June 22, 2024
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Abdul Gafoor :A Luminant Odyssey ~Mr Light

In today’s competitive market landscape, brands call the shots and business houses do not leave a stone unturned in their efforts to push their brands to stay ahead in the race. Among those brands that have become household names is UAE-based Mr. Light, which is not to be taken lightly. Flip through the pages of its annals and you can see a remarkable journey of transformation. A veritable metamorphosis from being a local brand into a globally recognised name in lighting solutions, thanks to the foresight, perseverance and determination of a visionary entrepreneur—Abdul Gafoor.
Abdul Gafoor’s astute business acumen and remarkable vision make his brand remain light years ahead of others when it comes to expansion. Gafoor deserves the credit for taking Mr. Light, which initially focussed on the needs of the GCC expatriate population, on an expansion spree. Today, the brand has morphed into a comprehensive range of products that now illuminates countless homes in 26 countries. In this enlightening conversation with Unique Times, Gafoor shines a light on the challenges, innovations and strategic decisions that fuelled his successful journey and made Mr. Light a force to reckon with in the global market.

Abdul Gafoor Mr Light

Abdul Gafoor

Mr. Abdul Gafoor, What sparked off the remarkable journey of Mr. Light?
Rewind to the nascent years of the new millennium. It was the keen understanding of the daily needs of the common man in the GCC that led to the birth of Mr. Light in the UAE. Particular focus was given to the huge population of expatriates in the Gulf countries. Initially, our marketing initiatives were primarily targeted at this demographic group. After realising that a flashlight was a crucial component of an expatriate’s homecoming kit, and given the frequent power disruptions in the region at the time, Mr. Light was conceived as an antidote. The brand name, Mr. Light, symbolises the ambition to provide bright, and reliable lighting solutions.
At a time when the market was dominated by plastic products from leading brands such as Sanyo, Mr. Light set itself apart by introducing a line of rechargeable aluminum products boasting long-range illumination. This move was made during an era predominated by xenon and halogen bulbs. Yet, Mr. Light carved its own niche by offering powerful torches equipped with high-beam LED bulbs, like the T6 series. The foundation of Mr. Light was built on the principle of offering the most effective, affordable, and high-quality lighting solutions for the average expatriate’s journey back home.

Was it a one-man struggle behind the brand Mr. Light?
The creation of the brand was far from a solo effort. It emerged as a result of the collaborative endeavours of my brothers and I. While our manufacturing operations were established in China, our research and development (R&D) efforts were spearheaded in Germany, taking advantage of German technological advancements. Our achievements can be attributed to the synergy within our team. During a time when giants like Sanyo and Panasonic were harnessing Japanese technology, the field of flashlight manufacturing was relatively unexplored. Recognising the untapped market potential among the extensive expatriate communities from countries such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh in the GCC, we pitched our vision to two acquaintances in China. This partnership was the catalyst for the inception of the Mr. Light manufacturing unit in that country, setting the stage for our brand’s journey.

How has the company expanded its product line to meet diverse customer needs?
During a period marked by a notable scarcity of resources, we strategically broadened our product offerings to cater to the multifaceted demands of the era’s populace. The journey of diversification started with the production of flashlights, eventually growing to encompass a portfolio of about 100 products. This range includes specialized LED headlights designed for rubber tappers and campers, as well as underwater lighting solutions for fishermen. Anticipating the needs of a market pre-inverter era, we pioneered the introduction of rechargeable bulbs, offering a practical solution to frequent power outages. Our commitment to innovation and adaptation has kept us in stride with evolving market demands, ensuring our product lineup remains relevant and responsive to consumer needs.
In alignment with our focus on meeting specific customer requirements, we recognised the particular challenges faced by Arab consumers, notably those involving desert drives during winter when vehicle headlights are the primary source of illumination of the camp area. To mitigate this problem of high fuel consumption and excessive heat emitted by vehicle lights, we developed the Mr. Light Portable Power Station. Leveraging kinetic technology, this groundbreaking solution provides a portable and versatile power supply, allowing users to connect various devices via multiple cables. This innovative approach ensures a reliable and efficient energy source that can be utilised in a similar setting.

