Andy Jackson, CEO, Clair Global Middle East

As Clair Global makes its formal entry into the Middle East, the man responsible for heading up the new regional operation gives TPMEA the inside scoop on how it came to be and reveals his hopes and ambitions for the new venture…

Rumours of Clair Global’s desire to set up a permanent base in Dubai have long been rife, with the favourite after-work watering holes of the city’s live events professionals often bearing witness to speculation about the who’s, when’s and where’s of the matter. It’s fitting then, that when the American audio titan finally decided to take the plunge and open in the Middle East, it appointed one of the most experienced, best known and most well-respected people in Dubai’s audio scene to launch the operation: Andy Jackson.

Having lived and worked in Dubai for over 20 years, launching and building up the Middle East branch of Delta Sound before its subsequent acquisition by PRG, Jackson is a true stalwart of the industry. Here, the regional CEO gives some background on the new Clair Global Middle East operation and shares his take on the change of pace his new role will bring.

How did the opportunity to launch Clair Global Middle East come about?

It all came about, as usual, through a phone call. Clair Global had an interest in developing more of a presence in the Middle East. They were already working on some large projects in Saudi Arabia such as MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM, and they wanted to open a permanent base here in the region I was consulting at the time, and it felt like there was a vacuum in the region on the audio side of the industry, so, it seemed a perfect fit.

I had a meeting with the leadership team, to learn more about the way they worked and their structure, and it did not take long to realise that would be the kind of people I wanted to work with.

How is the organisation structured?

We’ve been trading since October 2022 and have already built a staff of around 15 people. We have a 20,000 sq ft warehouse, which is fully up and running in Jebel Ali. It’s a brand-new warehouse complex and suits us perfectly. We’re fully owned by Clair Global, and I have been put in as regional CEO, to look after our entities in the UAE and in KSA.

It sounds like you’re building a strong team…

Yes, we have some good new people as well as some great people who I have known and respected for years, including Al Woods, Rob Turner & Ed Ross. We’re very lucky that there is no shortage of people that want to come and work for such an esteemed organisation. As you are also aware, the Middle East is a very desirable place to build a career.

How does being a part of a larger organisation benefit you?

It comes with massive benefits. Not only does the company have considerable assets, but all that equipment is the very best. I know exactly what it’s like to try to keep your inventory at the highest level as a start-up, so it’s a big burden lifted to have the support of a large organisation behind us. The company has been providing us with the kit we need, including L-Acoustics K1, K2, and Kara systems, along with their own Clair Cohesion system, which is the first in the region. I have to say, the Cohesion has performed extremely well in its first outings.

We also fit right into the Clair Global operation as a regional hub. Our Operations team is in daily contact with their counterparts in London and Lititz to make sure that resources are moved around in the most efficient way possible. We’re the missing link between Europe, Asia, and Australia, so our presence opens doors for everyone.

We hear that you’ve been busy from the off…

We’ve been straight in with some large contracts. I was expecting to have a year easing into it and spending a bit of time on the golf course, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth, which is great.

For MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM, Clair purchased 2,000 new Motorola R7 radios, which remain in this part of the world – making us the biggest provider in the region. We also picked up work on the Yasalam After-Race Concerts at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, shows at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as a huge comms deployment for UAE National Day, including enough Riedel Bolero systems to handle 2,000 IEMs which, again, now live in our warehouse. I cannot thank our clients enough for the support they have shown.

Will you be focusing on live rather than systems integration?

It’s mainly going to be live and rental applications. If the right Integration project comes up and we think there’s a good opportunity, then we would consider it, but our main focus is certainly on the live events market.

Why did you choose to set up in the UAE rather than Saudi Arabia?

We like the UAE because of its laws and statutory rights – it’s a safe haven to do business. There’s no doubt that there are some incredible opportunities in Saudi Arabia – Clair is already doing great business in the country and we’re in the process of setting up an independent entity licence there – but we want to approach with caution and not expose ourselves to any unnecessary risk. We’re selective with making sure that we work for the right companies and the right people. So far, it’s all been positive.

Where do you expect your biggest areas of growth to be?

We’re only a few months into a new entity, so without doubt both the Saudi and UAE markets will grow massively for us. We will also be in a position to support other Clair entities that have work in the Middle East or Far East as we further develop our infrastructure and get all our systems and processes up to speed.

We will also be able to support Europe and North America with staff, during the hot summer months which is a prospect that the entire team will benefit from.

In terms of equipment growth, for me it’s all about comms and data networking – that has been a passion of mine since the early Delta Sound days.

We took on our first shipment of 2,000 radios before we even had a warehouse. When you’re purchasing new equipment, everything has to be scanned, barcoded, and entered into a system. With 2,000 radios, that’s around 12,000 items of equipment that needed to be processed all while trying to get jobs out the door. That gives you an idea of the amount of work that needed done to get our processes in place.

How do you view the competition in Dubai?

We’ve been welcomed with open arms. We have some great friends in the region, and we get on extremely well with the likes of Agora, Protec, MediaPro and many others. It’s a healthy competition and there’s more than enough work in the region to go around. It’s good for the industry here that clients now have a choice of specialist audio companies.

How are you finding the move back into management following your freelance stint?

My role is to steer the work and group in the right direction, looking for opportunities, partnerships, and potential acquisitions in the region – and it’s one that I’m embracing. I like that strategic planning side of the business very much. The challenge is now about continuing to build the right team, and that is more interesting for me than getting back behind a desk.

I’ve been very lucky in this industry; it has given me everything that I ever wanted to get out of it – and this is a fantastic opportunity to create something else and build an organisation that can give the next generation an opportunity to get what they want out of the industry, too.

Photos: Clair Global