We catch up with Gulf Craft’s CEO at the shipyard’s Mina Rashid Experience Centre to see how his first 12-months at the helm has gone.

Steve Chalmers

Dear Talal, how would you describe your first year as Gulf Craft CEO?

It’s been a phenomenal year. It’s been one of the most challenging years for the world and every day we have to go with our sleeves rolled up to face these challenges. But we are lucky to have this company heritage, delivering some of our best yachts and new models ever. So yes, it’s been a phenomenal year.

What were your strategic goals for 2021?

For 2021, there were many angles to consider. Internally, we had to reorganise ourselves and reorganise how we did business. Changes were made, from the simple, to the more complex, such as having to adapt to working from home, or working remotely and digitising some of our processes, so we could sometimes work out of station. We had to really dig deep into our operation to see where we could find these enhancements.

We also had a good year in attracting talent from around the world. From my perspective, it is the amount of brainpower that we now have at the table – it is so much more powerful and so we have enhanced our build methodologies as well.

Our strategy was to look inside, look at our production and find enhancements and efficiencies to enable us deliver our sales numbers. It was the year of Europe for us. We grew our network in Europe, with eight new dealers, covering 12 new territories, so our business from that point of view is also expanding. So we’ve made that strategic decision to bring more dealers to the table and to adopt that model to sell through our network around the world.

What is your global growth strategy?

I can divide the answer into three sections. First is, we have to win at home and we have all the criteria to do that, such as the expansion into Dubai with the client experience. This, here today, is part of our ‘winning at home’ strategy and we expect our clients, dealers and brokers from around the world to come and make use of this facility.

The second part of our growth strategy is now that we have our new dealers in Europe and around the world, we have to nourish this new growth.

And as 2021 was the year of Europe for us, then 2022 is going to become the year of the US and the Americas in general. We have seen a lot of demand come from the US.

We sold three big boats there in 2021 and so we will continue to focus on the US and also refocus our existing business in Australia.

The Experience Centre brings the brand to Dubai?

We have always participated at the Dubai boat show since the first event, so Dubai is home. So we will continue to have this presence and strengthen our home show. The Experience Centre here in Mina Rashid adds to that – we have a very solid partnership with Mina Rashid. We delivered on that for our customers’ benefit and our clients’ experience in general – it’s a very complementary partnership.

What can we expect from Gulf Craft at the Dubai International Boat Show?

We are going with a minimum of 12 boats, maybe more, we’ll keep that as a surprise. We are going to showcase our latest products, our latest boats that we built last year and we are going to make some announcements for newer offerings. The message will be we are here, we are strong and this is our home show.

We are in continuous R&D in terms of methodology, in terms of the product and what the client wants. The utility of every boat is a very important topic for us. Internally we think about how our clients are going to use these boats. However, whether it’s a fishing boat, a dayboat, a cruiser or it’s a luxury Majesty, each boat is unique in the way that it’s being used by our clients. We cater to that and we continue to go back to the Dubai boat show to show the world how much we are investing in that direction.

What’s been your standout moment since taking over as CEO?

You know, this business is full of standout moments. Every day there is a new challenge, a new client, a new request – there’s always something happening at Gulf Craft. Of course, over the past three years, the company had been building the Majesty 175, and I was lucky to witness the final stage and the handover.

Also, experiencing our culture internally during the hardest of times. We had to look after our colleagues and that’s very important – one of our most deeply rooted values. So that’s maybe not a standout moment, but definitely a standout feeling.

Today is a standout moment: the inauguration of this client experience. The history of our messaging. What we are saying to the world – we can, we are here, we’re making an effort, we’re creating this environment for you as part of your journey. Come and experience buying a yacht from Gulf Craft.