot of this while in India. However, for VAIO, our business model is sell-out based - so no such satisfaction. In non-transactional terms, dealing with our partners on an ongoing basis gives me immense satisfaction because they give me the feeling that their interests have also been taken care of.
What do you enjoy most about working in the Middle East IT market?
The Middle East IT market - or the consumer electronics market which I joined in Sony for the initial six years until setting up the IT group in 2000 - is enjoyable for two very contrasting reasons.
The first is the stupendous growth opportunity, complemented by the emergence and development of the organised retail channel over the past 15 years. The second is the unpredictability of growth and resilience - how each crisis has been ‘managed' - which keeps the investors interested and helps in engaging with and attracting consumers.
What is the most valuable business lesson you've learnt?
Observing a plan-do-see cycle and reviewing it periodically - especially during volatile times, as we are currently facing, albeit mitigated to a great extent now.
What do you dislike most about working in the market?
The trading and ‘shifting' of goods from a vendor or distributor's warehouse to a retailer's warehouse, rather than the development of an organised retail channel. As a ‘minor' player in the region, we have always tried to make a difference and practiced a sell-out based model, which our retail partners appreciate and respect. It does lead to a sales/opportunity loss sometimes, but we don't mind because it ensures we do not have to do ‘liquidation', which is a major cost saving for us.
Which individual in the IT industry do you most admire?
Bill Gates - for creating an industry and helping it evolve to the stage at which it is today, as well as his exemplary approach towards charity and supporting development projects in under-privileged regions and countries of the world.
How do you relax outside of the work environment?
Generally I go for a swim and spend time with family. Also - contradictory as it may sound - I check mails over the weekend to ensure all is well. I can relax better knowing everything is under control!