It was 1998.
As a young student of the University of Dhaka, Nure Alam Shimu often went door to door to sell different packages of Grameenphone after his classes. He did so well at the job that he started operating a few outlets of Grameenphone as the company's franchise partner.
Till 2005, the business went smoothly, but afterwards, the inevitable slump arrived. Shimu instantly came up with a different plan and switched to the device business with Nokia.
However, a few years later, this business also started falling apart, as different phone companies started coming into the market by 2009. Such a frequently-changing situation left him worried, and he realised he needed to start a venture that involved multiple brands so he would remain stable.
That is how the idea of Gadget & Gear (G&G) was born and became the umbrella of a multi-brand retail chain outlet. It is a place where one can find all necessary and versatile electronic products. It sells different budget-friendly add-on products to make our daily life easier.
Wide range of offerings under one roof
Since 2011, to its customers, it has become a single solution provider under one roof and a place to rely on. It has been selling different international authentic tech products in its 17 branches. It also began its ecommerce journey in early 2020.
G&G may remind some of international electronic goods chain stores such as RadioShack and Best Buy. Shimu, now chief executive officer of G&G, however says he did not directly copy the idea of any such international business. As per his statement, G&G keeps itself updated to understand the market, product idea and strategy by following a few international chains like Best Buy and Jaymart.
"We cannot establish a business depending on just one company – I learned this lesson from my experience and by following the market. A strategy that keeps evolving is needed to sustain in the market. My experiences have helped me throughout the journey to develop this model," Shimu explained.
At the beginning, G&G used to procure gadgets from popular brands only. Now, as it has earned the trust of its customers, different suppliers are contacting it, requesting to showcase their products. So, based on its own relevant list and customers' demand, it procures products.
For new products, it usually forecasts demand and provides a list to suppliers accordingly. After featuring a product, it keeps sharing the weekly sales report with the suppliers and depending on that, suppliers keep the required quantity of that product in their stocks.
Promotional strategies to keep customers informed
G&G also applies a promotional strategy for brand new products. It notifies customers about such products and heavily promotes those to them. For example, it calls customers and asks them whether they are interested in buying any of the new products.
Sometimes, the G&G team reaches out to the customers individually so that they can get the real feedback on products. Customer feedback and quality service are two key assets of G&G.
"Globally, the profit range of electronic products is low and customer service is not often up to the mark. G&G has focused on this and tried to make a change. Since the very first day, we have tried to ensure top-notch service for our customers," Shimu told The Business Standard.
He went on, "Certainly, we cannot offer prices and warranty that will differ greatly from those set by the suppliers, but we can always make a difference by providing good customer service. Hence, we have never compromised on this, and we are also trying to improve every day."
"We constantly motivate our employees to provide good services and if we make any mistakes, we instantly apologise. Serving comfort to the customers is our core value, and we believe that every person who is visiting our outlet today is actually a potential customer of tomorrow."
Customer is the king
G&G tries to respond promptly to any customer complaint as it believes what it has achieved so far is just because of its customers. It makes sure that it follows the distributors' price policy and provides reward points or gifts to the customers. This is helping it build a pull of repeat customers.
"As we believe that our customers are our asset, we share our profits with them using different strategies and try to take care of them," said Shimu.
Providing customers smooth services is hard to ensure. A team of 44 people is working constantly in the backend and 105 retail employees are working at the physical stores to support the whole chain.
Through software, this team tracks each product at outlets and the warehouse. They also take care of daily sales of products and internal change between branches. They then update the procurement and forecast lists accordingly.
After a product is sold, though customers go to different brands' service centres on their own in case of any problems, G&G sometimes provides complimentary after sale services to them if they face any major problem. In that case, brands also cooperate and deliver prompt services to the G&G customers.
However, becoming a trusted platform to the customers was not an easy journey for G&G in the face of the unhealthy competition caused by the presence of smuggled products in the market.
"It was frustrating as there was a huge difference among original products and those entering the country illegally. The brands which have factories in Bangladesh are not affected by this. We are glad that the situation is under control now and its result is clearly visible in our customer pull. Hopefully, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is going to take care of the rest by April next year," said the CEO of G&G.
G&G plans to expand its branches in divisional cities by next year.
"We have never focused on fast expansion due to quality issues. We want to be loyal to our customers by providing good service. We have slowly covered Dhaka and are now preparing for our next venture. We are optimistic that we will be successful as we already have a few loyal customers outside Dhaka too," Shimu added.
"Once I feel I am providing quality service, I am at peace and focus more on my slow and steady race of G&G's expansion. And the result is noticeable in the growth of our last nine years," said a content Shimu.