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

Leo Psaras

Innovation is key to staying at the forefront; Empowering partners is key to their growth; Markets will eventually be deregulated.

How does the region compare to the rest of the global market?
Minerva's Distribution footprint today, stretches from Pakistan through the Middle East, across north Africa to Morocco and down to Equatorial Africa. This means that we are forced to operate in a very diverse and fragmented region, in all aspects from wealth, language, education and of course technology infrastructure. Having said this we are assisting many central African countries in deploying mesh networks in the most rural locations. Working with integrators and service providers in the fastest-growing markets in the world to give their customers state of the art technology infrastructures. It's a very diverse and dynamic region, and I see it as the best platform to develop our service and solutions which will assist us with our expansion plans into other regions of the world.

The business has been going for 5 years, how have you managed to keep it fresh and stay at the cutting edge?
Innovation, focus and researching new technologies have kept us on the cutting edge of the market. Changing the way we deliver our solutions while maintaining our integrity. Bringing new solutions to market, of which a couple of recent examples are; wireless mesh, MIMO wifi and VoIP solutions.

What is your strategy to increase market share and spread brand awareness?
Our core strategies have not changed - deliver service and support beyond our customers expectations, maintain a high level of training through our channel network. We have also started a PR drive which will raise our profile further across the region.

How have regional government restrictions on VoIP affected your roll out?
VoIP is just one of the solutions we offer our markets across the region. Some of the early adopting markets have already deregulated and these markets clearly show a great demand for the technology and its associated services. The remaining countries that have not deregulated are slowly coming to grips with the need to deregulate and embrace the technology, while maintaining margins.

Is there a move to capitalise further in developing markets?
Driving growth in our business is one of my key responsibilities, so I am always exploring new regions and development opportunities. for us to be able to deliver our solutions.

What do you see the ‘broadband revolution' leading to?
Technology is a tool that helps people unlock their dreams today. More than any other time in the history of mankind we can do anything; the communication and collaboration revolution has given, and will continue to give, faster, smoother, easier ways to communicate with each other and shrink the barriers of distance and culture.

Have your strategies changed markedly since appointment? Do you favour consolidation or diversification?
I believe in driving change in our business and its people, through nurturing new ideas, listening to our customers and their evolving needs, adapting our team to support our customers in better ways, including changing the solutions we offer, changing and evolving the service we present to our customers, which in turn continue to keep our customers and partners loyal to us while growing with us.

Who are your main competitors and how do you plan on staying ahead of them?
We have many competitors across the region and the globe. Competition helps keep us focused, and keeps us looking forward towards our targets. Developing our offerings, services, and therefore our value to our partners, is key to our continued growth.

Consumers often complain of the slow roll out of new products compared to other regions; would you agree and why is this?
In some cases yes, however in most I feel that the "gap" is closing very fast. The MENA region is dynamic and embraces new technologies very quickly, Communication monopolies are a thing of the past, this has been the driving force behind the change and will continue to make changes in the services that are offered to the consumer. I feel that the "slow roll out" argument is becoming obsolete.

Do you have any upcoming projects/launches?
We are constantly doing something. This month we are bringing two new products to the Middle East, accompanied by partner training classes, which will correctly position key partners to deliver these two new solutions across the region. Empowering our partner network is key to their growth, a big part of our responsibility is to make sure the teams are equipped to install, commission and support the solutions we offer, this gives us great customer satisfaction ratings which are key indicators to our ongoing performance.

How would you define your Leadership strategy?
Seeing possibilities and helping people grasp possibilities is the bottom line of leadership. Collaboration, capability and character, that's how you lead.

• Character is maintaining ethics, cutting to the issue and making an informed decision, having the strength of character to build a team of diverse people, this is always the hard route. By nature people like to surround themselves with people of a similar background, this to me is dangerous as it ultimately leads to a "group think" mentality - if you all think the same way who is going to challenge the decision making process? This challenging helps me manage risk and create change.

• Capability is the ability to take RISK and create different and new ideas. I strongly encourage ALL people in our business to keep learning, this keeps us adaptive. It's not the strongest or the smartest that survive and grow it's the ones that are most receptive to change.

• Collaboration: Asking the right questions and listening to the answers "thrashing it out", avoiding the "group thinking", I believe that collaborating with people is essence of executing risk, which drives change and growth.

What are the major differences when doing business here compared to other markets and how do you overcome them?
The challenges are diversity. As part of our customer focus our customers and partners enjoy an "always on, always available" policy from us, which helps them get their business done in their part of the world in a timely manner. It helps give them the edge that they need to win. Another challenge for the region is logistics, which we have overcome by using a specialised logistical company based in Jebel Ali, this allows us to control the customer interface and not worry about the physical movement of product.

Where do you see yourself and/or the business in 5 and 10 years?
The fundamentals are in place, Minerva is delivering first class service to its partners and customers, the culture of the team is excellent, and they are the best in the industry. The service levels are outstanding and growth is consistently above plan. The Middle East is a very exciting place to be I do not see myself anywhere else.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Spending less time in traffic and more time with my family are just two of my goals for this year, both are proving much more of a challenge than I had hoped; my travel schedules are gruelling.

Personally, I am a dreamer; I love to do new and challenging things, see new places and travel. South America is my next travel ambition; I feel having personal ambitions and targets are the only way I have to keep the innovation process vibrant. Oh, and to work out how to actually use my iPod!

What is the hardest part of the job?
The unrelenting nature of the business is the hardest part, however I have always found this challenging rather than diifcult.

Is there anything that you would do differently with hindsight?
Definitely YES! I would have put Minerva together 5 years earlier, it's a quantum leap change from working with a multinational, it's dynamic, vibrant and adaptive rather than a reactive 400lb gorilla of a multinational. With hindsight, not stepping out or the multinational world sooner is a regret for me.

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