Luxury products consumption is on the rise and alongside it is the business of luxury services, to be more precise, concierge services. These companies play a role to their clients as opinion formers, experienced tastemakers, and important links between the luxury brands and the clients who purchase from these brands.
UUU, a concierge series company was started in 2003 in Paris, France by Zakary Chanou who is from Benin and is based in Paris.
Most of his career was spent working in the luxury industry, in the US focusing on business development. Chanou who moved from Benin to Paris at the age of nine, pursued his Bachelors in Science degree and Masters in Cosmetology, and later joined ESSEC School in France where he studied to pursue a Master’s in International Brand Management.
Zakary provides insights on the luxury market in Africa and growth of concierge services.
There is an increase of high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth individuals globally, and in Africa to be more specific. What are some of the countries with the highest growth?
Knight Frank launched a report this year about luxury globally and from that report there are various African countries that have and will have significant growth in wealthy individuals. Abuja in Nigeria has 14 Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI), meaning they have more than $30 million in assets. Between 2005 to 2015 this population grew by 185%.Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is also interesting as it has 11 UHNWI and this grew by 195% in the same years too. Nairobi, Kenya is also very important; it has 77 UHNWI which is one of the highest numbers in most sub-Saharan African countries.
Why is concierge a crucial part of the lives of these individuals?
Busy people are often time poor. Our role is to make their lives easier. Some of these people don’t time to book a private jet to travel, or want to hire a yacht for a private party. Another important aspect is many of these individuals purchase collectables such as fine art, wine, cognacs, stamps and & coins, timepieces and jewelry. They want an experienced eye to locate these pieces for them and manage the purchase. This is another reason as to why concierge is important. Knight Frank stated that 4% of the UHNWI have 4% of their wealth allocations portfolio for these collectables.
What is driving the growth in the demand for luxury goods and services in Africa?
We have a growing African client base and more people are becoming wealthier and deserve our services. Many countries have had a positive economic growth through well-known sectors and sectors that have developed in recent years such as mining, agriculture, now we have technology and the film industry among others. More people have disposable income in sub-Saharan Africa and feel they need to be taken care through luxury services.
Concierge business is a business built mostly on networks. What led you to begin this business and how did you start?
I spent the first year finding the best partnerships and suppliers with hotels, jewelers, private jet companies, airlines, private tailors, and other suppliers. In this business, with this kind of target market, everything has to be very very smooth. The whole process can’t have glitches, at all. The next year, we spent it finding customers to ensure that we can provide them solutions through our partnerships and suppliers. We have to keep the DNA of occur company and an elitist approach. We rely on very good Customer Relations Management (CRM) and tailor made services.
What is the size of your company and its operations?
The company has more than twenty thousand partners globally working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, irrespective of the location and the time zone. UUU works through partnerships globally, such as through private members clubs, luxury marketing companies and other market relevant firms.
Being in a business that requires very strong networks, how do you do client acquisition?
We get our clients through referrals and word of mouth from our current clients. Then we do a background check on the proposed client. The next step is to provide the services the client choses. This service is about service, trust, delivery and the highest quality, finding and providing solutions very quickly. Currently UUU has more than 8,000 private customers and 200 corporate clients such as private banks, family, offices, financial institutions, oil and gas companies from all over the world.
What do you offer these clients and do you have any examples?
The business caters to individuals and corporate clients. There are three different service levels in the business. The first level gives access to the concierge services for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Level two ensures that the client has concierge dedication for 24 hours and 7 days a week concierge and this level is dedicated to a maximum number of 15 people per the concierge handling them to ensure 200% quality in services. Level three comes with a dedicated concierge per client only. This includes three experiences per year such as a three star Michelin restaurant experience in your home, dinner with a super star in the location of your choice even if it is a yacht or tennis box seats close to Roger Federer.
In 2008, after the Euro cup ended, we organized private jets for the football team to relax in Ibiza. We have African clients want to come to Paris via private jet, then we pick them up with a helicopter to a palace to sleep, then we organize private viewing sessions with a jewelry house with the heads of Very Very Important People (VVIP) for the client to shop at their leisure.
What are the expansion plans for the African market?
There are plans to open in the Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a country with an ever increasing number of high net worth individuals. We are also looking at markets such as Nigeria and Kenya as part of our business plans.