Dyson Global CEO talks UAE growth and electric car plans

Dyson’s entry into the UAE market has seen some interesting growth. Apart from dedicated stores in select malls in Dubai, the company also now enjoys being present in some of the prime shopping malls and venues across the country. It’s also investing heavily in its online store, helping to fuel the region’s growing pangs for online shopping.  

James Rowan, Dyson Global CEO, is confident that there’s still much to be done with the company’s product lines. Speaking to TechRadar Middle East, he talked about how AI is coming to future products, and what we could expect from a Dyson-engineered electric car.

What made you decide to finally launch stores in the UAE?

There were a few things that led to that – we’ve always kept an eye on growing markets in the past, Japan was for example a huge market for us to look at, to keep the business growing. So we started to look around the world at which markets where our products would be appreciated. What’s happened in the UAE is that our technology has been appreciated and understood, we’ve grown the business 200% in the past few years we’ve been here and we’re continuing to invest in that growth. The next step is how do you engage more deeply with that customer base – our products are best sold when they’re explained properly, which led to us taking more high-street retail space as well as spending on our online channels to bring the products to people.  

The region is seeing a strong uptake in ecommerce and online shopping, how are you balancing this between your online store and traditional brick and mortar stores?

There’s been a great success with high-street stores, and there’s going to be a need for the retail channels to always remain. There’s different demographics with different areas – for example people in China prefer to shop online more than visiting a physical store. Then there are some people who still want to buy online, but want to be able to touch and feel the product and try it out for themselves in person. So that’s what you need the physical stores for.

What we’ve found is that some retailers weren’t quite showcasing our products in the way that they’re meant to, so we’ve taken a lot of that back and crafted better in-store experiences for our products, coupled with experts who can really demonstrate what our products can do. Standalone Dyson stores don’t make sense everywhere, but in new and emerging markets they definitely are a requirement. The online channel compliments anyone who doesn’t want to necessarily visit a store, but still wants the benefits from shopping directly from the manufacturer.

We’ve been investing around five times more into online channels than we have in the past, just to make thing more manageable for our customers and to make sure that everything is both easy and secure.

What has consumer reception been like in the UAE since your products launched?

We have about eight products in place in our stores here, across three categories. All of them are doing really well – haircare products especially because they reduce damage and they’re easy to use. We also make sure that we properly field test all of our products to ensure that they can withstand all kinds of climate conditions and usage scenarios.

The v10 Cyclone is an example of how Dyson’s R&D department has helped to innovate and improve upon an existing popular product – what else are you doing as a company to ensure that you’re consistently improving your in-house engineers as well as attracting new talent?

For any tech company it’s all about pushing boundaries. For the first time ever this year, we have more software and electronics engineers than we do hardware engineers. And that’s a real pivot point for us – I think James Dyson said a while ago that software is enabling hardware companies faster than hardware is enabling software companies, and that’s true for Dyson as well.

You have this beautiful partnership of great hardware being augmented by great software to produce a world-class product. For example the next version after the v10 has a lot of AI in it, and it makes a huge difference to the product.

When it comes to attracting talent, what we’ve found is that people love working on products that you can actually go out and buy in the stores. They become attached in a way that they can say ‘I’m part of the design team that made that’. We put a huge amount of investment in the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, which we set up two years ago.

It’s a fantastic training environment that results in a recognized degree in the end, and we’re only the sixth private university to be setup in the UK. The best part is that at the end of their four years, the students have the opportunity of a full-time paid role at Dyson should they want to come work with us.

You’ve spoken before about plans to work on an electric car – from an expertise point of view, what could Dyson bring to the market that we haven’t already seen?

A lot of it will be quite nuanced – for example we could take any of our existing products and take it apart to find out how to make it faster, quieter, and more efficient. That’s sort of how we feel with electric cars – it’s about taking things to the next level, apart from the obvious things like range and better battery management.

The nice thing about a project like working on a car is the almost endless things that can be taken apart and reengineered to perform better, even if it’s a part of the car that’s been unchanged for decades. We have about 400 people working on this project, split between Dyson engineers and automotive experts. We mixed them all up to get them thinking differently, and the crossplay between the two has been really incredible.

  • Read our full review of the Dyson v10 vacuum cleaner

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