As I walk into the Porsche premises on Mombasa Road, I am anticipating an uptight atmosphere, but instead of that, I get a heartwarming welcome from receptionist. I am here to have a conversation with Dimitrios Karakoulas, the Chief Operations Officer of Multiple Group and General Manager of Bentley Nairobi.
I am calmly led to the lobby area, where I am served with a cup of hot chocolate and a selection of sleek auto magazines. Everyone is super friendly; I feel like royalty. By the time I leave the place, I get to learn one vital thing; that at the company, that customer experience is paramount…it is the most valued thing aspect of the business.
Having been a fan of the various Bentley Models — my favourite being the Bentayga — has been something I can call fulfilling. The current Porsche Centre — where the Bentley is based until the dedicated facilities will be in place– offers a first-of-its-kind automotive retail experience in Kenya. From the minimalistic interior design to the overall tranquillity of the place, I loved the feeling of belonging.
Dimitris joined Multiple Group in 2015, having worked in Europe and Nigeria. He has over 20 years of experience in the auto industry and has covered every facet of this lucrative global industry.
He has worked with many brands including, BMW, Mini, Land Rover, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Ford, MG, Joy Lon and Audi Volkswagen. What’s the secret behind his perpetual success and big steps in the auto industry? Here’s my candid conversation with him:
Harun: How did the Bentley Nairobi concept come up? How long have you been working on it?
Dimitris: Usually, in order to conquer manufacturers that may be interested in starting a project with you like the one we started in Kenya, it takes some time. We started almost by the time I joined Porsche (2015). We were thinking of wise moves to build a sustainable automotive business. There are definitely a lot of brands in Kenya, but no top end luxury car was present in Kenya, like Bentley, Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini etc. It’s always a risk innovating and shaping the future. Bentley perfectly matches our profile.
H: When do you plan the roll out?
D: We are to launch the brand around summertime. We are expecting the first batch of cars to reach Kenya before then. In terms of serving our customers, we will have different and exclusive way of doing it. We are working on the dedicated premises at the moment.
H: How have your current customers perceived the news?
D: There’s always enthusiasm amongst people when they hear there’s a new brand coming in, but that doesn’t mean that they will become your customer. Many received the news in a good way, started asking questions, looking for what cars we are bringing in the country and inquired on pricing. I think the proper potential of Bentley will be shown once the facility is fully operational.
H: When you were younger, did you ever imagine yourself being a general manager of such a big brand?
D: To be honest, when you’re young, you have a lot of dreams. I’ve studied Mechanical Engineering, I got my Master’s degree in aerodynamics…my dream was always to work in the automotive industry. I would rather prefer to work in racing, be part of a racing team or manufacturing. However, not everything becomes exactly as we plan it. I started my career as a service advisor. I tried to learn everything on how things work in the industry. My education has helped me a lot. My MBA studies assisted me to proceed to senior level management positions. I started with Fiat, proceeded to work with BMW, Volkswagen Audi, and since 2003 I joined Porsche…With Porsche, I was in charge of building the Porsche Centre in North Greece from scratch. I worked there as CEO. In 2012, I left Europe and moved to Nigeria, joining Coscharis Motors for 2 years on a contract. In 2015 I Joined Multiple Group in Kenya, where I am now, managing the Porsche and Bentley brands.
H: What do you do when you’re free?
D: Not much. I usually spend most of my energy in the office. Sometimes I go to a restaurant, have some nice dinner or go for a drink with friends once in a while. I usually don’t spend much time socializing.
H: Have you tried our local food? We have a whole lot of delicious dishes!
D: I have, once or twice, but you know, they have spicy ingredients that my stomach is not used to. I’ve tried Ugali but I have not gotten used to it.
H: Tell me something interesting about your homeland.
D: Greece is one of the best destinations for holidays. The reason for that is not only the landscape and the people. You can enjoy winter at skiing results, you can enjoy summers at nice blue seas. Food is excellent. Anybody who goes to Greece never forgets the experience.
H: In Nairobi, if you were to recommend one of your Greek friends a hotel, which one is the best you would suggest?
D: I cannot say which is the best, you guys have some nice hotels. I have not been around many places but depending on how much money they would like to spend, I would recommend some nice 5 star hotels in Nairobi, as well as some nice resorts in Masai Mara, Mount Kenya, etc.
H: For someone who would like to buy their first car, which advice would you give them as an auto expert?
D: I wouldn’t recommend in terms of budget because if I did, I would say Bugatti, which is 2 million dollars. I always prefer new cars because of the smell they have inside, the zero mileage, because of the warranty and the technological value. My first car when I was young, was a used one. One important thing with used cars, you need to know their history. For used cars, you should make sure that the mileage has not been changed. You need to know if the car had an accident. So, always make sure you check all these things when you go for a pre-owned car.
There you have it! There’s one major take from our conversation. That as a young person who would like to excel in life, make sure you pursue your passion but also take the necessary steps to make sure you get the best qualifications that will boost your success journey. Education, while not necessary for success, is very important.
Bentley Motors is a British manufacturer and marketer of luxury cars and SUVs—and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG since 1998. Bentley Nairobi is operated by Multiple Group, a group of companies, including Porsche, Man Trucks, Randon Trailers, Yutong buses and other businesses in automotive services and spare parts.