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

Riyaz Abdulla

Keep the engagement levels of customers and partners as high as possible; Innovation and NBD go together; Business in five years will be at a new level.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
We are in an emerging market, compared to other more mature markets across the globe. One of the fastest growing markets in today's world. A very unique, yet challenging market with vey high growth potential.

Is the region set to remain a net importer of innovation and technology?
In the near future I would expect this market to be an importer of technology However looking ahead, with all the developments happening in the region there could be a little shift from being a net importer.

How long has the business been running and how long have you been in the region?
Imation has been here since 1996 so we are in our eleventh year. Imation is a 3M spin off company and from date of inception we have been a independent company.

What is your strategy to increase market share and spread brand awareness?
Our strategy is to be focused on the channels, with high emphasis on customer requirement. We are striving to keep the engagement level of all the partners and customers as high as possible, this is key. We have a very channel focused approach with continuous expansion of the channel width and dept. We have activities to ensure customer and channel engagement at various levels be it retail, reseller or corporate, mainly driven by loyalty programmes and very high level of customer service with dedicated people on the ground. We have restructured and organized internally to ensure the same.

This market is savvy and up to date on info technology, which puts us in a challenging situation to be geared up to meet the increasing demands of the customers and the channel partners.

Customers often complain of a slow roll out of new products compared to other regions; would you agree and why is this?
We have seen this aspect with products launches in the market including some of our products as well. We see the main reason behind this being the priority and production capacity being the main reason while introducing new products. In mature markets the feedback is quicker, which is key for further development and planning of that product. This is one of the reasons for this approach of product launch. Having said that I would agree that, this is a very important market for all the global players today, but constraint in capacity with new products does not help much either when it comes to global product launch.

Do you have any upcoming products or launches?
We are coming up with new products all the time. Especially on the consumer side. If you look back, we have completed the acquisition of Memorex, it's now a division of Imation and we have already launched the Memorex portfolio of products in the region. It's going to be the retail brand of Imation and any new consumer products will be rolled out under the Memorex label. We are talking about flash cards, portable hard disk drives, in the next couple of months we are also looking at batteries, IT accessories and so on.

Imation has also recently announced acquisition of TDK Brand Recording Media Business. So there are lot of exiting developments in the marketplace.

Do you see costs to consumers coming down in the future as technology becomes more widespread or has it reached a plateau?
Every technology when it's launched is at its highest. It's a typical product life cycle; when it's launched it's very high and the longer it's been out the cheaper it gets. It's like CD's, we see them growing slightly this year and next year but then going down from 2009 onwards, but DVDs are still on the way up. So as volumes go up the costs go down. It's purely driven by the product life cycle. As new technologies are developed the old ones become cheaper and cheaper.

How important is it to concentrate on innovation versus new business development?
It's hand in glove. Both go together. We are focused on the specific area of data storage concentrating both on B2B and B2C. In both the segments are we are constantly working on innovations while developing new businesses.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
Being a company focused on data storage and carrying the broadest portfolio compared to competition our competitive landscape would vary across the product range and the channel. Every market segment we have different competition; our optical media competitors are different to our flash competitors are different to our backup media competitors and so on. Key competitive edge would be focus in the data storage business which is our core, strong channel presence and our distribution network in the region.

Again I would like to emphasis is on engagement of the channel and the consumer as being the key.

Are you targeting a mostly corporate or private customer base?
Imation today focuses on two channels; B2B and B2C and we very actively participate and are developing both these segments corporate and consumer.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
I think every region is unique in its own way. We understand this and we strive our best to ensure that our customers are satisfied while keeping the focus on the growth. This is our core business and we're focused on it.

Where do you see the business in 5 years?
At the current rate business in 5 years is going to be at a different height, a new level and definitely comparable to more mature markets around the globe. The market would be expected to move towards maturity. Today we see business growth exceeding market and economy growth. This phenomenon may not continue for long and beyond 5 years the market could moving towards growing at the same phase as the economy.

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