18 April 2021
In the old times, before the pandemic and the explosion of e-commerce, if you wanted to buy a TV, Hi-Fi (younger readers may want to Google this) or mobile phone in the UAE, you’d have had to visit one of the large brick-and-mortar stores around the country.
One of the well established of these electronics groups is Eros, which brought brands such as Hitachi, Samsung, TCL and Midea to the Emirates’ shores. With 53 years of distribution experience, 450,000 square feet across five warehouses, a fleet of over 150 vehicles, four service centres and more than 15 retail stores, Eros has been around since before the establishment of the federation – and a pandemic hasn’t stopped it from bringing seven more brands to the region.
“The pandemic period brought its own challenges but at Eros we turned this period of adversity to one of opportunity,” says Deepak Babani, Vice Chairman of Eros Group. “As we added very strong and big global brands to our portfolio, we also planned for the opening of two new stores – Al Zahia and Dalma Mall – and one shop-in-shop at AFCOP.
“At a time when most companies were struggling to cope with the effects of pandemic, our committed teams worked very hard not only to excel in our current business but also lay a strong foundation for addition of new brands and businesses that will complement it,” says Ahmed Badri, Director of Eros Group.
For him, the group’s track record of success with the likes of Samsung, Midea, TCL and Hitachi – which Eros has been working with for 53 years – made it an obvious choice of partner for brands seeking to launch and expand their business in the UAE and wider GCC.
The new brands that have partnered with Eros last year include Ariston from Italy, Amazfit, Avita and Huawei Idea Hub from China, Vaio and Rinnai from Japan and Saregama from India. These brands bring a broad range of products to the market, spanning premium appliances to smart wearables, high-spec laptops and workplace multimedia solutions.
Eros Group’s strategy is to emphasise both online and brick-and-mortar stores. “We have tied up and entered into agreements with all major online and offline retail channels to give the most comprehensive presence to all our brands in the market,” explains Babani. Naturally, Eros’ own retail stores and e-commerce platform, Erosdigitalhome.ae will be leading the way in presenting the new brands to the market.
While Badri, acknowledges the internet-led changes to the retail industry, and that brick-and-mortar stores risk “falling behind” the exponentially growing e-commerce platforms, he believes there will always be a place for the good old-fashioned store. “There’s a social aspect of shopping. People crave human interaction, and as the world becomes more digital, sometimes that reaction comes from talking with a sales associate in the store. Shopping is a social experience, and nothing can recreate wandering through a store with friends. No amount of technology can ever replace human touch and interaction.”
As the online space grows ever more crowded and competitive, Babani can see more stores returning to physical spaces to take advantage of cheaper real estate. “The cycle could take 10-20 years to unfold, but it’s a definite possibility.” However, he foresees the most likely scenario being greater integration between the digital and physical world. “Technology will play a new role and allow customers to see and try items before making a purchase.”
For now, Eros Group is working to ensure both e-commerce and physical retail stores complement each other as it expands both. Each has its own advantages, Babani points out: “The e-commerce platform can host unlimited brands and products while a store cannot, but on other hand, the store acts as pick-up or delivery point for e-commerce orders – plus customers can always touch and feel the product in the store.” He adds that the digital platform can fulfil certain demand gaps – for example, if a customer wants something they can’t find in the physical shop – while Eros’ substantial warehousing capacity ensures speedy delivery of goods to a customer.
“In electronics and appliances, the consumer still wants to see, touch and feel the product," says Badri. "While they may still end up buying online due to convenience or price, the experience of see, touch and feel cannot be replaced by online. A multipronged strategy to give a seamless experience from offline to online and vice versa is a good way to go for now.”
The new brands
Babani says all seven of the new brands brought to the region by Eros are relevant during the pandemic. Amazfit tracks a number of important health metrics: SpO2, heart rate, activity and sleep quality. “These are important now as major emphasis is being placed on health and wellness.”
“Huawei IdeaHub is an exceptional home or corporate device that will replace projectors or white boards in the long run and combines the best of display technology and modern audio-visual tools for an all-in-one solution for modern office – especially when physical meetings between people is becoming more difficult.”
VAIO and Avita offer laptops ranging from economical to premium in price that address the needs of workers and students alike.
“Saregama helps you relieve yourself from day-to-day stress by listening to golden oldies with some very affordable speakers that deliver high-quality sound and specially curated selection of songs, with app control and a built-in radio.”
Ariston delivers Italian quality and design that meets the cooking and washing needs of the modern home.
“In the current scenario, the value-for-money segment has become even more important, and these brands fit the need of the hour,” Badri adds.
Rinnai is a well-established Japanese appliances brand that brings premium quality to cooking appliances that it produces in many world-class manufacturing facilities across the globe.