Abdul Gafoor Mr Light

Abdul Gafoor

How did your company gain global recognition leading to a Guinness World Record attempt?
In the early stages of our entrepreneurial venture, navigating the marketing landscape presented significant challenges. Identifying a gap for larger, more innovative torches that aligned with consumer preferences, we developed 5D series of torches, which marked a pivotal point in addressing the needs of our target market. It was during this period of innovation and market adaptation that we contemplated on elevating our brand onto a global stage. This reflection sparked the ambition to clinch a Guinness World Record, envisioning it as a strategic move to bolster our brand’s international visibility and strengthen our global marketing initiatives.
Our ambitious goal led to the creation of the world’s largest rechargeable flashlight—a feat that earned us the Guinness World Record. This colossal flashlight, standing approximately 3 metres tall, weighing around 1,000 kg, and equipped with a trolley for mobility, served not just as a testament to our innovation but also significantly enhanced our brand’s credibility and prestige worldwide. Achieving this record was a strategic milestone that solidified our stature in the industry and underscored our commitment to innovation and excellence. Additionally, our team has been deeply inspired, acknowledging the ethos that through unwavering determination and diligent effort, any goal becomes achievable.

How did you manage the plan for sustainable innovation in the lighting segment while strategically managing global product launches?
During the crucial phase of seeking to elevate our brand’s presence on the international stage, we aimed to cultivate a unique identity that reflects the potent capabilities of our brand. For over twenty years, our commitment to remaining at the vanguard of innovative lighting solutions has distinguished us within the sector. With an eye on the future, our proactive strategy includes scheduling new product introductions up to 2027, and guaranteeing a steady flow of groundbreaking products. Our track record showcases our unparalleled contribution to innovation in the lighting category.
To ensure a significant impact while efficiently managing costs, we have developed a strategic plan to launch 4-5 new products annually with a gap of three months between each release. This approach allows us to customise our marketing strategies for different regions and stay in tune with changing consumer needs. By nurturing an ethos of innovation and strategic foresight, we are well-equipped to uphold our status as pioneers in the industry for the foreseeable future.

What could be the reason why Mr. Light is called a “commoner’s lamp”?
Certainly, the essence of Mr. Light is crafted with the everyday user in mind. Our slogan, “Lights Your Life,” embodies our commitment to illuminating the lives of people from all walks of life. Our product range is thoughtfully designed to cater to the everyday needs of various segments of society. For instance, we’ve developed specialised underwater torches for fishermen and headlamps for rubber tappers, showcasing our dedication to serving a wide array of customer needs. Mr. Light’s influence spans various aspects of life, including the provision of lighting solutions for the military and law enforcement agencies. We take immense pride in our ability to meet the varied lighting requirements of customers in different areas, reflecting our brand’s versatility and dedication to inclusivity.

Can you describe the origin and success story of Mr. Light brand?
Since the 1990s, my brothers and I have resided in the Gulf, only returning to Kerala during our educational years. The relationships forged during our time in that region have significantly contributed to the expansion of our business network. As part of the UAE’s development, where the Indian expatriate population dominates the business landscape, we identified an opportune moment for our venture. Our products, primarily marketed outside the UAE, have gained popularity through our robust network, dedication to improving quality, and strategic marketing efforts.
Launching in 2004 with merely 5-6 employees, our company underwent remarkable growth, swelling to around 300 employees by 2015-16 and establishing a significant footprint in Kerala. This trajectory of expansion prompted us to diversify our offerings, resulting in the introduction of an extensive catalogue of over 1,000 lighting products, meticulously designed to cater to the evolving preferences of our consumers. Despite the prevalence of built-in flashlight features in smartphones today, our commitment remains to offer superior, specialised lighting solutions, including high-quality, long-range flashlights and rechargeable bed lamps. At the heart of Mr. Light’s success lies our unwavering dedication to innovation and our ability to adapt to the changing market demands and consumer preferences.

Abdul Gafoor Mr Light

Abdul Gafoor

Who do you share ideas with and seek guidance during the development process?
Whenever a new product concept arises, the initial step is to bring this idea to the attention of our research and development (R&D) team. We engage in a collaborative discussion to transform the concept into a preliminary model, laying the groundwork before delving into the technical specifics. I hold onto every spark of an idea, nurturing it until it is time to present it to the R&D team for further development. Take the example of our talking emergency light, a concept we initiated a decade ago. It was designed to tackle common issues such as forgetting to recharge and the risk of overcharging. Our goal is to improve user experience by integrating an audible alert feature that informs users when the battery is low or fully charged, aiming for implementation within the next year. Our collective enthusiasm and commitment are the driving forces behind our mission to devise products that genuinely serve our customers’ needs and lend a sense of satisfaction to our team. There’s immense satisfaction in seeing a concept we developed making a positive impact on our customers’ lives.

