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Dental Tribune Middle East & Africa spoke with Rajender Kumar, general manager for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at Dentsply Sirona, on continuing dental education and training activities, including the first Dentsply Sirona World in Dubai, and the company’s short- and long-term strategies in the region. In the interview, he also expanded on Dentsply Sirona in MENA considering the recent global changes in company management.
Would you give us a short introduction to yourself?
I’ve been working for Dentsply Sirona for more than ten years now. I was based in India for approximately four years as a finance director, and then I moved to the MENA region in Dubai, working as the finance director for the MENA region. Then I moved to financial planning and analysis director for the eastern region, which includes Russia, countries of Commonwealth of Independent States, MENA countries, Turkey, India and South Africa. In the last 15 years, I have worked very closely with vice presidents and the general managers and had very close collaboration with all the business partners in the region, and I feel like I have a good standing in terms of knowledge of the business. Since 1st of November, I have been appointed general manager for the MENA region, and I am glad to be in this position. I’m hopeful that Dentsply Sirona will do even better in the future.
In light of the shift in management, will we be seeing any pivotal changes in direction and strategy?
Indeed. Whenever there is change, one can expect this because different people have different perspectives, different ways of thinking. We as a company are also thinking a little bit differently than before. Three things are very important for the company to grow, in any of the regions , The first is dedicated, motivated and long-term team members. The second is trustworthy, sustainable business partners. The third is ground-level activities, our team members reaching out to dentists so that we can talk to them about our products, the opportunities we provide for better solutions for patients and how we can improve the oral health of patients. This has been a particular focus in the MENA region for the last month or so. We have also been working on ensuring a stable team, putting the right structures in place and filling positions that have been open for the last few months. Plus, we have made a little bit of change to the structure overall that will help us to grow the business more sustainably.
What are your thoughts on dentistry in the Middle East, and where would you like to see it go from here?
The future of dentistry is digital, and this is not different for the Middle Eastern region. We are working towards the situation in which more and more dentists will be going increasingly digital in the coming years, and digital solutions will integrate itself in each dental treatments. We as a company and as management in the MENA region are working on educating our customers on our digital offering and how it can help to provide better solutions for patients.
How important is continuing dental education for Dentsply Sirona in the MENA region?
I believe that clinical education is one of the best tools to grow the business in any country. If dental professionals have not been exposed to our products, if they have not touched the products and, it makes it very difficult to build adoption of our solutions in everyday treatments of their clinics.
The pandemic resulted in a move to online education. What are your thoughts on this, and how do you see the future of dental education in the MENA region?
There are pros and cons for both online and in-person sessions and training, but I feel that a blended approach would be more successful, giving the options to our customers and allowing them to choose whatever they feel comfortable with. Online sessions offer the benefits of saving time, being able to choose according to interest and being able to view the recordings at a later stage. I think that online education is the future for any of the topics, but a physical presence is also very important because the human aspect is very important for good relations with any person and for any activity.
As the largest manufacturing company in the world in dental products and technology, how do you continue to keep the company consistently strong in terms of strategy and culture in the Middle East?
We have structures in place at each level, including at the corporate level and at the regional level. These ensure that we have all the processes in place to enable cultural diversity, including feedback mechanisms, such as surveys among all the employees to ensure that all voices are heard. If they have any concern or anything to share which could be better for the company, we are always open to that.
Which product lines do you feel are best represented in the Middle Eastern region, and which ranges still require more awareness?
In the Middle East specifically, we are very strong on the equipment side, and we have already identified growth opportunities areas especially from the implant side, and we are already working in that direction. This is also our focus for the future regarding digital dentistry, including combination with scanners. We continue to focus on the consumables part along our strong focus on digital. Consumables is the bread and butter of every dentist and guarantee our presence in a majority of clinics and to identify when they’re ready to move to digital with us.
What activities are you planning to run to achieve greater awareness of your products?
We have just started training our staff members. We have a lot of new team members in the region, and we are bringing them to the Dubai office for training. Once our team is fully trained, our target is to train all our business partners and their team members so that they also feel comfortable with our products. Our third target is the market. We are going to have a lot of hands-on sessions and product demos. Those types of activities will help us to grow the business in this region.
In this regard, would you like to say a bit about Dentsply Sirona World in Dubai and how it could support that?
Dentsply Sirona World is one of the activities that we will be hosting in the MENA region—for the first time! It is being held in Dubai in early February 2023. The idea is to have our own Dentsply Sirona event where we can invite people who are really dedicated to Dentsply Sirona’s products where we can showcase our product portfolio and can educate them so that they can take this forward to improve the oral health of patients in the region.
What are the short- and long-term strategies for Dentsply Sirona in the MENA region for the coming years?
The short-term strategy is making sure that we are growing our existing business segments with our business partners and our team based in the different countries in the region. In the long run, we want to grow into a very sustainable business, and to that end, we need to identify long-term sustainable partners. We need to identify untapped markets, and we have a lot of scope to grow because we are not yet in the full MENA region. There are a lot of countries to which we can expand, and we need to invest in terms of employees, resources, clinical education, marketing activities and so on.
Are you allowed to share with us any new countries that you’re thinking of entering in the region?
Yes. We have already started focusing on North African countries, including Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria, for the last few months. This is in addition to our expanded focus on markets in which we already operate, particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Kuwait.
Do you intend offering your entire product portfolio in these new markets, or are you going to select specific products that you feel are best suited for those markets?
In the beginning, we are not going to focus on each product there but on the digital part of the business.
What about SureSmile?
The strategy for SureSmile in the Middle East is first in the UAE and then in the Saudi Arabia, and maybe in a couple of years’ time, we will launch the product in another Middle Eastern country.