Pushing Boundaries: Irfan Tansel, CEO, Al Masaood Automobiles

"We built up a good momentum during 2021, and we are now gearing up to end the year with great offers and new launches," says Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles.

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Judging by the numbers his business is professing, Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles, the exclusive distributor of Nissan in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the Western region of the UAE, must have been unfazed by the COVID-19 pandemic. His company reports achieving a market share growth of 30% in 2020, outselling all competition in the region of Abu Dhabi by the number of units sold, as well as marking a retail growth of 34%. How? “The formula is simple and straightforward,” Tansel replies. “Ambition and hard work, as well as sincerity and empathy in dealing with people.”

Al Masaood Automobiles
Irfan Tansel, CEO, Al Masaood Automobiles

But that's not all- the company’s other milestones include it becoming the first automotive dealership in the GCC region to receive Bureau Veritas’ Safeguard Label for its sales and aftersales operations, as well as it being able to unveil Nissan’s first interactive e-commerce platform in the Middle East, Africa, India, and Turkey. Tansel also points out that Al Masaood Automobiles has also launched an online auto retail financing scheme that allows customers to obtain the necessary funds, without the need to physically visit a showroom or bank. Having been implemented in partnership with top UAE banks, the auto retail solution gives customers total peace of mind by offering them a complete online journey that meets their needs and requirements.

The new service is part of Al Masaood Automobiles’ continuing efforts to ensure the health, well-being, and safety of the community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company was also one of the first dealers to launch an interactive virtual sales initiative called CLIX (Connected Live Interactive Xperience), which allowed customers to enjoy the convenience of a full interactive live showroom experience from the comfort of their homes. Such efforts made by the enterprise also explain why Al Masaood Automobiles is the first ever car dealer to have been recognized by Dubai Islamic Bank as one of its distinguished partners that have made a significant contribution to the bank’s auto finance business.

Having listed a long list of milestones that Al Masaood Automobiles achieved recently, I realize that, in fact, their commitment to excellence must have made any other year equally successful. This observation is evident through some of the industry accolades that the company has received so far. In 2019, Al Masaood Automobiles won the coveted Nissan Global Dealer Award 2019 – National Sales Company for its respective market size, crowning the company with the title “Best of the Best.” In the following year, the company was again awarded the highest accolade for Global Partners, but this time by their French principal brand Renault. Most recently, Al Masaood Automobiles surpassed global targets stipulated by the Nissan brand for aftersales services and secured the Global Nissan Aftersales Award, outperforming other Nissan dealers operating globally within its segment. Once, the company was also named the Best Performing Partner by National General Insurance (NGI), after it recorded the highest sales among NGI’s partners for the provision of affinity insurance products.

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Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles. Source: Al Masaood Automobiles

One common theme among successful people is that they always make an effort to stay at the top of their game, and I suspect that there must be some element of such habits that Tansel also utilizes in order to win in his career through the years. “First and foremost, it’s discipline,” Tansel explains. “It is the road to accomplishing your goals. Like the saying goes, motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing. Being an early riser, I believe that managing your time wisely is also a very important habit. I have always had the highest doses of clarity and the best ideas at the break of dawn. Planning and diligence are essential for success in business as well.”

But let’s not discount the importance of sheer hard work, Tansel reiterates. “I started my career as an apprentice, and I took every work experience to heart,” he says. “Because I had every intention to get the best out of every job I did, knowing that a greater truth will reveal itself as you give every task your very best.” Here, Tansel is talking about when he, at 15 years of age, worked as an apprentice auto mechanic, but he claims to have learnt some key life lessons even before becoming a teenager. “I was born in Turkey, and as a child, like many, I migrated with my family to Germany,” Tansel explains. “I had to adapt to a completely new culture at a very tender age. This meant learning ways to move out of my comfort zone and embrace change.”

This is essentially how being self-made became a major personal driver for Tansel. “Being a foreigner means you cannot just be like others, you need to be better than them,” he says. “That created the seed of ambition and competitiveness in my persona, and I have lived a life of welcoming challenges, one after another.” His hyphenated identity (Turkish- German) has also allowed Tansel to grasp the best out of the two cultures. “My Turkish roots have ingrained in me the tendency to be very people- centric, empathetic, connected, and hold a deep sense of value for family bonds and human relations,” Tansel says. “My German upbringing, on the other hand, sharpened my business acumen by charging me with a profound respect to discipline, precision at work, calculated decision-making, and a deep focus on efficiency of process and planning. In a nutshell, I got the best of both worlds.” Tansel’s upbringing illustrates two things about him. The first one is already obvious: his absolute love for his work. But the second one -his people-oriented attitude- reveals itself even more when I ask about the mistakes he has made throughout his career.

