Confident, Talented & Inspiring

Nandakumar Vijayan, Director of Marketing & Communications of Lulu Group International

Publicity Pundit, Nandakumar Vijayan, Director of Marketing and Communications of Lulu Group International has a gift when it comes to awareness campaigns in retail at a global level.

Spearheading the global marketing, communications, CSR initiatives, digital and social media of LuLu Group which operates malls, online shopping, hospitality and food processing businesses, Nanda has the nous to select the perfect medium for publicity campaigns that are result oriented and positions Lulu Group strategically as the go to retail partner in every market.

A marketing Guru and popular figure in the retail and marketing industry, Nandakumar is a veteran communications professional and has been with the multinational company for almost two decades, climbing the organisational ladder steadily while handling different portfolios.

As a communicator, Nandakumar has a sixth sense on what works for each of his campaigns. His vast experience with leading media organisations such as The Times of India and the Indian Express clearly has provided him with enough experience for impact messaging and synergy that he initiates to the target audience of all entities within the Lulu Group.

Using disruptive marketing initiatives and innovations, Nandakumar played a crucial role in transforming the Lulu brand from being a conventional supermarket to one of the most popular multinational retailing brands.

We meet with Nandakumar to find out what makes this seasoned marketing and communications professional the UAE’s leading marketeer and publicist.

Tell us a bit about Lulu Group and its different areas of business?

We are headquartered in Abu Dhabi as a highly diversified conglomerate with business entities that are continually evolving in strategic locations worldwide.

Lulu Group’s international business portfolio ranges from hypermarket operations to shopping mall development, food processing, manufacturing and trading of goods, hospitality assets and real estate.

We currently operate in 22 countries located across the Middle East, Asia, US, and Europe.

As we talk, we have 206 hypermarkets across the GCC, Egypt, India and the Far East, including Malaysia and Indonesia.

For hospitality we own franchises of some of the key Hotel Brands such as Marriott, Grand Hyatt, Sheraton in India and unique hotels such as the Great Scotland Yard in London and Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh, Scotland.
We have been getting inspiration from all around us since we established our retail business in the early 90s at the height of the first Gulf War with strong fundamentals and ethos of “Here to stay and here to grow” so we have grown with the country and the region.

You can map our tremendous growth over the last few decades with UAE’s growth and we are very fortunate for the support and encouragement we have received from the leadership of the UAE and the country’s stability that has helped us grow steadily and strongly over the years.

Today we have more than 206 hypermarkets, almost 17 shopping malls in 12 countries across different regions which is definitely a high point for any organisation. And apart from that we also have our own consolidating and sourcing offices in almost all major countries in the world including USA, UK, Africa, GCC, Far East, India and China.

This ensures we have uninterrupted supply of specially food products in our stores at the most competitive prices as we connect directly with manufacturers and producers from around the world.

You make grocery shopping a fun thing to do all year with mega promotions and events. Where do you get inspiration for the ideas for these campaigns?

As our tagline says, we firmly believe in the fact that Lulu is where the world comes to shop and now obviously in the current situation safely also. It all comes from the simple philosophy of catering to over 200 diverse nationalities in the UAE. Our aim always has been to be the favourite shopping mall for everyone irrespective of tastes they prefer and give them what they want.

Hence our marketing initiatives follow the similar philosophy to think from the customers point of view, why would they come and shop at Lulu and what would be their reason to shop with us. It can be the price, product variety, our various festivals, promotional campaigns as we do everything from the customers perspective.

We want Lulu to be a place not just for shopping but for customers to get a slice of their own country or culture. That is why you see our campaigns and promotions targeting different nationalities and countries, Hence, our inspirations for these campaigns come from different people, the way they think and what they expect from Lulu.

Under your leadership, Lulu is now a trendsetter in retail marketing with media presence not only in the conventional ATL & BTL but also in social media. Tell us about your team and work ethics that make them excel at what they do with your guidance?

As someone who has worked over 20 years here, I have huge respect for each of my team members. We have a very simple work ethic where each one is trained and empowered to think independently, think creatively and out of the box.

We collect everyone’s ideas and put their thought processes in a cohesive manner so you will see our team members being multi-talented, multi taskers and have expertise in different areas. I Believe in cross training them and empowering them which ensures we carry out our initiatives in different markets effectively so we have successful leaders in each market.

