DUBAI - Gitex, despite all its crazy atmosphere, is probably the only event where everyone wants a piece of the action, a top official of one of Dubai’s biggest electronics retailer opines.
“From a company point of view, Gitex is a unique event because it is the one event in the year where everyone begs to be there,” Jacky’s Electronics chief operating officer Ashish Panjabi told Khaleej Times in an interview.
He was speaking in a sense that people want to be a part of it not just being a shopper: “We got a lot of people working for us at Gitex; people who are presently employed or even at university take a week off just to help us out at Gitex.”
The energy resonating from the event promotes stronger camaraderie within the company, he says, an inspiration that drives Jacky’s to serve the tech-crazy populace even better.
Panjabi sees this year’s edition to be an “interesting” one, having seen “a lot of things” happening in the past couple of months in the tech sector.
He tips tablets and smartphones to be the focus for Gitex 2011, and sees laptops — the traditional heavyweight — to still make good sales.
High on Panjabi’s list is the Ultrabook, a new laptop segment that would compete with Apple Inc’s MacBook Air. He sees Ultrabooks “changing the way we use a laptop, with rotating, sliding and touch-screens.”
He believes that a tablet may not replace a laptop, but Ultrabooks are “going in that direction.”
Panjabi pointed out that Jacky’s officials very recently had a meeting with a European team from Intel Corp — which owns the “Ultrabook” trademark — and discussions about the new segment were “exciting.”
Televisions and cameras are also major players at the event. Both segments have “grown leaps and bounds” with more features coming into play.
“Everytime there is something new, people are willing to spend,” he said, whilst crediting Apple for “changing the scene” with its range of products.
And while the company formerly led by the late, great Steve Jobs has “defied the logic in the traditional sense,” it has paved the way for people to spend on these categories, even from other brands.
Trends are also important in the technology sector, especially with the advent of social networking and instant messaging. The UAE’s telecommunication giants — etisalat and du — have committed to providing the best data packages available in order to satisfy users’ crave for these.
“Etisalat and du are working very hard with service trends that go along with technology,” Panjabi said. “Definitely they will be a lot more active, and will continue to do so.”
He was also referring to the fact that with all the tools present mobile data has crept into all ages: “Two years ago, who would have thought a teenager would be carrying a BlackBerry around?” he said, with a tender laugh.
Traditionally, sales have tapered off in the months leading up to Gitex, as people wait for it. And the event is a sure-fire hit, since it also provides the opportunity to shop for the coming events of the festive final stretch of the year – Diwali, Eid Al Adha, Christmas and New Year.
Asked on what people look for on a product: “It’s not about the specs, hardware or software itself; it’s about the experience.”
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“It’s become a lot more holistic… at the end of the day, it’s about bringing a total package to the customer,” he said, adding that even if a certain product or service isn’t really at par with the latest, you “stick to it because it’s done so well.”
The competition, Panjabi believes, is open, with prices very transparent; he says that a price tag should not tell the customer “this is how much you should pay for it,” but rather, the customer should be the one to say “this is how much I want to pay for it.”
“And that’s because customers have all the access to all information about a product,” he said, referring to the fact that people indeed do a lot of research before grabbing a product. Gitex’s offerings — and Dubai’s tech sector in general — reach beyond the UAE. As Panjabi puts it: “You see Saudi cars on Shaikh Zayed Road making turns to malls,” to buy tech items in the emirate.
“Definitely we’ve seen that translating to sales at the retail level.”
For the near future, Panjabi said that it is very difficult to predict what would happen in the industry. With all the company moves in the last months, it will be “fascinating” to see what happens next.
He also wants everyone to watch out for Microsoft Corp’s Windows 8 OS, which would unify tablets, smartphones and PCs into one OS environment, something which Apple hasn’t done yet.
Panjabi also tipped Near Field Communication — a wireless connectivity technology similar to Bluetooth — as the next step in connectivity. Swiping your mobile phone to pay for something could be one example of this, he said.
All these and a lot more will shape up the technology industry in general, and there is nowhere else to move but forward.
“One thing is for sure: using all these technologies will get a whole lot simpler… it’s gonna be interesting how we get to use all these. Once you talk about these, there are a lot more possibilities.”
As for Gitex, Panjabi believes that it has always been an event for everyone.
“There was a time when Gitex was just for clearing old stock, or a geek event to buy PC components,” he quipped.
“It’s been a long way from that; today, it’s a whole-family event, as they’re all busy shopping because there’s something for everyone. Everything is there today.”
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