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Interview: The profound impact of the onset of the pandemic was something that none of us had expected

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Aboubakr Eliwa, general manager for the Middle East at Kulzer
Dental Tribune Middle East

By Dental Tribune Middle East

Tue. 25 January 2022

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Another challenging year influenced by SARS-CoV-2 is behind us. It puts every company in new and unknown situations that they try to solve in order to help dental professionals. During this interview with Aboubakr Eliwa, general manager for the Middle East at Kulzer, we will find out more about what Kulzer has already done to help dentists and dental technicians during these difficult times and what the company still plans to do.

Mr Eliwa, could you please tell us in brief how you and your team have been functioning during the past two years of the pandemic? Were there any changes to the team or to their responsibilities?

The Kulzer Middle East team has been busier than ever during the past couple of years of pandemic. During the lockdown, we took the opportunity to develop as individuals and to discover new ways to communicate with our clients. We reached out and made sure that, despite the constraints, travel restrictions and lockdowns, we were available to our clients and were there to support them with numerous scientific webinars and live demonstrations featuring top local and international speakers in order to keep our customers updated with Kulzer’s innovative technology.

We had several role promotions and also welcomed new team members in the Middle East. Overall, the last two years were challenging yet fulfilling. 

Could you please tell us about the experiences you have had during the past year with dentists and dental technicians in your region? How did you, as Kulzer, experience COVID-19? What have you learned from your experiences?

The profound impact of the onset of the pandemic was something that none of us had expected. Some dental practices have closed down, and most have reduced capacity on reopening owing to the restrictions imposed by the authorities and to the reluctance of patients to visit. The result has been a significant drop in income. As a company, we have also experienced an increase in operating costs, which include shipping fees and fees for flight booking and rebooking.

Travel restrictions were a major issue. Kulzer Middle East has always been passionate about bringing continuing education to dentists and dental technicians, but flexibility of travel has been greatly affected.

On a positive note, the changing times have paved the way to virtual endeavours. We turned to our mobile phones and laptops, and we saw opportunities. This has helped us a great deal in keeping in touch with our patrons.

We learned a number of important things:

  • Preventive measures should be a top priority in terms of dealing with our health and safety.
  • Hybrid or flexible working does not lead to less productivity.
  • Teamwork is dreamwork—without proper communication and cooperation within our team it would have been a difficult couple of years.

Did Kulzer do anything in order to reduce COVID-19 infection risk for patients and practice staff?

Our priorities were, and still are, to secure the health of customers, patients and our employees and to ensure operational capability. That is why Kulzer took major safety precautions from the beginning, and these often even exceeded the governmental regulations. In addition to implementing strict hygiene rules, since the spring of 2020, the management has strongly recommended that administrative staff work remotely, if the job allows it. Our sales teams were asked to reduce personal customer contacts and, in some countries where infection rates were very high, attendance at meetings was even stopped completely. And in production and R & D, we took measures to reduce person-to-person contact, and we limited access to the facilities in order to reduce the risk of infection. Until now, these measures have helped us to ensure that no SARS-CoV-2 infections are being transmitted in the workplace or towards our customers and that we can produce at full capacity. Together with our logistics partners, we are delivering all ordered goods, without limitations.

What did Kulzer, as a company, do in order to remain in contact with customers? Were there any live webinars provided during that time? If so, on what subjects?

Kulzer reacted quickly. Thanks to an already very good digital environment, we could easily switch to online communication with our customers. In addition, the global teams were provided with the right skills to offer webinars in the respective countries in their local languages. This was a great help in keeping in touch directly with our customers.

We created the KulzerCOM Mobile Academy that gives us the opportunity to drive to our customers—so that they can have a short travelling distance, can learn more about new products and can contact their colleagues in a safe environment in small groups. The tour started in Germany in 2021 and will continue in 2022 throughout Europe.

The Kulzer Mobile Academy started in September 2021. Could you tell us a bit more about this activity and how it has been perceived by the customers?

The KulzerCOM Mobile Academy is a new format connecting product experience and education. On 200 m2 (two pavilions of 100 m2 each) and in trucks of approximately 40 tons each, the academy offers interested visitors the opportunity to get to know Kulzer’s dental solution concepts and deepen their knowledge by attending compact expert lectures close to their home or office. Our visitors especially appreciate the opportunity to find out about new technologies and innovations and find it a very informative event, which relates well to everyday practice.

Is Kulzer going to continue with the Mobile Academy during this year? Are there any plans of implementing this concept in our region?

The KulzerCOM Mobile Academy will continue in 2022 in Europe. Originally, there was also a tour planned for the US. However, owing to the current and ongoing COVID-19 situation worldwide and especially in the US, this tour was cancelled. In Europe, we plan to bring the Kulzer solutions close to customers in some cities in Eastern Europe and Western Europe, including in Germany and Austria.

We have just entered 2022, a year of new possibilities and challenges. What are Kulzer’s plans for this year, especially in the Middle East region?

We plan to increase our online marketing presence. Greater scientific collaboration with more key opinion leaders to represent our brands is planned. We want to keep our momentum in terms of providing education to our dentists and dental technicians. In addition, we will continue expanding and plan to recruit new team members. Later this year, we will hold one of the largest and most exclusive Kulzer events, and for this, we have invited a number of sought-after speakers. This event will be announced within the next few months.

Thank you for the interview.

 

 

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