Another work ethic that we follow that is being championed by our Chairman, Mr. YusuffAli is cultivating decent work relationships, empowering and rewarding the team members.

So instead of getting new talent, we invest in promoting our existing team so they take on bigger roles in bigger regions in areas of global operations and marketing. Our key motivation is to promote job satisfaction, creativity and keep our existing team motivated.

With so much happening within the conglomerate, how do you manage your time having to liaise with so many entities across the Group?

When you have multiple tasks ahead, you tend to become more efficient and effective at managing time than people who have less things to do. I think I have a system set for managing time effectively.

Thanks to multiple Technologies and advancement and communication tools especially due to the pandemic, we don’t spend much time traveling nowadays.

We can talk and discuss issues with our colleagues around the world in real time which saves time and efficiently take decisions faster.

Being old school, I still firmly believe in creating a to-do list every morning and ticking them off before I go home at night. That keeps me up to date with my team’s progress and project progress.

Which area of retail excites you most?

With majority of my experience in the field of retail and specifically marketing roles, I know mainly the retail industry but now I concentrate more on innovation and tech side of retail marketing which involves a lot of work on data analysis, data activation and creating seamless platforms for both staff and the consumer. It enables stakeholders to have clear vision of our activities.

Another area which I am trying to concentrate on is obviously digital and social media marketing where we work with great organizations and resources in creating beautiful apps and content for marketing initiatives that drive our numbers.

How do you start your day and what do you address first when you get into office?

Every day starts with a quick half an hour team meeting with regional heads from across the globe joining in and quick updates are exchanged, decisions taken which sets the tone for the day’s work for all of us. I also follow a strict schedule with regards to internal meetings as well as meetings with other stakeholders and vendors.

Whatever is said and done, I always try to find at least a couple of hours every day to update myself about latest technologies, Innovations, developments in the industry, development in the marketing and media space and interacting with some of the key influencers and stakeholders in the industry.

Being a hands-on person, I like to lead from the front and getting my hands dirty so I spend time daily in our retail shops as well as in the studio of our team where the real work is done.

We cater to almost 1.6 million customers per day throughout the 206 hypermarkets across the globe so it is a consumer centric business.

Being on the floor, we feel the pulse of the market, get updated on new products, our suppliers and customer preferences as being in the shops gets me close to our end users first hand.

Do you have any role models who inspire you or personalities you look up to?

I have spent most of my professional life at the Lulu Group, I learnt a lot from our Chairman Mr. YusuffAli who is a self-made entrepreneur starting from scratch and built an entire retail empire from his grit and determination and he leads from the front even today. He is truly inspirational.
In addition, I do pick up good tips and tricks from anybody who’s a practitioner of excellence and I look forward to many more interactions. And thanks to the web, a lot of resources and inspiring stories from around the world keep me up to date.

What personal qualities would you say help you most in your current role?

I absolutely believe in empowering my team members across different markets by being able to identify the right talent and nurturing them. I am slightly perfectionist and I have an eye for detail which at times creates deadline issues, but that is one quality which I think has helped me nurture this brand.

Another leadership quality i firmly beleieve is decentralization of power and job delegation across my team member in all regions, but being “perfectionist” is what I cherish the most.

On the personal front, what are your hobbies and how do you unwind?

Travelling and meeting and understanding people is something that I love. And thanks to the kind of job I have, I get enough of that so I try to make the most of my official trips which is quite often. I usually unwind with some Bollywood movies or reading light fictions.

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Fragrant Notes

Nishrat Nazeen, Founder and Curator of Aromas Fiji

The pandemic has inspired people all around the world to focus more on being clean, hygienic and healthy and this vision has led many around the world to invest in inspiring projects and products that focus on keeping everyone around cleaner and safer. Aromas Fiji was initiated by Nishrat Nazeen, a PR Professional based in Nadi, Fiji Islands during the pandemic to encourage people to use more soap and relax with fragrant candles and ultimately embrace a lifestyle that focuses on wellbeing.

In a candid interview, Nishrat tells us more about her new venture and the debut collection of soaps and candles from Aromas Fiji.

Tell us a bit about Aromas Fiji?

