As I walk into the Porsche premises on Mombasa Road, I anticipate an uptight atmosphere, but instead I’m warmly welcomed by the 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 get to learn at the company customer experience is paramount—the most valued aspect.
The 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.
Dimitris joined Multiple Group in 2015, having worked in Europe and Nigeria. He has 20 years of experience in the auto 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 success and big steps in the auto industry?
Harun: How did you 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 the time I joined Porsche ( 2015 ). We were thinking of wise moves to build a sustainable automotive business. There are many brands in Kenya, but no top-end luxury car such as 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 rollout?
D: 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 ways of doing it. We are working on the dedicated premises at the moment.
H: How have your current customers received the news?
D: There’s always enthusiasm when people hear there’s a new brand coming in, but that doesn’t mean they will become your customer. Many received the news in a good way, started asking questions, looking for what cars we are bringing and inquired on pricing. I think the proper potential of Bentley will be shown once the facility is fully operational.
Did you ever imagine yourself being GM 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 prefer to work in racing, be part of a racing team or manufacturing. However, not everything goes exactly as we plan. I started my career as a service adviser. 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 in 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 two 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 in your free time?
D: Not much. I usually spend most of my energy in the office. Sometimes I go to a restaurant, or go for a drink with friends once in a while. I don’t spend much time socialising.
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 holiday destination. The reason is not only the landscape and the people. You can enjoy winter at skiing resorts, you can enjoy summers at nice blue seas. The food is excellent. Anybody who goes to Greece never forgets the experience.
H: What advice would you give someone buying their first car?
D: I wouldn’t recommend in terms of budget because if I did, I would say Bugatti, which is $2 million (Sh202 million). I always prefer new cars because of their smell, zero mileage, the warranty and the technological value.
My first car was a used one. One important thing with used cars, you need to know their history. You should make sure the mileage has not been changed. You need to know if the car was involved in an accident. Always make sure you check all these things when you go for a pre-owned car.
There you have it! My major take: Pursue your passion and get the best qualifications. Education, while not necessary for success, is very important.