Having recently received capital injection from a British private equity firm, Prateek Suri, founder and CEO of UAE-based TV and electronics brandMaser, reveals how the company plans to expand by strengthening its business links with Africa.
What brought you to the UAE and how did you set up your business?
I moved to the UAE in 2006, immediately after finishing my schooling from Modern School Barakhamba road New Delhi, and then mechanical engineering from BITS Pilani Dubai Campus. And even before I could get used to the weight of my rather hefty textbooks, a couple of things became very apparent about my new country of residence.
The first was the sheer number of people I saw and met here from different countries. I remember reading that the UAE was home to citizens from almost 200 odd countries, and I managed to make friends with many of them. It was a fantastic learning about our planet being a global village and it opened my eyes to the opportunities that existed in other parts of the world.
The second thing that amazed me, and continues to do so even now, is the ecosystem that the government here has created to help businesses prosper.A number of initiativesâ€“like the establishment of JAFZA (Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority)â€“by the UAE leadership has helped contribute towards the success story of Maser.
What has inspired you to increase your business in Africa now?
Over the years, Maser has become a leading player in the re-distribution business of high-quality and low-cost electronic products. Africa is one of our biggest markets, and after receiving funding last year from a British private equity firm, we have significantly ramped up our business in the continent through introduction of new products. We intend to deploy the funding money in major expansion plans for the Middle East and Africa. We plan to invest in the manufacture of smart televisions, air conditioners and washing machines, as well as facilitating better logistics with our Jebel Ali base for re-distribution.
We have been lucky that despite the current situation with the pandemic, Maser has been able to conduct its business with our African partners. The trust we built among our distributors and retailers through over very successful line of televisions has now helped us with the air-conditioners. The uptake of split ACs has been very good and we are now in the process of introducingACs with UV-C function, which kills a majority of bacteria.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimatedlast year that the trade opportunity for UAE companies with Africa is valued at $3.6 billion. A big part of that would be technology-related products and services.
Another major change, especially with the African market, is the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which is expected to increase trade with the member countries by more than 50 per cent in less than three years by reducing and streamlining tariffs and easing policies across a unified continent. The size of the market could be as big as China and Maser is already in a good position to capitalise on this.
Do you have any plans to expand your product range?
Our success with television – we have now sold over 250,000 units – has made us a known and trusted brand in many African countries. Maser now has the supply channel and the confidence of the customers to roll out more products in the near future. Later this year, along with the UV-C air-conditioners, we are also planning to introduce washing machines, refrigerators, dish washer, vacuum cleaners and irons.
Televisions will remain the biggest part of our product portfolio. However, we believe in constantly innovating and improving, so there will be new models with latest features. We also see a huge demand for educational TVs.
Do you have any concerns about the future?
No, Africa is being called the land of opportunities.There is no city better placed geographically to service the entire continent than Dubai. Travel may be restricted right now, but once things become normal; Emirates offer direct flights to nearly 20 African cities. Many African countries have now set up base in the city because it makes it easier for their executives to coordinate with Europe and Asia.