Aromas Fiji is a homegrown organic halal certified soaps and soy candle brand. Our aim is to bring colour and fragrance into your home with our collection of handcrafted natural and organic soaps and candles made with high quality plant and botanical oils.

What inspired you to take on this project?

Our industry depends on marketing and PR budgets, both affected by the pandemic as these are the first budgets to be slashed by companies. The down time prompted me to look into other sources of income.

Aromas Fiji was hence conceptualized based on my love for fragrant smells that elevate the stay at home experience, especially during the pandemic when I was mainly staying at home and working remotely. Realizing that there was a gap in the market for halal certified skin care and home deco products, I ventured into learning about aromas, their calming effect on the body, mind and soul and with the encouragement of family members, Aromas Fiji was born.

Are the soaps and candles made in Fiji and

Our products are all made naturally in Fiji and our soaps are hand mixed, hand poured, hand cut, and packaged individually.  Our carefully curated product line includes luxury scented candles and soaps that are natural, environmentally friendly and made to elevate the spirits of users as well as enrich the homes they inhabit. The products are thoughtfully planned from the brand and product design to colours and scents and packaged exquisitely for home use or for gifting. 

Apart from soaps, you also make candles. What do you use to make these?

Aromas Fiji candles are made of long-lasting soya wax and comes with high quality cotton wicks ensuring you have the best quality natural product made without comprising on the environment. We use essential oils and aromas in the candles that help to wind down and boost your well-being especially in the evenings when a peaceful sleep routine is welcomed by all members of the family.

And how are the soaps made?

Aromas Fiji soaps are made of all-natural products that are long-lasting, paraben-free, sustainably made and environmentally friendly.  Suitable for the whole family, the soap lather offers a luxurious cleansing experience that hydrates and nourishes the body, leaving the skin clean, soft, moisturized and fresh.

What is your favourite in the debut collection of Aromas Fiji?

From the debut range I love the traditionally crafted soaps with massaging nodules as I find it makes the at-home cleansing ritual worthy of a spa. Made with aromatic essential oil, the massage nodules pamper the body and elevates the senses with specially formulated ingredients known for nourishing properties.

Which ingredients do you love working with?

My favourite ingredients for the soaps and candles are Moringa, Goats Milk, Aloe Vera, Oranges, Charcoal, Sandalwood, Frangipani, Lemon Grass, Marygold, Citronella, Japanese Honeysuckle, Amber, Musk and Vanilla.

Women’s World Car of The Year Reveals 2021 Category Winners

Shereen Shabnam

After a year of testing cars, the jury of the Women’s World Car of the Year are pleased to announce the winners in each of nine categories. These vehicles represent excellence in their segments based on safety, comfort, technology, and value for the money.

As a Motoring Jury based in the UAE, I was able to test the nominated cars easily as we were less affected with lockdowns during the year. This is the eleventh year for WWCOTY, a team of fifty motoring journalists from 38 countries spanning five continents. It is the only jury in the automotive world composed exclusively of women.

This year’s new voting methodology started with choosing the three best models in each category before narrowing those picks down to the individual winners. Eligible vehicles were launched between January and December 2020. As in previous years, votes were certified by the independent auditor Grant Thornton New Zealand.

This year, voting was more complicated due to the pandemic, which limited each juror’s ability to drive. Despite the challenges, jurors made an extra effort to get behind the wheel of these vehicles to evaluate them in time for voting.

One more round of voting remains. Jurors will now choose the Best Car of the Year from among the nine category winners. The results will be announced on March 8, International Women’s Day.

 2021 Women’s World Car of the Year Category Winners

BEST URBAN CARBEST FAMILY CARBEST LUXURY CAR
Peugeot 208Skoda OctaviaLexus LC500 Cabrio
BEST SPORT CARBEST URBAN SUVBEST MEDIUM SUV
Ferrari F8 SpiderPeugeot 2008Land Rover Defender
BEST LARGE SUVBEST 4X4 & PICK UPBEST EV
Kia SorentoFord F-150Honda e

Women’s World Car of the Year is the only car awards group in the world composed exclusively of women motoring journalists. It was created by New Zealand motoring journalist, Sandy Myhre, in 2009. She is currently Honorary President while Marta García serves as Executive President.

