Dragon Mart – finding your niche in a crowd

May 4, 2012 | By More

Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world at 824.84m. Total cost of the complex is $20billion.


How do you compete in a crowded market?

The Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at the Dubai Mall

Take a look at Dubai. Awash with money, it already has the world’s largest shopping mall – the Dubai Mall with its 12 million square feet enclosing 1200 retailers. This includes an Olympic sized ice-rink and an aquarium holding 33,000 marine animals in 10 million litres of water which earned the Guinness World Record of having the single “Largest Acrylic Panel”.

Nearby, there’s the competing Mall of the Emirates with 6.5 million square feet of space and an adjoining indoor ski resort, complete with a 60 meter high indoor mountain with 5 slopes, a 400m long run and the world’s first indoor black run.

Ski Dubai, a 22,500 sq m indoor resort at the Mall of the Emirates

Is there any room for another shopping mall?

Enter Dragon Mart.

Although a mere 1.6 million sq ft, it is 1.2 km long and is the biggest Chinese shopping mall outside China. Here you can buy from Chinese companies everything made from China, shipped directly from their factories. A direct contrast from the malls elsewhere in Dubai, the brand names like Double Goats Grinding Wheel Manufacturing, Snow White Princess Trading, Wen Ling Better Shoes and Zhong Dong Sanitary Ware Center are totally unfamiliar.

1.2km of shopping mall!

The customers are bargain hunters, people who have come to Dubai to work, build and maintain the city state from less developed countries. These is the emerging group of consumers who cannot afford to shop in the Mall of the Emirates, yet aspire for trappings of middle-class life, and represent dream of the upwardly mobile.

Dragon Mart serves to be a one-stop shop also for wholesalers. Increasingly Dubai is becoming a transit point for goods from China to Africa. The well trodden Silk Road traditionally linking Europe to China has decidedly created a new path.

What DragonMart lacks in bling, it makes up in size. It is the biggest Chinese shopping mall outside China!


Lessons for entrepreneurs anywhere:

  1. New markets or big markets are not necessarily where everyone is going.
  2. Cheap and tacky can be a big market too.
  3. Look at where growth is, sometimes it is least where you expect it
  4. Small countries can support huge opportunities – if you look carefully.


Read here for the whole story from The Economist.


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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

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