Keeping focus

It is no exaggeration to say that the Middle East projector channel is enjoying a second wind that would leave many technology sectors green with envy. The days of cumbersome overhead projectors, acetate paper and thick marker pens are nothing more than a distant memory, replaced by sophisticated models that cater to more than just a classroom environment. Channel Middle East dims the lights to find out what it takes to succeed in the regional projector channel.

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By  Administrator Published  May 31, 2007

Projector vendors haven't just had to build a single channel for their products in recent years, they've had to build several. The evolution of the technology from classroom accessory to corporate companion - spawned by a generation of PowerPoint users - and latterly its meteoric rise in the home theatre environment has warranted the formation of multiple routes-to-market.

Epson, the largest player in the Middle East projector market with a share of 19% last year according to market sources, endeavours to use a separate distribution model for its projectors whenever possible. As well as working closely with UAE and regional partner Almoe - an audiovisual outfit accomplished in areas such as plasma displays, visualisers and interactive whiteboards - it employs at least one in-country specialist distributor to address markets such as Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

"We have projector specialists that are different from the mainline distributors, which carry the printers and scanners," explained Khalil El-Dalu, general manager at Epson Middle East. "Sometimes we do add projectors to the mainline distributors depending on the strength of each local distributor, but the ideal model is to have a projector specialist because they serve a different type of reseller."

We do add projectors to the mainline distributors depending on the strength of each local distributor, but the ideal model is to have a projector specialist because they serve a different type of reseller.

The preference for most vendors is a three-pronged approach using hypermarkets and consumer electronics stores to reach mainstream retail customers and the standard IT reseller channel to attack the corporate sector. Specialist audiovisual resellers are then employed to address high-end and complicated home cinema requirements.

Part of the reason for this clear distinction of channels is the varying degree of skill and added value that can be attached to a projector sale. At the top end of the market, where unit prices exceed US$10,000 for a 6,000 ANSI lumens model, there is considerable pressure on the reseller to understand the intricacies of the product and how it fits into a wider solution. Developing the skills to advise on product installation, screen technology and network connectivity is a vital ingredient of the value added model. "The audiovisual specialists only form around 10% to 15% of the total market, but the best part of this is that the profitability of such channels is very high because the projector is included as part of a total deal," said Manish Bakshi, general manager at the Middle East's number three projector vendor, BenQ.

While connecting a projector to a PC or video may be a fairly elementary task for any IT dealer, the expertise of a highly educated, AV-focused reseller is usually sought when it comes to more demanding environments where training, the correct alignment of the projector with the video source and the fine-tuning of colours is a prerequisite.

"The person selling the projector should also have a knowledge of the various accessories and optionals that go with the projector," said Bakshi. "This could cover the lamps, wall mounts, wall brackets and knowledge of the remote control usage and whether it can work as wireless or non-wireless. Value addition has got to be offered to the end user. For instance, the lamp hour life should always be made very clear because changing the lamp can often cost the end user more than the projector."

As projector uptake has grown in the consumer sector, the Middle East retail channel in particular has found itself confronted by a more educated buyer. This has subsequently placed extra demand on the projector channel.

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