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Asian dreams

Mohammad Qanbar, EGA’s Senior Director of Marketing & Sales Asia, has helped spur a thriving Eastern success story

Mohammad Qanbar relishes the responsibility of handling more than a third of Emirates Global Aluminium’s total sales.

Be it automotive, transportation, aviation, electronics, or any other sector, EGA’s Senior Director of Marketing & Sales Asia and his team handle more than 120 customers throughout East Asia.

“On top of that, I also handle all the trader volume which is another eight per cent, so effectively I handle more than 40% of the total EGA metal sales.” says Mohammad, who has worked for  EGA for 20 years and focused on Asia for the past decade.

For most people, the thought of sales, especially at that volume, and mastering the art of negotiation is daunting. For Mohammad, however, “it’s not rocket science”.

“I do feel I have quite a heavy responsibility,” he confesses of the sales that he and his team make. “I understand how important these markets are for EGA. And I think the trust between the management, myself, and also the team is very significant.”

What is “absolutely crucial” to making such significant sales, he says, is building a relationship with the customer. That means creating trust, having complete transparency, and strong industry knowledge and awareness… and one other vital factor.

“You have to be patient,” Mohammad stresses. “These are not off-the-shelf products that you're selling so you must have a programme and a strategy, and understand the evolving market dynamics – and you need to create flexibility within your own system. That means you can approach customers internationally and give them what they are really looking for by continuously keeping yourself updated and understanding what's happening in the market.

“EGA is a ‘premium aluminium’ producer that makes metal to customer specification for its use. So you also need to have the right technical background. You need to be able to go and engage with the customers and develop the launch of a new product. That’s how you sell successfully and create a mutually-beneficial relationship between the businesses.”

A technical background comes naturally to the Emirati national, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from the Higher Colleges of Technology in the UAE. He also has a higher diploma degree in aeronautical engineering and worked for an aviation company in Dubai before moving to EGA – then Dubai Aluminium – in 2003.

“Initially, I was planning to join the power plant operation,” says Mohammad. “Which is why I applied to DUBAL. But destiny had other plans for me. I think when I applied initially, I don't recall there being an opening on the power side of the organisation. So, they offered that I go to the supply department, and I thought, ‘okay, let me try something new – something totally different’.”

Mohammad is honest enough to admit that “it wasn’t really a very nice ride in the beginning”. But over time he learned and began to succeed, moving from his position as a Supervisor in the Supply Department to the Marketing & Sales team in 2007 as a Sales Manager. This is where he thrived.

“I would say that the learning curve was quite fun, that the real motive now is my team and knowing there are clients waiting for me, and that the company relies on our function,” says Mohammad. “That's a huge responsibility.”

Mohammad covers 14 countries in Asia but the one that he has gotten to know best by far is Japan. He visits the Land of the Rising Sun “at least four times a year” for 10 to 12 days each trip.

“From 2009 until now, I must have been to Japan for a total of probably 17 or 18 months,” he reveals. “Being exposed to such a different culture, different people, and different perspective is always nice. It’s fascinating. How you build relationships and trust really varies in different countries. It is very important in Japanese culture. And that’s what really counts at the end of the day.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone so used to new countries and cultures, travel is a favourite pastime for Mohammad, who is also a keen volleyball player that won medals in the sport while competing as a student. Perhaps surprisingly, however, his favourite country to visit for leisure is one far from the continent of Asia that has helped build him such a successful career.

“Norway is a country that I always try to go back to from time to time,” says Mohammad. “The scenery is amazing. There was a seven-hour train trip I took in Norway from east to west and the scenic views were so beautiful. Austria is another country I like too.”

Home, however, will always be the UAE. Celebrating 20 years at EGA this year is a significant milestone.

“The growth story of EGA over the past 20 years is an amazing story and something that makes me proud,” says Mohammad. “And in my opinion, the new aspiration of the organisation will just continue to give opportunities for me and other employees to continue that growth story.”