Initially, did you envision Mr. Light as a brand with a global presence?
Before the inception of the Mr. Light brand, the core idea was to materialise the vision I had into tangible products that not only fulfill market demands but also become integral to people’s daily routines. In every field, individuals gather expertise over time and nurture the ambition to utilise their skills in a manner that contributes positively to society. Each startup is born out of a distinct vision or motivation. Initially, challenges are inevitable; nearly everyone possesses some form of talent, yet often, it’s the fear of failure that hinders people from pursuing their dreams. This apprehension, the fear of losing what one already has, leads many to settle for conventional employment rather than entrepreneurial endeavors.
Embarking on a business venture is more than a mere short-term pursuit; it demands lifelong commitment and absolute devotion. Entrepreneurs frequently stress the importance of sacrifice, underscoring that entering the entrepreneurial world requires enduring persistence and ceaseless dedication. From my experience, achieving success is not just about having confidence in one’s capabilities but also about recognising and capitalising on one’s unique strengths. Throughout my journey, time became a precious resource as I dedicated myself to various facets of business growth, ranging from product innovation to devising marketing strategies.
Many of my innovative ideas have emerged in the most unexpected and peculiar circumstances. For instance, the concept for our Glory Spot Series torch was inspired by nostalgic memories of a mouth organ, which served as a muse. Similarly, the idea for our underwater torch came to me during a flight delay, as I found myself captivated by the sight of an airplane propeller through the window. By drawing on these everyday moments for inspiration, we’ve succeeded in developing products that not only satisfy customer needs but also distinguish themselves in the competitive market landscape.

What are Mr. Light’s future plans?
The Mr. Light brand has evolved to encompass a full spectrum of home-related products beyond our initial focus on lighting solutions. Our portfolio now includes a variety of home appliances, kitchen gadgets, and major domestic appliances (MDAs). At present, our offerings are available in 26 countries around the globe, and we are dedicated to broadening our international footprint even further. Moreover, we are constantly at the forefront of innovation, regularly launching new products to propel the Mr. Light brand forward. Our skilled and dedicated team is unwavering in its commitment to realise these aspirations.

How would you rate Mr. Light’s growth and success?
To achieve success in any domain, it’s essential to harbour a deep-seated passion for it. This fervour is a prerequisite for attaining excellence regardless of the field. When it comes to product design, my primary focus lies in gauging its utility from a consumer’s perspective. My foremost concern is ensuring that the buyer receives substantial value for their expenditure. Furthermore, the collective endeavours of our entire team are pivotal to the advancement of Mr. Light. While conceptualising ideas and setting forth our goals and objectives is crucial, it is the relentless effort and commitment of every team member that propels us toward success.
Each milestone we reach in our business journey is a testament to the collaborative efforts of our team. We provide them with the vision and direction. Yet, it is their sense of ownership and meticulous execution that brings our ideas to fruition. This team-centric methodology guarantees that everyone plays a vital role in the company’s growth, ensuring that our aspirations are realised in measurable outcomes.

Can you elaborate on your family and how you juggle business and personal life in your busy life?
I tied the knot in 2000 with my wife, Razina, and we are blessed with three children. Our family comprises our eldest son, Mohammad Rayan, who is currently pursuing his Plus Two studies, our daughter; Ayesha, who is in fourth grade, and Fatima, who is three years old.
The smooth operation of my business is greatly facilitated by my wife’s effective handling of household matters, which allows me to focus on my busy schedule without having to fully involve myself in managing our home. Thus, Razina plays an indispensable role in the success of my business, with her support and sacrifices being absolutely crucial. Undoubtedly, she is the cornerstone of my accomplishments.
While our daily routines may not always allow us to spend time together, we make it a point to cherish moments during leisure time, especially on Sundays and holidays. Given the evolving educational landscape, our children’s schedules seem to be more packed than ours, with school routines differing significantly from the past. This strategic approach helps us strike a balance between professional commitments and family life. For instance, my son’s school holiday in April coincides with a business trip I have planned to China. I intend to bring him along, not only as a way to strengthen our bond but also to offer him a practical learning experience. This practice ensures that we optimise our family time while fulfilling both work and family obligations.

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