The Dubai Computer Group (DCG) is adapting to the new normal, while safeguarding business interests of its members against detrimental impact from the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. A DCG COVID-19 Response Team has been formed to address concerns and drive action plans to support its members. This team is steered by Ashish Panjabi, COO, Jacky’s Retail and DCG board member; Dharmendra Sawlani, president, DCG; and Suchit Kumar, vice president, DCG.
Formed under the patronage and recognition from Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, DCG represents over 150 IT companies in Dubai. In order to support members, DCG has been undertaking measures ranging from requests for rent relief to VAT deferment, virtual skill development to social media interactions as well as digital transformation, to name but a few.
With regard to rent relief/reduction/deferment for its members, DCG has issued a letter to the landlords with a copy marked to Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We are expecting majority of the landlords to agree to some form of rent relief for our members. We have also spoken to the Retail Business Group primarily for the mall-based members. Overall, there has been a positive response and some of the members have already been granted their desired benefit,” Panjabi elaborated.
“The support of the government bodies has also been extraordinary. We’ve engaged closely with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and they have helped us coordinate with other government departments where necessary, or find us resolutions to challenges. They have provided us with a correct line of information to offer to our members,” he added.
Panjabi also shared some key highlights from the consumer electronics industry. A major one being the significant demand for computer and tablets – a category that rose three-four times – during February-March (especially first 20 days) 2020. “We saw strong demand for computers and other ICT products, as e-learning and work-from-home practices were adopted at a short notice. Many of our members reported stronger sales during that period as virtually everyone underwent a major digital transformation in the last few weeks.”
Jacky’s Retail has also seen demand surge in some other categories, such as television. “Following the essentials, now we are seeing printers, scanners and such items selling well,” Panjabi added.
Owing to the high demand, globally, securing supply of goods and delivering had become challenging. “We have had multiple meetings with Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Department of Economic Development to continue supply and delivery through our own e-commerce channel as well as enlisting on online marketplaces,” Panjabi shared.
A big question is going forward, once the business environment normalises, how mall-based retailers like Jacky’s will adapt to the ‘new normal’ in consumption behaviour – such as demand for contactless and curb side delivery.
“What will be the new normal in terms of delivery practices in the retail store is still a topic that is being deliberated,” Panjabi responded. “Mall operators might be open to exploring various options such as delivery to cark park or to home to reduce contact points. Another trend that we could see emerge are dedicated delivery areas within stores where products get sanitised once again or click-and-collect areas within stores. We are mindful of the fact that safety of everyone involved is a priority and companies are working on solutions to improve this on the shop floor. Each mall operator may have their own requirements; many might also study steps that were taken in China during the re-opening of markets there or how cities like Hong Kong have coped with this when they re-opened after the SARS epidemic many years ago.”
In summation, the DCG COVID-19 Response Team said, “This is the best time to change to ensure business continuity. Even after the crisis is behind us, digital might take precedence over brick-and-mortar. At the moment, there is a lot of pressure on businesses and our members, especially SMEs. But as conventional sales channels got blocked, our members have had to change their selling channels and strategies swiftly. It indicates our ability to transform as a community that sells technology for digital transformation.”