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

Michael Collins

Do not rest on the success of the past; Drive innovation; Focus on channel to ensure the right partners.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
There are many aspects of the Middle East market that are in line with the rest of world. The market in the Commercial sector is adopting leading edge technologies driven by the increased investment and focus on the different country infrastructures. In the Consumer business we see the drive for feature rich notebooks offering value as a key requirement to be successful in your field.

Our region is also one of the fastest growing markets, driven mainly by:

1. Significant investment in the education sector - this is consistent across the whole region, where we see a focus from country leaders to improve the adoption of IT in education and prepare the youth for the business world.
2. The consumer sector is growing faster than all western markets, driven mainly by:

a. Internet penetration
b. Affordable cost of technology
c. Increased requirement for IT in education sector
d. Home entertainment - the PC/Notebook can be used for ‘everything' (PC, TV, DVD, Games, information (internet), text and voice communication, and photos among other uses.)
e. High disposable income

3. We have a booming SMB marketplace which is being driven by opportunities created by the many mega projects, the influx of global companies into the region and the growing population.

We differ, to some extent, from the Dell global business where all our products across the region are sold through an ever expanding partner base

Is the trend for 25% annual regional growth sustainable or will the market become saturated?
We believe that the market in the Middle East still has a lot of growth opportunity:

1. In real terms the penetration rate is still relatively low when compared to the developed markets.
2. This is a growing market and economy
3. It is high on the agenda of leaders across the region
4. We have a very young population
5. Opportunity in the SMB space will continue to expand
6. Technology will continue to penetrate the home with more attractive features and benefits.

How long has the business been running and how long have you been in the region?
Dell established a regional office based in Dubai for nine years. I have been based in Dubai for more than four years. This is such an exciting region. To be a part of that I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to lead a great team of a leading organisation. We have enjoyed success and with focused investment we are expanding our presence in terms of people and services across the Middle East.

What is your strategy to increase market share and spread brand awareness?
We have aggressive plans to increase our market-share in the region. Last year for example, according to the IDC report, Dell showed a units growth of 52.5% with our Notebook product range enjoying a very healthy 104.2% growth. Growth is about executing the basics in well manner, understanding the market trends and developing plans accordingly.

Will the distribution hub at Jebel Ali enable you to keep ahead of your competitors in terms of parts availability and regional customer service?
One real focus area that we are excited about is that we have rolled-out Dell Branded Services across the region. These are the same services extensions and base level warranty services that are offered to our biggest clients across the globe. These are now offered to our clients across the Middle East. There are various services on offer such as guaranteed on-site response to an Enterprise problem, priority access for customers to Dell's technical expertise across Europe and Next Business Day On-Site warranty on our specific products. What makes this unique is that we as Dell take the responsibility for our products and the efficient service levels that we offered.

We see this as a key initiative and differentiator and something that our customers have been asking for. We have invested US$5m in setting up this infrastructure in the region.

Are the Enterprise Suites initiative demonstrating a switch to focus on business customer retention as well as new business development?
The Solutions business in Dell is an area in which we're investing heavily and we are seeing the benefits of that global investment right here in the Middle East. We have staffed up the Solutions team and together with the Dell Branded Services, our channel and Global Alliance Partners, we are able to address all aspects of the Enterprise computing environment, be that a server, storage requirements, architecting or services.

Have your strategies changed markedly since appointment?
Dell has a culture that challenges the status quo so it has not been difficult to change the business to react to market dynamics and structure it in such a way as to position ourselves for the tremendous growth that we have enjoyed over the last few years.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
The competitors are the same group of companies that we compete with across the globe. To stay ahead of the game in the Middle East you cannot rest on the success of the past. It is about driving innovation in our business models and ensuring that we put the customer experience right at the front in everything we do. After all it is our customers who dictate our success . We also spend a lot of time focusing on our channel to ensure that we have the right partners who guarantee that we have the right coverage of the market opportunity in each country. These are obviously both on-going work items within the business.

A key to our success has also been to focus on employing the best talent that is available in local market to demonstrate that we have the skills base to cope with a rapidly expanding business.

Consumers often complain of slow roll out of new products compared to other regions; would you agree and why is this?
With Dell we have a supply chain that works with almost zero inventory levels. Our Build-to-Order (BTO) supply chain ensures that we have the maximum flexibility when our partners / clients are looking for specific configurations on our products. This allows Dell to bring in new technologies as soon as they are available. We see this as a key value addition and differentiator in the market.

Do you have any upcoming projects/launches?
We have spoken about the Dell Branded Services launch and regional roll-out which will be completed during this year. We also have a number of product refreshes taking place in the coming months as well as the launch some new and exciting consumer products which will be available at Gitex exhibition.

How would you define your management strategy?
My strategy is to keep it simple and well communicated within our own organisation as well as our partner community,

• Driving execution
• Focusing on building an informed and motivated team
• Investing sufficient time in building our organisation by hiring the best talent in our industry
• Retaining our great talent
• Knowing the business well in detail, including our products and services
• Be a role model for ethical business behaviour and practice
• Be a reliable manager and leader
• Drive urgency into the business with a passion for winning

In addition, working hard, driving a balanced work-life environment and celebrating success.

Our management team is held responsible for:

1. Results and Execution: Cash Flow, Profitability, Growth and Share, while keeping what is best for the entire company.

2. External Focus: Customer Experience and understanding customers and competitors.

3. Motivation, Engagement and Leadership: Employee satisfaction and retention, succession planning and leadership development, inclusiveness, listening, harnessing the power of everyone's ideas, driving a culture of integrity, creating active involvement, inspiring commitment, partnering with peers.

4. Strategic Thinking and Decisiveness: Strategy and Planning, promptly identifying and fixing problems, streamlining decision-making, removing bureaucracy, demonstrating thought leadership, building alignment and communicating decisions broadly.

5. Risk Taking: curiosity, innovation, bold new ideas, acquisitions, driving big, , courage and imagination.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
Thanks to the visionary leadership which is driving economic development and stability across the Middle East, encouraging investment and encouraging the adoption of IT into education, business and home at a phenomenal rate.

The speed at which you have to execute in a rapidly expanding market is something that is very different to developed economies where single digit growth is considered good. It brings out the best in people

Where do you see yourself and/or the business in 5 and 10 years?
In 5 years, I will most likely be here, running Dell Middle East, the number 1 IT vendor in the region. In 10 years, I will be here relaxing.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Lots, but no regrets.

What is the hardest part of the job?
Turning off the Blackberry.

Is there anything that you would do differently with hindsight?
Lots, but no regrets.

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