BOBCAT’S IRAQ DEALER, VARA MACHINERY, HAS HAD A GREAT RUN SO FAR, GRABBING THE HIGHEST MARKET SHARE FOR MOST OF THE MANUFACTURER’S PRODUCTS IN THE COUNTRY. THE COMPANY’S CEO TELLS CMME ABOUT THE REASONS FOR ITS SUCCESS, THE PECULIARITIES OF THE IRAQ MARKET AND HOW HE VIEWS THE FUTURE
Here’s a surprise: the most popular backhoe loader in the Iraq market is… Bobcat! It’s not the usual JCB, nor is it a Caterpillar. And the reason that Bobcat has managed to corner this segment of the Iraqi market is because of its dealer, Vara Machinery. The Erbil-based company is the exclusive dealer for Bobcat equipment in all of Iraq and its relationship with the Middle East’s premier compact equipment brand stretches back around five years to 2017. But Vara itself is a company that is much older and with a rich history in the Iraq market. Speaking exclusively with CMME, Haidar A. Maulwed, CEO of Vara Machinery, describes the legacy, excellence and future of the Iraqi equipment giant and outlines why it is one of the best performing dealerships of any brand in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular. “Vara is one of the leading companies in the earthmoving and construction machinery business in Iraq. We go back to the late 1900s and had humble beginnings as a seller of agricultural tractors, spare parts and other equipment, and grew to become the authorized dealer for Doosan and later Bobcat in Iraq. “As a company we started in 1972, but it was only in 2007 that the name Vara became well-known in the Iraqi market. We began mainly with the agricultural business, but after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, we branched out into heavy machinery and became the dealer for Doosan heavy equipment for the country and supplied Doosan Infracore excavators, wheeled loaders, dump trucks and other such machinery to the Iraqi market. “When it comes to Bobcat, it is part of the Doosan umbrella, so when we were successful with the Doosan brand in Iraq, we also took on Bobcat in 2017, as we saw a definite demand for compact equipment in the country. Today, Vara has a great relationship with Bobcat, which both companies value, and we are so close with Bobcat that together we call ourselves one family for the Iraqi market.” Maulwed himself has cultivated a very close relationship with the top management of Doosan and Bobcat over the years, both in the Middle East and the wider EMEA region. This has led to several benefits for both parties, especially where the Iraq market is concerned.
“I have my own suggestions for their management, and I’ve often asked for the addition of new ranges of machines to their portfolio, especially for our market. This is very important for us to grow together, and I can give you instances where these suggestions were incorporated and gave great results for us together as principal and dealer. For example, the medium sized loading shovel between 4-6t for loaders in the Iraq market – this is something that I suggested for our market and I also assured the management at our principal that if implemented, these would produce great results in Iraq. And the result was indeed as we had predicted, with the modification becoming a big success in the country. “We consider ourselves the eyes and ears of the manufacturer on the ground. We know our market and what it needs and requires, so we assist our principal by providing them this market intelligence”. Maulwed explains how his close familiarity with the market enabled Vara to spot the peculiar machinery needs of Iraq. “We all know that Bobcat is famous for its skid-steer loaders around the Middle East and indeed all over the world, too. In fact, this is what the Bobcat brand has been built on and it still remains the mainstay of Bobcat in the region. But in Iraq it’s different – Bobcat’s great reliance on skid-steer loaders is less here and, instead, we are selling each and every sort of machine made by Bobcat in near equal proportion in the Iraq market. “In the last four years we have been the runaway market leaders in Iraq in almost all categories of machines that Bobcat makes, and we’ve achieved market shares of 90% in many of those machine classes in the country. So this is also a big responsibility for me to defend this market performance, to keep it going for us and not let it slip.” This brings us to the Bobcat backhoe loader, the biggest surprise about the Iraq market. “JCB is near synonymous with the backhoe loader almost anywhere you care to go, and this was the case in Iraq too. But when we introduced the Bobcat backhoe loader in the country, things changed. Now it is the Bobcat backhoe loader which is the largest selling in Iraq, more than any other brand, including even JCB and Caterpillar,” Maulwed reveals. The backhoe loader is a tough market anywhere and Iraq is no exception. A lot of top manufacturers are in the fray there, such as, of course, JCB and Caterpillar. Maulwed points out that many other regional players are also present in the Iraq market, like Turkey’s Hidromek and Cukurova, and those from other parts of the world, such as the whole host of Chinese manufacturers and Indian brands like Escorts. “Despite this, Iraq prefers Bobcat backhoes – and there are a few factors behind this. Stock availability is an important reason and here we make sure that we have the machines in stock and there is as minimum a waiting period as possible for a customer who has ordered a machine to take delivery of it,” Maulwed explains. “The reputation of the dealer and brand combination and the trust of the customers in them is vital too. The network of Vara is equally important to bring in customers, and finally, the aftersales operations that Vara