CEO Irfan Tansel does not let a crisis go to waste. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the UAE right as Al Masaood Automobiles (AMA) was racing to the finishing line of its best sales year to date, selling more cars in 2019 than ever before.
The company, which serves as the sole distributor for Nissan, Infiniti and Renault in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the UAE’s Western region, even won major international awards for its performance that year: the Renault Global Partners Award – P.A.R.I.S. Challenge and the Nissan Global Dealer Award.
The virus threatened to reverse the company’s fortunes, but Irfan was prepared with a proactive strategy. He gathered his team and together they rolled out initiatives adapted to the new normal with agility and speed, putting the company ahead for the disruption.
“At the start of the pandemic, we acted swiftly to adapt to the situation. But we also knew that, based on the nature of our services, remote working was not an option for us. We had to find a balance between business continuity and the wellbeing of our staff and customers,” Irfan says.
After reconfiguring AMA’s work structure to comply with the UAE’s new health and safety protocols – including social distancing measures and regular temperature checks – he launched new services to cater to existing and new customers under lockdown.
Our digital offerings continue to gain momentum as more and more people are opting for seamless digital solutions and a customised buying journey.
“For car maintenance and periodic checks, we have deployed our vehicle pickup and delivery service to enable our customers to have their vehicles inspected for maintenance purposes without leaving the safety of their homes,” Irfan explains.
To enhance sales operations, key members of his team were quick to launch Connected Live Interactive Xperience (CLIX) – an interactive live showroom experience. “Under CLIX, our sales personnel are able to hold video conferences to present a virtual preview of the latest in the company’s diverse portfolio of vehicles and related products.
They are trained to replicate real-life experiences through a video chat-based sales approach,” he says. These innovations allowed AMA to tap into new market segments, strengthen its brand and expand its portfolio, even amid the pandemic. This resulted in increasing its market share in the UAE by 30% in 2020.
“We have increased our showroom and retail sales despite the pandemic year-on-year,” Irfan says, revealing that AMA has also been recognised for contributions to public health.
“We became the first automotive dealership in the GCC to receive Bureau Veritas’ SafeGuard label for sales and after-sales operations.” Irfan’s determination in the face of crisis stems from the years he spent as an auto mechanic’s apprentice, starting at the age of 15.
His gradual rise from the lowest rung of the automotive industry to the top gave him rare insights into the demands of running a business, from employee engagement to succeeding in a challenging market. These qualities are needed now more than ever in the UAE’s automotive industry.
“The UAE government’s economic stimulus packages and precautionary measures have undoubtedly shored up the national economy and many industries, including the automotive sector, during this challenging period. But since we have yet to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19, the players in the automotive sector will still need continuous government support, while taking crucial initiatives to bounce back stronger than before,” Irfan says.
By providing customers with convenience, consistent quality service and memorable experiences, he aims to ensure a strong return and stimulate demand. Irfan has also been advocating for greater flexibility within the banking sector to facilitate car purchases with bank guarantees.
This would further encourage the growing demand for certified pre-owned vehicles as an affordable, credible option. “Activities within the automotive market have been slowly recovering since the gradual resumption of many business operations in the UAE,” he reveals.
“We will also roll out new value-added packages and features to ensure that we exceed our sales target by the end of the year, despite the challenging market conditions.”
In the 40 years since he started out as a mechanic’s assistant, Irfan has amassed a wealth of wisdom that he has begun taking on the road as a motivational keynote speaker.
Al Masaood Automobiles is the sole distributor for Nissan, Infiniti and Renault in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the UAE’s Western region. The company has a world-class network of state-of-the art service centres and extensive spare parts outlets. Its Nissan Service Centre in Mussaffah is the largest service centre in the world catering to customers in Abu Dhabi.
His analysis of the world of business leadership is founded on the belief that change is constant and inevitable and that in order to rise to the top, the best skill set on the market needs to be hired.
“Rapid digitalisation and evolving technologies mean that there are lower barriers to entry for competition, evolving business models and greater expectations from consumers,” he says.
In order to meet these rising expectations, AMA launched its new online payment solution in July. This tool allows customers to finance various car models with more than 100 banks in the UAE through AMA’s Nissan Abu Dhabi website without the need to physically visit a bank or even a showroom.
To date, it has received more than 280 online requests. “We consider this a positive development, and we expect more customers to take advantage of this highly convenient digital financing service,” Irfan says.
“Our digital offerings continue to gain momentum as more and more people are opting for seamless digital solutions and a customised buying journey.”
Through implementing various effective measures and despite the challenges thrown up by COVID-19, AMA has grown its market share by a massive 30% and has outperformed the direct competition by the number of units sold – something that has continued to increase year-on-year, despite a slowing market.
These impressive results are not only down to AMA’s highly skilled team but undoubtedly Irfan’s particular brand of leadership. “My style of leading boils down to this,” he says.
“A belief in long-term planning, in defending our strategy, working for the future and not the past, surrounding yourself with a winning team and remaining certain of yourself in uncertain times.”