Rotte Gulf is all set to take the manufacturing industry by storm with its innovative solutions and ambitious growth plans. We sit down with Tiberiu Calinescu, GM, Rotte Gulf.
Rotte Gulf FZC is part of the Rotte Group, which was established in 1991 in Tata, Hungary. Currently, it operates across Central and Eastern Europe with a presence in Middle East since 2009. Explaining his company’s core offering, Tiberiu Calinescu says: Within the UAE and GCC market we are focusing on: retail outlets equipment; hotel equipment and institutional furnishing (schools, universities); and office furniture. Simply put, we are in the shop fitting and hotel equipment business. Our sector has seen great development in Central and Eastern Europe, but when the crisis hit in 2008 we had to look for new markets and that’s what brought us to the GCC and specifically the UAE.
Carving a niche
Tiberiu opens up about the different stages of his journey. He says: Once we had made up our minds to enter this market, we visited the country as tourists and did a lot of research. We explored manufacturing, trading and retail outlets across the country to assess the market need for our products. We reached to the conclusion that there was definitely a niche audience we could target. The possibilities were limitless and the number of projects we could tender for was quite large!
The first step for Tiberiu was to determine the USP of his offering: Our strength lay in the ability to deliver turnkey projects while constantly communicating with our customers. Starting from the first phase, we offer consultancy, 3D planning, manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, installation, warranty and specialised after sales service. We ensure that every project undertaken offers outstanding quality. And, this is exactly what we decided to continue focusing on.
What followed was Tiberiu’s quest for finance: Initially, we wanted to reach out for investment. Ultimately, we decided to do things the hard way and bootstrapped. My partners and I invested all our personal savings into the business which was around AED 300,000. As entrepreneurs, we had to learn everything step by step, experience by experience and build everything brick by brick.
Sharing the very first hurdle his company faced, Tiberiu says: We were familiar with the products that we were selling, but lacked skills in terms of the servicing side of our business. We combatted this by hiring a strong fitting team, which was ready to solve any technical issues and overcome any unforeseen customer challenges during installation.
Tiberiu’s problems didn’t quite end there. “When Rotte Gulf made an entry into the Middle Eastern market, it was a forerunner in its field. But, stiff competition in the market meant prospective clients were hesitant to work with a new entrant. Although the initial reaction to Rotte Gulf’s products was good, it faced difficulties in marketing and selling its product. It was a newcomer in already competitive market with very little exposure. The major challenge was having good sales meetings, even though the feedback we would get was fantastic, it wouldn’t convert into sales. A lot of clients required references and needed processing time. Nobody wanted to be the first one to try our products and services. It is quite difficult to find your first major client, who will help you showcase your capabilities,” he opens up.
But Tiberiu didn’t lose hope. They continued working on their differentiating factor. “We invested into market research and tapped into the local knowledge base to understand how we can better fulfil the needs of our customers. We also ensured that we were always updated with the new trends, products and technologies. This really helped us turn things around. Last year, for instance, we installed a Gatekeeper system for one of our clients that allowed them to secure their trolley fleet and keep them in the designated area which was a premiere for the GCC market.
Eyes on the prize
Now that Tiberiu has successfully made inroads into the market, he is quite happy with the projects his company is working on. We successfully completed several hypermarket, supermarket and hotel projects in the region (UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman). Some of our customers include Geant, MAF Carrefour, Union COOP, Abu Dhabi Coop, Al Ain Coop, Spar, Gulfmart, Khimji Ramdas, Renarte Hospitality etc., he says excitedly.
But of course, the ambitious entrepreneur already has plans for further expansion up his sleeve. In the short term, we are looking to expand the sales force and expand our client portfolio. In the long term, we might look into the possibility of locally fabricating equipment. We’ve done projects in UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, but not yet in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so the next step is to enter on those markets as well. What’s great is that the market trends are in our favour because the regions retail design is adopting the European style and we are quite familiar within that space. For this market, we are definitely the right fit. We surely think so, Tiberiu!