More than just a distributor

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Just five years old, with a low-profile and no direct supply contracts – but the growth of Genuine Solutions Group has been phenomenal. As Michael Garwood reports, the above headline is the reason for its success

Since being formed five years ago, Chessington–based accessory distributor Genuine Solutions has retained a relatively low profile in the press.

But in a rare interview, its commercial director Christian McBride, managing director Bav Majithia and sales director, Christian’s brother Alex, gives Mobile News an insight into how the company functions and why it believes it’s now the leading distributor of accessories in the UK.

On entering its head office, it is clear from the numerous awards, certificates and accreditations coating the walls, that business is good. The most recent accolades include the 2010 Kingston Business of the Year Award Winner certificate as well as recognition for its entry in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100.

Among others, its trophy cabinet displays two 2010 Mobile News Awards runner-up trophies for best accessories distributor and environmental enterprise, having lost out to 20:20 Mobile and Vodafone respectively – something it wants to improve on next time around.

It was also recently handed the Queen’s Award, for achievements in international sales, as part of its GS International division.

Christian McBride and Majithia describe this as its proudest moment. The award resulted in a visit from the Lord Lieutenant and an invitation to meet Her Majesty the Queen at a special winners’ reception held at Buckingham Palace.

“There are a lot of things happening here and the Queen’s Award was a very proud moment for GS UK,” says McBride. “It really promotes a sense of pride internally. We are making an impact in the industry and have made our mark. We are in the conversations of many top people and companies in this industry, which is a big thing for us.”

Alex McBride adds: “You look at other big-name distributors like 20:20 Mobile, who are a great company and one we work closely with, but they are not a great company for accessory distribution by comparison.

“If you look at the likes of Kondor, Data Select and the bigger players, they are all well-placed to look after the blue-chip companies and look after what they demand. But what about the smaller guys? That’s a big market and we cater for that.

“We are holding by far the most products in this industry, and have the biggest portfolio bar none.”

On the up
But as Christian quickly points out, it’s what the company does in the “engine room” as he calls it, when discussing the hard work that goes into each working day, that brings its achievements.

And looking at its financials, the hard work he speaks of cannot be questioned.

The Genuine Solutions Group (see box, next page, for full list of businesses) has seen its annual turnover surge from just under £5 million in 2006 to more than £25 million in 2010. Its projected group turnover for the end of 2011 is £34 million, an increase of 40 per cent year-on-year.

According to the Sunday Times Fast Track 100, which measures private companies on their sales over a specific period, the company has been growing at a rate of 153 per cent year on year since formation.

Its staff numbers have also increased from just six in 2006, including Christian and Majithia, to more than 75 today, working across four warehouses on the same estate. Staff numbers are apparently to rise even further.

It also claims staff churn is the lowest in the mobile industry, with a turnover rate of less than one per cent in the past two years.

“When we started there were just six staff including us,” says Majithia. “But as we speak now, there are 75 and that’s increasing all the time. The growth of the company has been nothing less
than incredible.

“It’s all about the hard work the staff put in. From top to bottom we all want the same thing. We probably have the highest retention level for staff in the industry. The staff have been growing with the company and have developed strong long-term relationships with customers.”

Strategy
Its accessory distribution arm, Genuine Solutions, has put a significant focus on providing the widest range of stock to its customers, which it says exceeds any of its UK rivals.

It claims to hold more than 2,000 different product lines in its warehouses – which are instantly available. It claims to dispatch typically 30,000 units every month from its warehouses.

The directors claim the company has more than 800 active customers based in the UK and across the globe, covering more than 32 different countries through its GS International business. About 40 per cent of its business is now international export they claim.

Genuine Solutions says it has established relationships with about 600 UK businesses, covering independent mobile dealers, retailers and e-tailers such as Amazon and Play. It also supplies product lines for Three UK’s retail stores.

“We have 13 sales guys taking 60 orders a day and they go all over the place,” says Alex McBride. “Could be in England, Scotland, Shetland Islands, you name it. We will have a guy in Jersey placing an order for £100 of accessories, and a guy in Hong Kong ordering £20,000 of accessories.

“There are no limitations and all stock is shipped out from here straight away. We have a single warehouse in the UK. No partnerships, just the customers.”

“For me, the fundamental difference is we are proactive as a business in all avenues, and that’s because of the team we have built. From the very top to bottom. They work with the company, not for the company.

“Where other companies have complacency and focused on handsets, we have gone in stronger and with a greater proposition on accessories.

“We don’t try and sell the products: there is a demand from the market for them. Price and availability are the key factors. And there is demand for older products internationally.”

Christian McBride adds: “Yes, the market has changed and we know the world is in dire straits, but there are also a lot of people talking themselves into a recession. You have to be positive and focused.

“Our concept from the beginning has always been very service-focused. It’s not a new thing for us. We pride ourselves
on knowing our customers and knowing the products.”

One element of its focus on being pro-active is improving relationships with international customers by employing multilingual staff, and changing the working hours at its offices to reflect those in their respective countries.

The sales teams have, in effect, been separated from UK sales as a result. And despite the move having an air of simplicity around, Genuine claims sales and relationships have been improved as a result.
Staff are also constantly being trained-up on new products so they know them inside and out.

Full article in Mobile News issue 491 (June 20, 2011).

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