Dubai’s history has long been associated with the sea. Todaymore than ever, the city rekindles with its marine past.Driven by sustained regional economic growth and oilabundance, prestigious waterside developments such as thethree Palm developments, the World project, the Dubai Marinacomplex to name only a few, sprout from the desert sands.One company has taken close notice to the trend: the KnotikaMarine Mall (KMM) is a new concept in the marine industryoffering a wide range of products and services.
The mall is headquarters to more than 30 companies with acumulated 70% regional market share. “The Knotika Holdingcompany aims at filling the gap between suppliers andpotential buyers by providing products and services as wellas complementary activities such as learning centers as wellas media and events organization arms, all in relation withthe sea” says Wael Joujou, the company’s CEO.
The activities include a publishing house, a TV station, asea school, a marine store as well as the Knotika ExpressServices. The latter activity offers simple solutions forboat aficionados by combining financial services, insurance,transport and registration in one single package. “Thismakes the purchase process a much easier and enjoyableexperience,” Joujou points out. KMM showcases a wideselection of boats and manufacturers from all fivecontinents, promoting an efficient buying process from theneed identification to the last minute detail.
The young GM explains how boat owners have to undergo anumber of unavoidable steps, all requiring complementaryservices that are rarely provided by one single seller.Knotika intervenes at the beginning of the process byoffering first a wide selection of vessels, then helpingidentify customer needs, providing financial and insuranceservices as well as securing transportation or import forthe boat when needed. The company lends potential customersits technical expertise in screening and hiring crews,locating berths, ship maintenance and charter. “We aim tomake all those services come in one place at a guaranteedcompetitive rate. We also give customers insight into a hugeindustry and support their buying process, acquiring theirtrust by pointing them in the right direction,” underlinesJoujou.
Waterfront property developments boost boatsales
With the recent boom in waterfront property constructionin Dubai and a growing network of marinas expanding acrossthe Gulf area, the marine industry is receiving a tremendousboost, on which Knotika is capitalizing. “The UAE is still apremature market with tremendous potential, where theyachting industry takes at the moment the shape of a hockeystick curve,” says the company executive. He explains thatfor the time being supply remains higher than demand, themajor industry hurdle residing in the limited availabilityof marinas and berth. “The trend is supposed to reverse froma two to a ten year period with suppliers witnessing agrowth of 20 times their present turnover,” he adds.
“Although sales have progressed, the sector is stillunderdeveloped and clients have not been able yet to keep upwith supply,” says Joujou. On the other hand suppliers areincreasingly offering improved products and greaterselections as well as trying to educate buyers. New localentities are joining the industry race with internationalcompanies planning local production bases in the UAE wherelabor costs, land availability, low customs andtransportation fares can make prices more competitive by a20 to 40 % margin.
As for the products in demand in the UAE market, fishingboats are a big hit. “There is a potential market for sailboats … which combine a sport activity with yachting. In thecoming decade, we expect sail boats market share to increaseup to 50% while the remaining market is dominated bymotorboats. For now I would say actual sail boat marketshare is 5%,” Joujou reckons. In the CEO’s viewpoint,smaller boats can act as catalysts, appealing to the “newrich” executives with no real boating experience. Ideally,this activity will be practiced in the new WaterfrontProjects marinas and sheltered bays under development.
As the KMM pilot project proves to be a success, thecompany is expanding in the next few years, reaching the farshores of Jeddah, Qatar, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait andOman. A franchising option is also currently underway, withtwo contracts expected to be signed at the end of 2007.