General Manager at Sea Gear
Hotel Insider meets with Sea Gear’s general manager Hussen Abdulla. Though Sea Gear is a relative newcomer, Hussen has decades of experience in water sports and diving. In our chat, we cover Sea Gear’s parent company Silver Sands’ history as a revolutionary dive, water sports and excursions service provider, Hussen’s background in diving and his knowledge of vessels and cutting-edge products.
Hotel Insider: I believe your parent company Silver Sands ventured into water-based recreation in 2013. Can you tell us your main reasons for doing so?
Hussen Abdulla: Silver Sands was registered in 2000 as an inbound travel agency. Then, around 2006, they decided to expand and take on a component at a resort. They started dive centre, water sports and excursion services, offering a total solution to their clients and resorts. No one else was doing it at the time so it became the benchmark for others. They began with W Maldives, one of the biggest and trendiest brands to establish themselves here. Say a guest wanted a sunset cruise on a luxury yacht and a private dive tour – well, Silver Sands could do that. So, this total solution concept really caught on. And it meant that the company had to give prompt service.
Silver Sands service is very innovative, well-organized and runs smooth operations. Like at W, you can’t tell that the dive centre is a third party, it’s called Down Under and is very much part of the resort. Other companies are more aggressive in making their presence felt.
Hotel Insider: When did Sea Gear come into the picture?
Hussen Abdulla: Sea Gear entered the picture in 2013. By then, Silver Sands had eight such operations. The company needed to keep spares and stocks of everything they had, like scuba tanks and their different components. The company had a huge stock as you can imagine. They also had boutiques at every dive centre. The additional stock for vessels and water sports equipment piled up.
I was approached by the company in 2013. They said they had a lot of stock so they wanted to streamline it and set up a showroom so certain products and brands they were importing could be introduced to a wider audience. So, we opened Sea Gear in January of 2014.
Hotel Insider: What sort of gaps did you see in the market back then?
Hussen Abdulla: It’s a very competitive business. When we started Sea Gear there were so many marine shops, some were very established, having been in business for over 30 years. Like Seagull Marine, Hungaanu, and Deep Blue. Also, if you wanted to buy flip-flops or t-shirts, there are places you’d go to that are right on the tip of your tongue. So, that’s what we were up against, this very competitive market. There are places that specialise in dive equipment that have been around for a long time too. We wanted to offer a bigger range, including everything that vessels, watersports and dive operations and also resort boutiques would require. We also wanted to cater to locals and therefore offer many lifestyle and beach items like Havaianas sandals, beachwear, kids’ goggles, Ray Ban glasses and GoPro cameras. Water sports has always been a bit tricky, you see shops come and go. We wanted to establish Sea Gear as the go-to shop for watersports, though. Anyway, it wasn’t easy when we started. We were newcomers and had to compete with some major players and we worked hard to make a difference. Now, people know Sea Gear and we are really satisfied with the feedback we get.
Hotel Insider: How do you set yourselves apart?
Hussen Abdulla: What differentiates us from our competition, I believe, is our concept and confidence. Sea Gear is based on high quality brands, technical support and service at a competitive price. We have confidence because we only sell the best. We work with our products – we get to experience them first-hand and train our staff. Say you need a good quality marine rope that’s tried and tested. Well, you come to us. Marine batteries. We test them and we get them approved before making a sale. Likewise, with every other product we have.
I have a background in diving. I was a professional dive instructor and I had been for a long time. I got into it soon after I completed school. I’ve worked on liveaboards back when they used to be docked in the harbour outside the local market.
Hotel Insider: Yeah, I think I remember this vaguely.
Hussen Abdulla: Yes, that’s how it was when I started out. I’ve been in the dive industry for a long time and I’ve had a passion for water sports from a young age so I know those areas very well. That’s my advantage. I know the sorts of things that can go wrong on a dive vessel, like you’d have issues with generators and compressors. So, I have this understanding gained over many years and many experiences.
The world has changed a lot since then. There are so many inventions and technologies that have sprung up and this has led to many conveniences, to the ease of operations. Where once it might take ten people to do something on a vessel, now you can do with four or five. My point is, we need to create awareness for boat owners that if they choose to go with us, we can make their business very profitable. For example, the rope we sell is manufactured by Robline, the leading manufacturer of ropes worldwide. They make ropes for many different purposes, from tugging heavy vessels to use in fire safety to yachting. The product is extremely durable, perfectly suited to our weather.
I know when I was out at sea, I’d have issues like ropes breaking into loose strands and flaking. So, I’m very happy to have brought a top-quality rope into the market. Now people have that as an option. Luckily, after raising awareness, our customers now know that if they buy rope from us, it lasts ten times as long as the common rope from other vendors and it ends up being cheaper and safer in the long run. They get our concept. Good quality pays off!
Hotel Insider: Yes, and speaking of big brands, you have amassed quite a collection here. What do you look for when choosing a brand?
Hussen Abdulla: It’s a lot of work and research. Though we currently have many top international brands dominating the market, there are still more to discover. We constantly look out to source needed products. For instance, when you look at engine lubricants, there are so many parties who carry all these brands. But premium lubricants are few, like Total [French company] and Liqui Moly [German company]. We carry a premium branded lubricant too. It’s called Motul, a company that was founded in 1853. They were pioneers, and their only task is to create the finest lubricant for machinery. Their product is extensively tested in machines, in racing especially. It’s a little bit more expensive than the rest but the client will benefit from using the brand because he’s going to have less wear and tear on his engines and machinery. It’s simply the best product available out there. Those who want the best come to Sea Gear.
Hotel Insider: You also supply marine vessels, Sea Ray brand boats. Competition must be fierce, especially from Dubai manufactured boats and yachts.
Hussen Abdulla: Yes that’s true, those boats have a strong foothold in the country. But I think in the five years since we’ve established ourselves, we have made inroads. We’ve put our name out there, and we’re slowly making progress. Also, Silver Sands has progressed as a company, and they manufacture their own vessels. So, now with Sea Gear, you have the chance to purchase custom built dive vessels, fishing dhonis, parasailing boats and glass-bottom boats. All perfectly designed for our environment.
Hotel Insider: Hotel Insider: Is Sea Gear working on anything exciting at the moment?
Hussen Abdulla: Our hottest, most recent and exciting thing is Motul. We really want to highlight that. It will have a big impact on engines and generators and we have just completed the staff meetings with the Motul team from France and England. Also, we are now offering special packages for new or already established dive and water sports operations. We also offer consulting for start-up businesses as we have found that our expertise is appreciated and needed. Sea Gear offers a total solution package, no matter how big or small the business. We also continue to conduct trainings for staff and customers to ensure the best application of all products, for example for Seajet antifouling or Motul lubricants. Silver Sands has expanded since 2014, today it runs 14 operations at top resorts and Sea Gear has benefited greatly from this. Now, have the capacity to address the needs of more clients than ever.
Hotel Insider: Hotel Insider: Do you have anything on the horizon?
Hussen Abdulla: We’re looking to expand our operations, get an additional showroom and probably open up an outlet in Hulhumale. However, we want to never lose focus and maintain service and quality to stay true to our concept.
Hotel Insider: Thank you for your time, Hussen.