“Like smoking, only better!”
Umer and Taz Sheikh, founders and entrepreneurs, Gamucci
TJI: What did you do before joining the e-cigarette industry?
Umer and Taz Sheikh: We founded and ran two successful businesses – Revolution and R2 International – which are focused on IT recruitment and IT consultancy respectively. R2 International is still running and headed up by an experienced management team thus allowing us to focus on Gamucci in view of its outstanding growth trajectory and prospects.
How and when did you become involved in the e-cigarette industry?
We became aware of the first generation of e-cigarettes in 2006 and could immediately see their potential to revolutionise the tobacco industry. As experienced entrepreneurs, we knew that it was an opportunity that had to be taken. We therefore travelled to China and worked with an engineering team to design, develop and patent our own technology.
What has most notably changed in the e-cigarette industry since you joined it?
The market for e-cigarettes didn’t exist before we launched Gamucci and the sector now has global sales in excess of USD 2bn. Our development of IP for Electronic Cigarettes utilising directly integrated vaporisation technology, for which we have the UK patent and US patent pending, was significant in improving upon existing technology and now widely adopted by the industry as the benchmark. Many governments, including the UK Government, are now looking to regulate the industry. Generally speaking, we welcome this because it will provide consumers with the assurance of high quality products and should raise the standards for market entry.
What do you believe are some of the most interesting and exciting trends in the tobacco/e-cigarette industry today?
We are really excited about the changing social perceptions towards e-cigarettes. A couple of years ago this was a niche market and e-cigarette users were often thrown out of public places such as bars because of a general lack of knowledge about the product. E-cigarettes are now becoming much more widely accepted and recommended around the world, which is a huge driver of growth.
What should the tobacco/e-cigarette industry be most concerned about in your estimation?
Control over quality and consistency. We understood at an early stage that this would be important as the industry became established and we took the view that we would invest in our own R&D and factory so we could control our supply chain throughout. Surprisingly, we are the only operator in the UK market that does not outsource its manufacturing.
How do you think the tobacco/e-cigarette industry differs from others?
The tobacco industry has a long and complex history and has come under close scrutiny by the health lobbies and politicians. It is an industry that has to manage its business in the public eye and is subject to stringent and widespread regulations everywhere it operates. It is important that our own products are understood and appreciated not only by regulators, politicians, customers and consumers, but also by the general public who don’t use e-cigarettes.
Which aspects of the e-cigarette industry do you feel strongly about?
We feel very strongly that our products and our consumers need to be better understood by politicians, so that any regulation they introduce is appropriate and well balanced, and recognises the tremendous potential benefits to health that e-cigarettes may offer. Ours are not tobacco products with all the associated risks to health: they are lifestyle products that allow adults to enjoy the beneficial effects of nicotine without the harmful aspects of combustible tobacco.
Where do you see your company in 10 years?
The potential for our industry is huge and we are extremely well-placed as we already have in place most of the fundamental mechanisms that will bring success – intellectual property, R&D, manufacturing, global distribution and tobacco industry expertise through a number of additions to our senior management team. It is not fanciful to suggest that we could be a USD 1bn+ revenue business within 10 years.
What aspects of this industry give you the greatest pleasures?
It’s incredibly exciting to be pioneers in an emerging market; one that some people are saying could be worth around USD 3bn this year compared to USD 2bn in 2012. The stockbrokers Canaccord Genuity, have stated that e-cigarettes are “the most significant development in the history of the organised tobacco industry”.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The constant challenge of staying ahead of the game by, for instance, patenting our cartomiser technology in the UK. Also the sense of the unknown because we really are pioneering a whole new consumer goods marketplace.
Which achievement in your career are you particularly proud of?
Being pioneers of the fast growing electronic cigarette industry; securing our patent in the UK; setting up our own manufacturing plant from scratch which now employs over 400 workers.
Does your work leave time for hobbies or passions?
We’re both passionate about good food and cooking. We’re lucky in that we get to sample many different cuisines on our travels, although, according to Umer, he still makes the best green curry ever! Taz is also an avid Chelsea supporter.
Have you had a role model or mentor that you can tell us about?
Umer: Steve Jobs was a great influence when I was growing up or reinventing Apple and identifying new niches that have now become part of the consumer landscape by marrying design with functionality and ultimately creating some of the best consumer products available.
Taz: Muhammad Ali. He was an inspiration to many having mastered both his mind and body to become one of the best, if the not the best, boxer in history. He broke the mould and challenged convention as well as coming up with some the greatest one liners of all time.
You have visitors coming to London for the first time: what are the most important experiences or places they need to visit to appreciate/enjoy your home city?
London is one of the most historical cities in the world offering any visitor a huge range of experiences and place to enjoy. There are the museums, Buckingham Palace, the many parks, The London Eye, but no visit would be complete without a visit to the sacred Stamford Bridge, home of the Blues (Chelsea FC).
Please finish the sentence: If I was not doing the job I am doing today, I would be…
We would both be building another fast growing business which is ahead of the curve. Business is our passion and we like to be involved in technology that is both innovative and that has mass appeal.
Interview: William McEwen
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If you'd like to find out more about Gamucci, or are interested in making the switch to electronic cigarettes, you can visit us at www.gamucci.com or if you'd like to talk send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org