“Until 1979, there were only three independent used-car dealerships in Pietermaritzburg. One belonged to my father and I learned the business from him. When you come from a well-known family, you can’t cut corners, people would talk.”
Shameer opened his own used-car lot in 1997. He and his first two employees stood out in the sun and rain, with no shelter, until he could afford a mobile office. He could only sel low-priced cars for cash. “The banks set strict criteria for finance,” he explains. “It is not easy for a youngster to prove his worth.”
He soon learnt the truth of ideology breeding the level of success and insists that the dealership conducts business fairly. Eventually, in 2001 one of the banks agreed to give him a chance to deal with customers on a credit basis.
Since then, other banks have followed and Crescent Car Sales now has two branches. He attributes his success to his attitude: “My daily purpose is to win the hearts of other people. To do this, I just happen to part with cars for money.”
But were a customer not happy with the amount charged, his heart would not have been won. Both parties must be happy with the deal struck. “I tell prospective customers to check all the other dealers befotre coming to me; that way, they can judge the fairness of my offer.”
The branded dealers, he thinks, believe that their sheer size has beaten their ‘competitors’ in the race. Little do they know, he contends, that the starting pistol has not been fired. Independent dealers will eventually win the race because their overheads are lower and their need for exorbitant profits is less. Used cars, he contests, will reassert their position in the market, because cheap, new models seldom offer the lomg-term safety and proven reliability of older models.
The numbers game
Crescent’s staff complement has risen from the original three, to thirty. Each person came to him looking for a job, but was not pre-trained to fit any position. Everyone on his staff has learned, he claims, on the job and been empowered to fulfil the duties necesarry. Crescent Car Sales also sells mainly into the previously disadvantaged market and must explain precisely to its customers exactly how hire purchase repayments will affect them.
Imraan Aboobaker, the sales manager, believes that success is all about quality, price and honesty. “If we lose a sale one day, it inevitably happens that the same make and model will be sought by someone else the following day. Sales are never truly lost, they are deferred by the Creator.”
Shameer agrees wholeheartedly: “What one hopes will happen in business, will, as long as it is according to Allah’s will.” As long as our savings are passed on the customer, no-one can lose, he maintains.
Crescent Car Sales
111 & 458 Langalibalele St, Pietermaritzburg, 3201