“I’ve always had a compelling urge to do the right thing, and one important skill I learned along the way is how to confront with grace,” Tansel explains. “To deliver uncomfortable messages to employees in honest yet empowering ways. When you’re in the situation and probably too passionate about it, you don’t realize that you could have applied pressure on the other party. I do recall a time when I was deeply absorbed in a conversation that I may have gone hard on some of my associates. I have learned over the years how to remain adamant, but with grace, and to confront people with empowerment.” Tansel stresses the importance of treating one’s team well. “What makes you a successful leader is softening the edges of your organization by being empathetic and understanding very well, where each team member stands in their life and what they’re going through,” he says. “Cultivating a human connection with people, be that within your organization, or merely people you run into in life, does take you places.”

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Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles. Image courtesy Al Masaood Automobiles

Tansel is also attuned to the needs of his clients and the larger community. Examples of Tansel’s proactive response to changing customer needs are Al Masaood’s Auto Leasing solution, which is aimed at providing personalized leasing solutions to both their retail and corporate customers, or the Al Masaood Confidence program that is rolled out to boost trust and confidence by allowing customers to ask for a replacement of their new or pre-owned vehicles within 15 days from the date of purchase.

One more example is the company’s partnership with Kanari, a Dubai-based experience management technology company, which allows them to leverage the power of real-time customer feedback in driving improvements in customer experience. Furthermore, the recently launched Al Masaood Auto App attracted more than 5,000 customers by the end of 2020, and it currently enjoys an average usage of 70%. The app allows customers to book their vehicle service, track the progress of a current service, request roadside assistance, explore new and pre-owned car models and even trade-in existing cars, to name a few services.

“We built up a good momentum during 2021, and we are now gearing up to end the year with great offers and new launches,” Tansel says. “It’s been a good year for us, and we are pleased with the increased market share and healthy growth that we achieved despite the pandemic.” Al Masaood Automobiles’ strategic mid-term plan “Project Falcon,” which was launched a few years ago, is also a testament to Tansel’s foresight that the company should focus on driving operational excellence by optimizing costs and developing new business lines and retail formats. He explains that 2022 will mark the final year of the mid-term plan, and adds, “It’s great to wrap up Project Falcon with all our deliverables fulfilled, as we now set to strategically plan for its next phase.”

Meanwhile, Al Masaood Automobiles’ humanitarian initiatives include being the official partner and exclusive automo- tive sponsor for the Special Olympics World Games, the world’s biggest humanitarian spectacle that took place in the Middle East for the first time from March 14-21, 2019. In partnership with Nissan, Al Masaood supplied a fleet of over 315 vehicles during the event to help transport athletes, delegations, and coaches, and provided simultaneous support for events throughout the UAE in the build up to the main event.

Another of Al Masaood Automobiles’ initiatives aimed at uplifting others can be seen in its support to Al Jazira, an Emirati professional football club based in Abu Dhabi. “Reaching out to the youth of Abu Dhabi in personal and creative ways remains a top priority for Al Masaood Automobiles,” Tansel says. “This partnership with Al Jazira Club made perfect sense for us and our flagship brand Nissan, because football, being the world’s most popular sport, holds a special place in its heart. Nissan already has a legacy of strategic partnerships for several major global competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League.”

Looking back at his career so far, Tansel says, “My younger self would be very proud to see how my journey has unfolded. The ambition has always been there, but it is often the ailment of high achievers to not truly believe in their own potential, and rush into criticism of their own selves. My younger self would never settle, but instead was always on the lookout for the next challenge. It had the assurance that the harder you work, the more successful you are. That the harder you work, the luckier you get as well. And that step by step, slowly but surely, you do win the race.” In time, Tansel has learned a few more lessons too- that one becomes more attentive to even the smallest details, that one cannot keep on monitoring or micromanaging people, and again, that one’s business success is also about being available for one’s team members.

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Tamara Pupic

Written By

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.