The objective of the awards is to choose the best cars of the year. These are not ‘women’s cars’ because there is no such thing. Instead, cars are chosen based on the principles that guide all consumers including safety, quality, price, design, driving dynamics, and environmental impact.

Dubai Based Singer, Zakeer Hussain with Artist name Zak Zorro Releases new Music Video

Zakeer Hussain Known as “Zak Zorro” has released another Music Video titled “Teri Yaad Mey” shot fully in Dubai, a song dedicated to people in love with a social Message. The song is about the endless memory of love and separation.  The song conveys love after separation and how beautiful memories continue haunting about the person we love and it has an inspiring social message about Karma.

All the cast in the song are locally based in Dubai. Jumana Khan is a well-known Social Media influencer and Sagar Midda works in the Fashion Industry while Soniya Rana is a fashion model. All the performers portray their characters beautifully to translate the feel of the song.

The Song Produced by Dubai based Production House Icon Art Production. Dubai Film and TV Commission facilitated the shooting permit, Fnajeen restaurant hosted the shoot with other locations on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dar hamad Fashion Boutique by Hamad Al Falamarzi, Meydan Bridge “Auto Deals” car showroom and a luxurious penthouse.

Zak Zorro Produced the song in collaboration with Atif Ali well known music director & lyricist. The Music Video produced in Dubai UAE which was Directed by Waqqas Qadri Sheikh, cinematography by Mark Hobson.

The PoP song Teri Yaad Mey music video released on 20th November 2020.

The new song is released on ZakZorro YouTube Channel and promoted worldwide.

THE LEGEND IN YOUR HOME

 

The most sought-after furniture and decorations characterized by inimitable refinement of Riva Yachts, the legendary shipyard. It offers the perfect style both for yacht owners and sea lovers to refresh the beach or lake house with original pieces, with the recognizable aquamarina touch and the timeless elegance of mahogany and steel.

 

Cesme – Boyalik Beach Reosrt & Spa

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By Shereen Shabnam

I seem to continually say Turkey is always a good idea because of the beauty of every city I have visited every year over the past two decades but this nature blessed country continues to surprise me with more adventure and enthralls me every hour I spend there. After a few days in downtown Izmir and falling in love with the food, the people and the shopping in the bazaars, I headed to Cesme in the summer, a resort town that is both breathtaking and charming.

While having an afternoon meal at the Boyalik Beach Cesme that offered an amazing array of fresh and beautifully prepared dishes, we experienced pure tranquility in the green manicured grounds and uninterrupted views of the blue ocean.

At Boyalik Beach Hotel & Spa, you can focus on rejuvenation and renewal, or take advantage of the sports and leisure facilities. Here you can spend a holiday sipping your tea and coffee outdoors or enjoy the wireless in the peaceful environment of your room with a stylish five-star hotel which is what I normally do as a workaholic.

The hotel has standard and family rooms as well as suites. As an Islander I naturally prefer sea views and Boyalik Beach Cesme has plenty of sea view rooms with Sat TV, complimentary tea and coffee, 24 hours room service, wireless internet, exclusive bath kits, magnifying mirror, mini bar and hair dryer.

Boyalık Beach Hotel & Spa is the ideal place to combine business and pleasure and has fully equipped meeting rooms. If you feel like going out, I highly recommend visiting Cesme’s bustling markets, crystal clear sea, clean beaches and dive and sailing centres, picturesque bays, healing thermal resources and sports activities.

Çesme is one of the most ideal places for surfing and our visit to the Alaçatı Surf Paradise gave us insights into the local passion of the sea among the youth and adults. Seeing teenagers enjoying the surfing made me wish I had a few more days in Cesme as my daughter was keen on trying some water sports. I suggest at least three days to get a good feel of the towns and beaches.

 

Age of Uncertainty drives the need for a dynamic Startup Studio to build a UAE entrepreneurship ecosystem

Innovating and Scaling in the Age of Uncertainty drives the need for a dynamic Startup Studio

To bring together innovative and forward-thinking visionaries to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the UAE that engages not only entrepreneurs but also decision makers and encourages startups to aim higher in terms of visibility and impact on the global stage, Strategi Advisors initiates their startup arm, the Strategi Startup Studio.

