Spotlight on technology

Welcome to the first of a series of supplements that will run alongside CEO Middle East.

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By  CEO Middle East Published  June 4, 2007

Ken Willett

The growth trend is sustainable for at least three years; Focus on SMB sector by delivering on customer expectations; redeploy existing resources to be closer to customers.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
The Middle East is the fastest growing market in MEMA region (Middle East Mediterranean and Africa). HP is working diligently with the partners, alliance and customers in capitalising on this growth and sizing the opportunities to further grow the investment and the business.

Is the trend for 25% annual regional growth sustainable or will the market become saturated?
I believe 25% growth is somewhat overstated, as the growth varies between countries and sector, nevertheless, the growth we are witnessing will carry on with the various major projects that are currently under development. Of course it will reach a point where it will slow down, but as long as the different countries of the region are currently at various stages of advancement in their projects and implementations, I expect some "hedging" to happen at this level.

My expectation based on my reading of the situation is that the current trend is sustainable for at least the coming 3 years. HP's goal is to grow faster than the market by 1.2 to 1.5 points.

How long has the business been running & how long have you been in the region?
HP has been present in the Middle East since 1968 and opened its first regional office in 1994. Today HP is the largest technology and solutions provider in the Middle East with 670 employees and subsidiaries in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Al Khobar, Cairo, Ramallah, Oman and 2 service joint ventures in Kuwait and Bahrain servicing the GCC, Egypt and the Levant. I have been managing the sales activities for the International Sales Europe region (ISE) for several years, and had the chance to work with the Middle East customers and partners at numerous occasions. Today my involvement with the region has been increased and my presence in the Middle East will be much more frequent. I am delighted for this as I like this market and the business in this region.

What is your strategy to increase market share and spread brand awareness? Are the technology road shows a major part of this?
As I have mentioned earlier, HP is determined to grow faster than the market and gain market share. To share with you some details about our strategy, I would mention the following points:

• Fine-tune our "Go-to" market strategy to ensure higher and deeper coverage for the vertical market
• Increase our channel partners coverage by working jointly with HP sales team
• Focus on the SMB sector by delivering to the customers expectation
• Manage carefully our prices to be the most effective for the customers
• Increase our HP Services foot print with focus on HP Consulting and Integration and our rich portfolio of HP Managed Services
• HP Software is a key element for our future success, HP software portfolio is getting even richer and stronger and we are in a position today to deliver on our promises to the customers: Technology for better business outcomes.

Does the launch of Egypt's first e-school mark the public acceptance of technology and is HP positioning itself for future growth by its association with the project?
Our involvement is education-based projects in Egypt like Nepad and Egypt Education Initiative is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility. It was not meant to generate business and market share. We look at these projects as HP contribution back to the society. HP believes that education is the main driver behind durable and sustainable economies and has specific focus on projects and programmes that bring education to the countries or area where it is much needed.

Does the upcoming roll out of Energy Star 4.0 compatible hardware mark a change toward a more ‘green' image?
Energy Star 4.0 is only one element, in fact HP is committed to being a leader in global citizenship. We are proud of our efforts as global stewards, helping to reduce environmental impacts, raise standards in HP's global supply chain and increase access to information technology worldwide. We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity and strive to live up to every one of our commitments to our customers, partners, employees and shareholders. Furthermore, we believe that global citizenship is good business. We embrace our responsibility to society by being an economic, intellectual and social asset to each country and community in which we operate.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
HP business spans across the IT products and services sector, it is normal to compete against various players in the market. We believe that competition is healthy as it keeps you on your always alert and pushes you to review and improve permanently your image, products and services. HP is determined to compete vigorously yet fairly in the marketplace in full compliance with applicable antitrust, competition and other laws.

Consumers often complain of slow roll out of new products compared to other regions; would you agree and why is this?
HP endeavour to make the right product and technology available to all customers around the world at an affordable price. Recently we had couple of worldwide product launches that took place in the Middle East, which made the region first to bring the product to the market than any other region, yet I must admit that we had few instances where your comments is valid. With the new segmentation of our geography and the creation of MEMA region, we are putting much higher focus on the region and giving the ME a higher share of voice, and we will endeavour to insure that our latest products and technologies are available to the ME market with no delay.

Does the region have the necessary infrastructure to cope with technological advancements such as 3.5G products and the new generation of PDAs?
I believe the region has lots of potential and capacity to benefit from new technologies, the success of those technologies depends on the level and cost of those services compared to the return on investment, to illustrate my point, I look at the rates penetration of the high-speed internet in the domestic market in UAE it shows that users were quick to embrace this technology as it represents a real benefit for their daily lives.

Have your strategies changed markedly since appointment?
I am a strong believer in the capacity and potential of the region. My main objective for this region is to work with our team, partners, alliances and customers to demonstrate and establish HP as a trusted advisor and thoughts leader for the businesses.

Do you have any upcoming projects/launches?
HP is evaluating all business opportunities and acting on them with what we believe brings value to HP, the customers and the market. In the last year we have opened an office in Oman and launched two joint ventures in Kuwait and Bahrain. We are looking for other expansion opportunities, but it is too early now to comment on them.

How would you define your management strategy?
I plan to increase MEMA focus on the Middle East and encourage investment not only in sales offices but also in other opportunities where we can improve HP value to the customers and the market, as an example, HP opened a call centre in Tunisia to service North Africa and French speaking Europe. I will be looking also to redeploy the existing resources to be closer to the customers and the business across the region and not to be focused only on few countries. My other major area of focus will be the Saudi market where major developments are taking place which represents a great opportunity for HP Services to help our customers transforming their IT environments to optimise their business outcomes.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
Although it is a bit too early to comment on this, yet I have been working in the region for many years now, I am familiar with the nature of the business and the market and therefore I embrace this position with lots of enthusiasm and positive spirit. I am really looking forward for great achievements for HP in the future and unique learning experience for myself.

Where do you see yourself and/or the business in 5 to 10 years?
I see HP to continue on its successful path on persistent growth and carry on growing faster than the market and HP ME matured as company with solid foundations, optimised internal and external process.

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