offers and the level and quality of the support that Vara is able to provide the customer in terms of service and spare parts is the clincher.” The above factors are applicable for all other machines, and Vara has thrived on these to corner the market for them as well for Bobcat, Maulwed emphasizes. “In the telehandlers segment, we’ve done some really big deals. One of our customers took more than 20 units of Bobcat telehandlers recently. Over the last few years, we’ve kept on selling Bobcat telehandlers at a very fast rate. In fact, Vara is even selling Bobcat’s rotary telehandlers in substantial numbers, which is otherwise a very rare machine in the Middle East. “And when it comes to mini excavators, on several occasions Bobcat has achieved 100% market share in Iraq through Vara. Sometimes, there’s a mix between Doosan and Bobcat because, of course, we sell Doosan too. But we are now concentrating less on the Doosan mini excavators and instead more on the Bobcat models, which are the ones controlling that market segment in Iraq.” In the skid-steers, meanwhile, everybody knows how dominant Bobcat has always been – and it is no different in the Iraq market. But there is a slight twist here as well: While the Bobcat S450 is the largest selling skid-steer in the entire Middle East, in almost any country you care to pick, in Iraq Bobcat’s larger S850 and S770 skidsteers are the popular ones. These are the biggest skid-steers that Bobcat makes and are manufactured by the company in USA. “We are the main customers in the region for Bobcat’s biggest skid-steer loaders,” Maulwed explains. “One of the most important reasons for the preference of the Iraq market for the large Bobcat machines is the kind of attachments that are commonly used in the country – and this goes back to the work that the end-users are doing. Much of Iraq is still being rebuilt and the infrastructure is being developed, so one of the common attachments that are used with the skid-steers are wheelsaws. “Bobcat has an extensive line-up of attachments, and we provide all of them to our customers wherever needed. The wheelsaw is among the most-requested attachments as it is vital for work that involves laying cables, fiber-optics and pipes – work that is commonly going on in Iraq. And to operate the large Bobcat wheelsaw attachments efficiently, the skid-steers needed are the larger models with highflow hydraulics, such as the S850 and S770.” What helps Vara and Bobcat here is that over the years, the dealer has cultivated close relationships with the arms of the government and allied contractors involved in buying and using these projects, such as the Communications Ministry. “In fact, just recently, we signed a contract with the Communications Ministry for the supply of 24 units of the big Bobcat skidsteers, so you can see that requirement for these machines is frequent and Bobcat is selling well in Iraq because of this. We have also previously supplied them more orders of the large Bobcat skid-steers, all with wheelsaw attachments, which were used to construct communications infrastructure, laying down cables and doing other allied work. “At Vara, we enjoy the confidence of both the government and private sectors in Iraq and customers from both trust that we have the knowledge, excellence, trained personnel and infrastructure to look after their machines and their interests. Our wellestablished reputation precedes us in the Iraq market and this allows us to pull in more customers to the Bobcat brand. “Of course, we do not rest on our laurels and contribute to this constantly with customer outreach programmes, demonstrations and promotions – and of course by ensuring that we give our existing customers more than the level of support that they have come to expect from us.” Maulwed adds that whenever Bobcat has a new machine or new introduction, Vara is the dealer and the territory that is going to not only accept that machine but work on it and make it popular. “For example, when it comes to the new Bobcat compact wheeled loaders launched earlier this year, Vara is the first dealer in the Middle East to place an order for them. We will shortly receive some units of the Bobcat L23 and L28 compact wheeled loaders. and will demo them to our customers who have already shown interest in our first pitch of the machines. “These are some of the reasons why we have often been acknowledged as the best Bobcat dealer in the Middle East and Africa and we’ve received awards from Bobcat on several occasions.” Speaking about the future, Maulwed says it’s no secret to anyone in the world that Iraq has been undergoing really tough times for a while now. The most recent of these was the war with ISIS, which has had a negative impact on the government and the country’s infrastructure and economy. And, of course, now there’s Covid-19. Ironically, however, the state the country is in gives its construction equipment market more hope for the immediate term. “All the areas that have been damaged by the conflicts need rebuilding, which the government embarked upon after 2017 once the ISIS threat was neutralized. So considerable construction work is going on in the country since then. Covid-19 has indeed slowed the pace of construction by a huge degree and has affected the Iraqi economy in general quite badly. “At the moment, the situation is under control in the country, and we expect that there will be an expansion in the equipment sector by the end of 2021 or early 2022. In fact, we expect our business to double next year over what it has been for most of 2020 and this year so far, in terms of numbers of units sold and the allied support activities,” Maulwed concludes.
Issuer: CMME Magazine