With an abundance in Risk Capital in the UAE and startup scalability being the new heaven for investments diversification, Investors at all levels like HNI, family offices, shares and crowd-funding see great potential in technology especially post COVID-19 but need guidance in paring up with an innovator with similar passion and vision.

Mana Sultan Al Suwaidi, Founder of Strategi Startup Studio said, “The need for an evolving Startup Studio was evident way before COVID-19 but the recent crises strongly drive a larger force towards technology infrastructure and efficiency in all areas of business. We believe that successful businesses emerge when great ideas and entrepreneurs come together in a creative and nurturing environment to bring new concepts to life.”

Strategi Startup Studio conceives, launches and scales local and international startups bringing innovative ventures to the city. Supported by Strategi Advisors that already has dedicated experts on board to cultivate a world class tech driven ecosystem, stakeholders can benefit from the team’s local know how, get clarity and be inspired to transform their businesses with the best global talent and capital.

Mana adds, “We hope to build ventures with success stories for unicorns created in the UAE making local, regional and international impact. Experts from Strategi Advisors will represent, support, and protect the growth of the startup business community with world-class expertise in every discipline required to build a market-leading company. Our objective is to collaborate with the most experienced and trusted partners to give direction to high growth startup entrepreneurs by listening, reflecting and guiding them.”

Offering requirements of a conducive Tech Ecosystem with capital, talent, Infrastructure, market potential and supportive regulations, Strategi Startup Studio aims to make Dubai a thriving global startup hub by working in synergy with the local government, incubators and accelerators.

According to Mana, UAE is ready to create its own hub for building businesses and the young generation is ready for this. Coming from a pedigree of Emiratis keen on cultivating the vision and framework of leadership, entrepreneurship and “glocalization”, Mana and his peers aspire to demonstrate an advanced level of ecosystem development, characterized by cross-border venture building capabilities.

In the last four months, Strategi Startup Studio has been in investment discussions with a sovereign fund in Abu Dhabi and other regional venture capital investors to invest USD50 millions for exchange of equity in startups in the next five years.

To investors, UAE’s strategic positioning as a vibrant hub for trade, finance, media, tourism, hospitality, talent and technology offers great potential for investment opportunities across multiple sectors as 60% of humanity exists within a 5-hour flying radius of UAE (China, India, Europe, Russia and North Africa).

While neighbouring countries are competing as conventional economies, UAE is evolving into a knowledge economy offering the perfect platform to connect startups, investors and enablers with relevant resources, accessibility and opportunities and Strategi Startup Studio is the first step towards building an ecosystem that rivals entrepreneurial hubs like the Silicon Valley.

Today more than ever companies need a forward-thinking strategy with new set of tools and frameworks to navigate through uncertainty and stay relevant. Strategi Startup Studio aims to do just that and guide businesses to think and act differently as well as gain leverage as ecosystems gain relevance to impact economies in a meaningful way.

New eufy HomeVac H11 by Anker Innovations makes cleaning effortless and quick

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Lightweight and Compact, eufy HomeVac H11, an ultra-lightweight cordless handheld vacuum cleaner by Anker Innovations makes cleaning effortless and quick.

Featuring a Dust Devouring Suction with 5500Pa power, any accidental mess can be cleaned in a jiffy and that too with absolute ease. This lightweight handheld 2-in-1 crevice tool helps to clean the deepest corners of your house furniture, cars, baby chairs, recliners etc.

Faraz Mehdi, Regional Sales Head at Anker Innovations MEA said, “The easy to store efficient HomeVac H11 offers tasteful yet practical solutions for all your everyday cleaning needs. Each lightweight and cordless vacuum is designed for efficiency and complete mobility.”

Eufy H11 Image

The washable high-efficiency filter ensures simple and minimal maintenance and improved performance. Weighing just 1.2lbs, the ergonomic, non-slip design allows for comfort and precise handling. This amazing device can also freshen up the air in the immediate vicinity by eradicating odors by activating Ozone feature. This is a very useful features for your cars, sports equipment or well used shoes.

For convenient charging, users can simply use a USB phone charger or car charger and enjoy up to 13 minutes of max suction cleaning time from a full charge. The sleek, non-slip design allows for comfortable and precise handling, making cleaning effortless.

