Abdelhalim Yousef, Khaled Sharaby and Mohammed Alkholy represent Vision&Fashion and its subsidiaries, the headline sponsors of Vision-X 2014. The company has 15 brands in its kitty that it distributes across MENA. Thrilled with the response at Vision-X and having big plans for the region, they visited the VisionPlus office for a chat with Siraj Bolar. Here are the excerpts
With an experience of more than 25 years in the field of optics, wholesale trade and retail, the forces behind Vision&Fashion – Abdelhalim Yousef, Khaled Sharaby and Mohammed Alkholy – have a thorough understanding of the needs of the optical market, opticians as well as consumers. With Vision&Fashion, they bring that knowledge to the fore as distributors of global eyewear brands in GCC and the Middle East countries, and they play their role well by offering the best quality, price and service to their partners and clients. In conversation with Siraj Bolar, they share their plans not only for Vision&Fashion, but also for the industry.
Siraj Bolar (SB): As Headline Sponsor of Vision-X 2014, how did you find this year’s event?
Abdelhalim Yousef (AY): The event was fantastic. I am thrilled with the results and I think one should say that Vision-X is today an event in the real sense. Before this it was a no-show. Vision-X 2014 is a new beginning and from here on it will develop into a much bigger event than ever before. Vision-X has the potential to replace a lot of major events that happen across the world.
People love Dubai and everyone from MENA is already visiting Vision-X and I am sure that everyone from the optical industry, from Europe, Hong Kong, India, would love to travel to Vision-X too. Combine these geographies and you have an event that has the most amount of reach compared to any other optical trade fair. This is my vision and I think it is achievable.
SB: Will we see you return in the role of Headline Sponsor for next year’s Vision-X too?
AY: Why not? The event has potential, and I feel we should have a much larger space provided for the event as I foresee that the next year’s event is going to be much larger and this will keep getting larger and larger. And I am more than happy to support Vision-X in their goal of making the industry much stronger, and for the industry to come together as a solid and robust force. Dubai has been a very lucky city for me. Whatever I have started here has been successful, and I look at Vision-X too as the same.
SB: What is your feedback on the Vision-X VP Awards? How do you see the awards as a part of the main event?
AY: It was a brilliant addition to the event and it made the event even more attractive. Organising an event of such a magnitude where you involve all the top opticians, the manufacturers, the distributors and the brand owners is not an easy feat, and VisionPlus Magazine and Vision-X have done a brilliant job in hosting these awards. I would say the event is not just about winning, but it’s about the industry coming together and showing that they are united and that they are willing to be judged by an independent platform and use the platform to educate the opticians about the products that are in the market.
SB: Now coming to Vision&Fashion, how has the year been for you, and your brands?
Khaled Sharaby (KS): It has been a brilliant year for us. We had started our operations in Dubai some time back, but I would say with the Vision-X event we have finally arrived in the market. And we have arrived in a much bigger way than most people would have anticipated. Our brand owners are thrilled with the response and in fact we are being offered space at MIDO by some of our brand owners as they now realise the potential for their brands in the Middle East with us as their distributors.
SB: What are your plans for the next year for the MENA region?
KS: We have very big plans for the MENA region. We have recently opened offices in many countries and we plan to open even more offices in strategic locations to help our MENA operations. Our main focus has always been to help the opticians be profitable and all our marketing initiatives for the next year are in this direction.
SB: What do you think are the biggest factors dictating consumer choices in eyewear in the Middle East?
AY: Good quality, good branding and reliable after sales service is what every market wants. But the Middle East customer wants better than all this. They want the best and are willing to pay for it and the industry realises this and is making sure that the consumer’s requirements are met. This region is unique in its tastes and we at Vision&Fashion are providing products that suit each segment, be it fashion or luxury, male or female, kids or adults, in such a way that none of our products compete with each other and in each category the product that’s available is the best in the market.
SB: In the Middle East market, in which segment do you see more growth – luxury or fashion eyewear? Why?
AY: I would say that the growth would definitely be in the fashion segment as it’s something that’s more dynamic. The demands and tastes of the consumers are ever-changing and this provides more turnaround in this segment. Luxury is also a very profitable segment, no doubt, but I would say that the rate of growth for us is mainly in the fashion segment.
SB: Do you think you should have got into the distribution business much earlier than when you started?
AY: I feel that everything takes its own time to happen and even in our case it’s the same. We started in 1988 as optical stores in Egypt and then moved to Saudi Arabia as opticians and then much later we got into distribution. This experience in retail has taught us a lot about the expectations of the opticians from the distributor. And hence we understand the requirements of the opticians much better. We know that in the success of the opticians lies the actual success of the distributor. That has always been our goal and we will continue to do that.
SB: A company is generally a reflection of its leader. What is Abdelhalim Yousef as a personality? Which of your traits are you focussing to imbibe in your team? How?
AY: I am not very comfortable talking about myself. But my company is not just about me. It’s about the people in the organisation. If you meet them, you will realise that they don’t think of themselves as employees but more as their own company. Their dedication and loyalty is what defines Vision&Fashion today. So I would say that Vision&Fashion is not a reflection of me, but more a reflection of the people who are involved in the day-to-day functioning of the organisation.
SB: Your main office is based in KSA, I believe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this location?
Mohammed Alkholy (MA): The main advantage of being in Saudi Arabia is that it’s a very large market and being based there we understand it very well. The culture, the procedures and the logistics are unique and our understanding of this puts us in a much better situation to reach out to the opticians. It’s also the largest market in the Middle East in terms of turnover, and for our brands it’s a great assurance that whatever they provide us we will ensure its sale. For us to move on to the other markets in the region is an added bonus. We know that the other regions are big markets too, but as we come from the biggest market we are not worried about profits but more about the brand image and this allows us to be choosy about who we want to associate with. This ensures that the brand image is maintained and everyone concerned is happy.