Cellucom was not the first company in the country to sell mobile phones. When it started up the local market was overcrowded and the available buyers could consume only a fraction of the phones on offer from dealers.
That was seven years ago when Arun Nagar arrived in Dubai from Tanzania determined to make a difference in the mobile retail business.
In those few years Cellucom, which he founded, has established itself as one of the leaders in the sector, beating many of the international players.
His expansion plans have gone beyond the UAE and the GCC all the way to India, where Cellucom has more than 150 stores and is opening a new one every day.
All this has resulted in the company’s sales figures reaching Dh1.7 billion in 2007.
“We could have followed the others but we decided to lead,” said CEO Nagar.
“We could have been box movers and increased our sales figures even more, but Cellucom was established on the principle of providing quality service and additional features and software for buyers. This was the unique selling point that separated us from the rest of a market that was still looking for bulk buyers.”
However, promoting the additional features was tricky as most mobile companies especially industry leader Nokia are very rigid when it comes to their communication regimes and insist on consistency in all their advertising.
“There was an initial apprehension from Nokia, who were our biggest partners in the business,” added Nagar.
“However they were able to see the long-term benefits of our intentions and eventually supported our efforts to chart out a separate communications strategy within, of course, the parameters defined by our partners.”
The numbers speak in favour of Nagar as Cellucom has grown into an international player operating in the six Gulf countries and three in Africa and with a very large presence in India, where it launched in January 2007.
“For all this growth, Dubai has been a very stable hub and we have grown out of Dubai as it provides an environment that is very conducive to business.
“When I came here it was the ease of conducting business that encouraged me to settle and start my company. Dubai was growing and the retail business was witnessing a boom in the region. Dubai was very suitable as a base for expanding in the region and beyond.”
Cellucom has grown to employ 1,500 people more than 500 in the GCC and the rest in India. The company’s processes and systems have won it the ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004 certifications.
The group head office is in the Dubai Airport Free Zone and the company is looking for further opportunities in the emerging markets of Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and Africa. Cellucom has close to 500 retail locations in the Middle East, Africa and India, with the number set to touch 1,000 by the year-end.
The company’s strengths have allowed it to leverage its influence in a growing market. The focus is on mobility, which it believes to be the wave of the future.
Mobile phones, notebooks, PDAs and other items all contribute to the diversity of the product portfolio. Less than a year ago the company began selling laptops and since then sales of the portable computers have become a substantial part of the business.
The company has been moving forward with sales figures growing at a steady pace. Sales in 2005 were worth Dh1.2 billion and the following year they touched Dh 1.35bn.
“The numbers have not added but multiplied over the years for Cellucom. We were in the right industry at the right time we made some right decisions at the right time.”
Cellucom may stand at the leading edge of the mobile retail business but Nagar remains focused on the immediate future of the company and is firmly non-committal about its long-term plans.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew where Cellucom will be 10 years from now. In the past we knew about our efforts and our intentions, but we could not have predicted our growth. Similarly I do know what our objectives are and I am certain of our intentions, but what the future holds for Cellucom I do not wish to guess.
“The industry is less than 15 years old so to predict what its status will be 10 years from now is not being fair to the industry. In the meantime we will stay focused in our field of business and expand horizontally in the region. And we see a bright future in India.
“Dubai, however, will remain our headquarters. This place offers hundreds and thousands of opportunities and the difficult part is to stay focused and say no to all other temptations.
“Having said that, Dubai is also the most fertile ground for business in the Gulf and offers a platform to expand in the region and beyond. This makes Dubai the ideal location for us and Cellucom will continue to expand from here.”
150: The number of Cellucom stores in India. The company has close to 500 retail locations in the Middle East, India and Africa
Dh1.2bn: Cellucom sales in 2005 were worth this figure. The following year they touched Dh1.35bn and look set to continue to multiply
Cellucom reaches Dh1.7bn sales in 2007