Get the best Father’s Day gifts from Anker Innovations

As an unsung hero, provider and mentor, fathers always make our lives easier and better through many sacrifices and to make his life easier, Anker Innovations have curated a few gadgets that will make his day special and it is a perfect way to thank the main guy in our lives.

ANKER POWER BOX Pack-C2C

Anker Power Box

Make sure your father never runs out of charge on his phone with Anker Power Box. This Power Box contains three flagship products from Anker:

1) PowerCore 10400mAh Power Bank, a high capacity Power Bank that offers up to 3 times charging for Flagship Phones and comes with optimized output for Multiple Device Charging.

2) Powerport+1 Charger, equipped with PowerIQ Technology and Multiprotect Safety System, along with a micro USB cable, is travel ready with Quick Charge 3.0.

3) Powerline II 3-in-1 Charging Cable, the extremely durable and MFi Certified charging cable with 3-in-1 Connectors i.e. Lightning, Micro and C-Type and is Universally Compatible with every phone that uses these one of the three charging connectors. Available in Jumbo Electronics and EMAX.

Anker PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone

Anker PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone

The new Anker PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone is perfect for dads. It can help him make any place a conference room as It can connect to the mobile phone or laptop ensuring he has clear discussions as the incoming amplified sound allows him to listen and speak simultaneously in any surroundings. This feature is perfect for teachers conducting e-learning classes as well.

The device features Omni-Directional Voice Pickup with six microphones arranged in a 360° array to pick up voices of up to eight people in a room without distracting noises and is compatible with all popular online conferencing services, including Skype, Google Hangout, Facetime, Zoom, WebEx, GotoMeeting, and Chromebox.

The PowerConf Bluetooth speakerphone has 24 Hours of call time and comes with integrated Anker PowerIQ technology that allows you to charge other devices via PowerConf at optimized speeds.

The lightweight and compact travel case protects PowerConf while on business trips or moving around and does not require other equipment to set up, making it perfect for small spaces. It is available on amazon.ae.

Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is known to be the true wireless in-ear headphones that comes with four built-in microphones with noise cancellation and filters out ambient noises.

Environmental noises are reduced by 60% to 95% to ensure crystal-clear diamond enhanced sound with twice the amount of bass. The HearID technology maps hearing sensitivity at multiple frequencies and intelligently analyzes results for a truly personalized listening experience.

For convenience, the one-Step Pairing ensures automatic connection to your device. The earbuds allow for 7 hours of playtime but the charging case provides a longer battery life of 28 hours on the go. Liberty Air 2 can also recharge its power through wireless chargers.

With a comfortable fit and the IPX5 for Water & Sweat Resistant, Liberty Air 2 gives freedom from messy wired headphones and offers the convenience of listening to music by the pool, during morning walks or while cooking and relaxing.

Available in all major electronics retail stores, Amazon.ae and noon.com

Nebula Apollo Pocket Projector

Nebula Apollo Smart Pocket Projector is a new generation pocket cinema in a compact, mobile and soda-can size design. Hosting capabilities such as Google Assistant, remarkable clarity with Sharp 200 ANSI lumen image and improved audio, it is the perfect entertainment device to enjoy together with family.

Nebula Apollo is perfect for dads who want to enjoy their favorite match or TV shows through streaming apps on the go on a bigger screen powered by Android 7.1 which brings great content to you, so you spend less time browsing and more time watching movies with loved ones.

Nebula Apollo provides 4-hours of video playtime with single full charge and offers big 360o sound with a 6W speaker. Nebula Apollo offers an advanced entertainment experience, anytime, anywhere with your loved ones.

Soundcore Infini Pro Soundbar

Give dad a Soundcore Infini Pro, the world’s leading surround sound technology, perfect for enjoying music, movies and favourite matches with astonishing clarity and richness.

Soundcore Infini Pro reproduces breathtaking, cinema-like audio from all around as Dolby Atmos® adds an overhead dimension to create an even more immersive movie watching atmosphere.

To produce room-filling sound, dual 2.5-inch mid-range drivers and 1-inch tweeters are paired with built-in up-facing 3-inch subwoofers and symmetrical bass reflex ports. To add even more bass intensity, the BassUp technology enhances bass output in real time.