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

John Ross

There is plenty of room for growth in the Middle East; Seek references before investing in technology; The best way to look forward is to look back and see what you have already achieved.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
I have responsibility for the Middle East, parts of North Africa and the Indian Sub Continent which is a diverse group and therefore trying to compare that group in a global perspective is not easy. Having said that there are a number of common things that do occur like a dominance of the market by one main vendor which leads many people to automatically select that vendor's products without due consideration. If any company seriously looked at their printing requirement in terms of total cost of ownership, flexibility in terms of networking and sharing the investment they would most likely not buy the automatic choice.

Is this your core region for targeted growth (considering that almost 50% of your sales are in EMEA)?
At a global level EMEA makes up about 50% of our total sales but we are looking at growing our sales in the Americas and have made considerable investment in Asia by establishing an office in Malaysia and refocusing our efforts in Singapore as well as actually growing our business in Japan therefore as a global company it is our aim to maximise our potential in all markets. Within the EMEA area Western Europe is very much a saturated market with inkjet being replaced by colour toner based products in businesses and the demand for MFP products is what is driving the growth.

Is there room for expansion or is the market becoming saturated?
The Middle East is not saturated and there is plenty of room for growth. Dot Matrix is still a very important market for back office applications, logistics companies, airlines and many more, all of which Oki has had tremendous success in. The migration from inkjet in the office to colour toner is already happening and independent reviews have awarded Oki desktop colour toner products Editors choice over the market leader. Mono laser products still dominate the office and our strategy is to provide the best quality print by using our LED technology which can produce much smaller dots than a laser engine which means that the print out from our 600 x 1200 dpi products are actually better than the output from competitor 1200 x 1200 machines. Let me explain that a bit more. To print 1200 x 1200 dpi without the dots overlapping then you would need to print dots that are about 24 microns across, however a laser engine produces dots that are about 3 times this size which means that they have to utilise software to try and manipulate the quality. In our LED engines we can print dots that are just over 30 microns across which means that we can produce excellent print quality at a lower resolution and when you move that into a colour device the difference is enormous. We also incorporate various intensity technology to these LEDs on our colour machines which means that we can get very close to producing analogue picture quality with a digital machine.

The general goal in colour printing is to simulate an analogue device such as camera film, monitors, scanners, ... These devices provide the greatest range of colour, or shades of grey.

Traditional printers apply dots using 2-levels of intensity: 100% black or 100% white. Dots are grouped together (creating halftone cells) to simulate levels of grey.

Oki's Multi-Level LED can produce dots at up to 32-levels of intensity which means that we can reproduce higher quality images on standard paper which is ideal for marketing departments, creative design people, oil and gas research companies and anyone who appreciates quality output.

Hopefully you can see the difference as you move from left to right with these images, this is what we offer and should be considered by buyers.

Obviously it does not stop there, they should seek references from publications like your own who review products and give impartial non biased independent reports and comparisons.

How long has the business been running & how long have you been in the region?
From European management we have been in the Middle East for just over 8 years and two years ago the decision was made to set up a Middle East office and I moved to Dubai in May 2005 to do that. Having gone through a recruitment process, selected the location for the office and finally getting it equipped we actually became effective in November 2005 so we have been here about 18 months.

How does the launch of the ‘new breed' of colour printers, such as the C8600, affect your strategic position?
We see A3 colour in the office as a key segment of the market and we introduced the C8600 which is a GDI based A3 desktop colour toner product which is about half the size and half the price of our nearest competitor. Markets that need A3 in the office are the marketing departments, finance, technical and more and what the C8600 allows them to do is to explore their own potential in printing in house at low cost with high quality and high speed. We have just announced the sister product for the C8600, the C8800, which is a PCL/PostScript variant for those organisation whose IS people do not want host based network devices on their busy networks. This gives us a range from the C3000 A4 entry level through the C5000 series A4 product into the C8000 A3 and at the top end the C9000 Series for high throughput colour networking and pre proofing and short print run production.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
In Dot Matrix it is Epson and in Page Printers it is Hewlett Packard. As you can see from the market share numbers that I have just shared we are ahead of Epson in the professional 9 pin market segment and we are the best challenger to HP in the page printer markets. We have just introduced our ML1120 and ML1190 SIDM products which, for the first time, brings us into the sub 350 cps category in both 9 pin and 24 pin where Epson dominates and we believe that these products will establish us as a clear No.2 in this market segment over the next few quarters.

On the Page printer front we have put many of our product into reviews against HP and others and we generally win those reviews. As already mentioned the C8000 series gives Oki a unique position in the market as the only desktop colour toner A3 product supplier.

There is no alternative from any other vendor so for those users who want fast and efficient A4 and A3 colour the only decision to be made is GDI or PCL/PS, i.e. C8600 or C8800! The story does not stop there as we have also brought to market recently a complete range of A4 mono and A4 colour MFP products to complement our A3 MFP C9000 series.

How much of your budget goes towards new product development and how much scope is there for colour printing to adapt to new technologies?
Globally we invest somewhere between 4% and 7% of our turnover in research and development which has produced the highly refined LED technology, our single pass colour print engines, and our high quality mono range as well as continually developing our SIDM range. Not quite sure what you mean regarding Colour Printing adapting to new technologies as we see our ProQ technology and High Definition Toner as new technologies used to produce high quality colour output.

Have your strategies changed markedly since appointment?
Not really, we had a 3 year plan which we are about 6 months behind on partly because the office was not available until November. Our first year strategy was to recruit and train our own staff and begin a training programme for our channel - which we have done and now have an ongoing process for, the second year was to establish communication with the resellers and targeted end users in the SMB, printing industry, airlines, logistics, banking and energy sectors as well as government - which we are in the process of doing and the third year is the period where we have consolidated, have a trained and highly capable channel, have a complete service structure in place and can push much harder to seriously address our target markets sectors.

Consumers often complain of slow roll out of new products compared to other regions; would you agree and why is this?
I would not really agree with this at all. The only limiting factor for Oki is the leadtime to get product into the Warehouse in Jebel Ali which means that we are at most four weeks behind any roll out in Europe for example and in fact we have actually announced and launched product here in the Middle East about 2 to 4 hours before our European colleagues due to the time difference.

Do you have any upcoming projects/launches?
The 22nd of May saw us hold an open day event in the Burjuman Hotel for SMBs, SMB resellers and the press where we unveiled the C8800 and showcased the ML1190, The C3400N, the C3000 series colour MFP, the B2500 series mono MFP, the all new B4400 and B4600 mono desktop printers and much more.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
I have worked in Eastern Europe, UK, The Eastern end of the Mediterranean as well as the Middle East, India and North Africa and the major differences in the MEINEA area from Western Europe or UK is the large role that Governments play in IT purchasing, this however is not as large as it used to be in the former Eastern block countries in Eastern Europe. There are some countries with interesting customs regulations but that is becoming less and less. The major difference in this region is the dominant position that one major vendor has and the thought and selection processes that buyers go through is not as considered as it is in Europe.

Where do you see yourself and/or the business in 5 and 10 years?
The best way to look forward is to look back and see what you have already achieved. In the last 5 years we have increased Oki's business in this region by a factor of 4 so why not aim for such growth over the next 5 years? As to 10 years from now I would like to think that I could hand over the reins and go into semi retirement somewhere where the climate is nice.

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