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Mon 15 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Market makeovers

After 15 years in the business, the UAE’s Multiplex International now plans to invest in Oman and Qatar.

After 15 years in the business, the UAE’s Multiplex International now plans to invest in Oman and Qatar.

From 12 employees to more than 100 today, Dubai's FMCG and cosmetics distribution powerhouse Multiplex International continues to expand amid the economic downturn.

"We plan to increase our overall turnover by 30% in 2008, by increasing distribution and opening new offices in Qatar and Oman in the first quarter of 2009," reveals Vinod Adnani, founder and managing director, Multiplex International LLC.

We expect a lot more expansion as many more new companies are coming in, including Wal-Mart which is rumoured to be looking for local partners now.

"In spite of the current financial crisis around the world, Oman and Qatar have not been affected at all, compared to the overheating in the UAE market. These markets are focused on the trade, rather than real estate."

Adnani founded the company in 1993, before it moved into distribution in 1996, bringing in exclusive brands from Europe and the US and distributing into all of the major supermarkets, hypermarkets, department stores, pharmacies and Duty Free channels.

The company's existing UAE offices in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah report weekly to the Dubai office, which monitors all of the sales staff, promoters and merchandisers.

Multiplex International has an 11,000ft2 warehousing facility in Dubai's Al Quoz of which 5,000²ft is fully air-conditioned to store climate-sensitive products, such as colour cosmetics, skincare products, creams and lotions.

"We are already working with some of the biggest retail groups including Carrefour, Lulu and Lifestyle. Currently we are employing seven people in Oman through our partners, and we like them to shift them on our visa and have them dedicated to us full-time, between seven and 10 employees for Muscat, and between five and seven for Qatar."

Selecting brands based on the needs of customers in the region has resulted in a line-up including Eylure, Perfect 10, Sweet Breath, City Chick, Elegant Touch, Bioskincare, Enfresh, T-Zone, Byly Depil, Baylis & Hardings, Sweet Breath, mp3, Rhino, and Youthair.

To fuel its future growth, the company will focus on operations at its new distribution offices and expand the distribution of its baby care brand Corine De Farme, beauty accessories from Xcluzive, oral care brand Dr Fresh, and Elegant Touch.

The company has two main colour cosmetic brands Prestige Cosmetics and Essence, with the former geared towards the mature woman and the latter targeted at 13 to 25 age year olds.

"For Essence, we look mainly at supermarkets and hypermarkets, while for Prestige we are already available at Lifestyle and Debenhams. We are excited about Landmark Group's new concept coming into the market Beauty Bay, which will open at Oasis Shopping Centre on Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road."

THE DISTRIBUTOR: Worst of global credit crisis is over

"I strongly believe that the worst of the global credit crisis is over and that we have already moved into a post credit crunch era. Multiplex is optimistic about the year ahead and is comfortable on the road to achieve 30% growth," says Vinod Adnani, founder and managing director, Multiplex International LLC.

"We have already undertaken a comprehensive check on our costs and resource use. We take measures to ensure that all unwanted costs are cut. This means more judicious use of stationery and careful planning of travel itineraries for our key staff," he adds.

According to Adnani, the mainstay of the retail industry is customer confidence and domestic demand. In a credit crunch situation, it is customary for buyers to be more judicious with their spending, which means restricting spending on non-essential products.

Multiplex International's product range has a balanced mix of products, and several of them form part of the everyday beauty care regimen of people, he says.

"Our products are not exorbitantly priced, which means they do not affect the budgeting controls of customers. We have been fortunate to more or less successfully weather the current situation, and we are confident of attaining 30% growth in the coming year."

Asked whether consumers' spending patterns have changed, such as opting for cheaper products, Adnani says that "cosmetic use is about the trust the user enjoys about a particular product. It is more like a habit, and the general trend is for customers to move up the ladder of luxury preferences than come down. This has not been altered perceptibly."

He reveals the company has signed agreements with the Auchan Group, set to make its Middle East debut, and Waitrose, which have been "big deals for us.

Asked about expansion of its portfolio, Adnani says "we will stick to  current brands, but we will keep looking for niche brands that we can adapt into the market, rather than having oversaturated categories such as shampoo."

"We are in touch with the buyers and we meet them on a monthly basis to find out what brands will bring value to their stores," he says.

In spite of the current financial crisis around the world, Oman and Qatar have not been affected at all.

The company has maximised its sourcing power by attending industry-specific fairs across the globe, such as Cosmoprof in Bologna.

Established in 1967, a series of strategic alliances with accredited international partners has led to the creation of an authentic world network over the last few years, and the event showcases accessories, natural cosmetics, make up, nutraceutics, perfumes, ambient fragrances, beauty hygiene and skincare products.

Today there are four events worldwide that bear the brand Bologna Cosmoprof, Cosmoprof Asia in Hong Kong, Cosmoprof Shanghai and Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas.

"We go to these events to source new companies and network with our existing suppliers, and such efforts from differentiated us from the competition," he says.

The company has reaped dividends from its promotional campaigns in the baby care category, particularly as "with Corine De Farme which is made in France, we have been able to establish ourselves as one of the leading brands and compete with the likes of Johnson & Johnson due to the quality of the product".

For the brand, advertising has been targeted at parenting publications while programmes with hospitals in the UAE have ensured distribution of its range to mothers with newborn babies, and in turn "the sales have been very promising".

For beauty accessories, the company has focused on finding "quality with value products and good sourcing from China, Taiwan and Korea. Other brands are offering them at almost twice the price. We have sourced directly. Our re-sale is quite good and our repeat customers are very happy about the quality," he reveals.

Prestige Cosmetics is currently number two after Max Factor, he claims, and "competing very heavily with L'Oréal, Maybelline and Bourjois Cosmetics." To perform against multinationals with enormous marketing spends, "we provide proper knowledge to the customers walking into the retail showroom, such as suggesting shades to suit different skin tones and types. We offer services to the retailers from proper discount structures to quality launches every two months."

For its colour cosmetics business, the company conducts ongoing training programmes and "when we have launches of new products in the general categories, the principals are sending representatives over here to train our promoters and salespeople to ensure we have a good knowledge of the product to sell in the market."

The ambitious target of 40% growth for its turnover in 2009 will stem from "strategic marketing initiatives" for world-renowned brands.

"Despite the global financial crunch, the retail industry in the region continues to grow, with several mega malls and shopping centres scheduled to open later this year. We are leveraging on this growth opportunity to achieve our targeted growth of 30% this financial year."

"Multiplex has formed strong partnerships in the region, and has strengthened its in-mall store concept further. Through these power retailing initiatives, we have been able to sustain our growth momentum by offering quality FMCG and cosmetic products at competitive rates," he adds.

Multiplex benefits from attracting multiples

Dubai-based Multiplex International LLC specialises in the distribution of FMCG and cosmetic products in the UAE and Oman, backed by its 15 years in the business, 100 employee-strong team and strong relationships with retailers including the Landmark Group, Debenhams, Dubai Duty Free, Emke Group, Carrefour, Auchan, HyperPanda, Géant, Spinneys, Waitrose, the co-ops, leading department stores and pharmacies.

The company holds the exclusive distribution for world-renowned brands, from Prestige Cosmetics, Essence, Corine De Farme, Eylure and Elegant Touch to Xcluzive, Bioskincare, Dr Fresh, Enfresh, T-Zone, Byly Depil, Baylis & Hardings, Sweet Breath, Rhino, and Youthair.

Through its carefully selected portfolio, Multiplex is expanding its portfolio of mid- and premium quality products. The company has an 11,000ft2 warehousing facility in the city's Al Quoz area.

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