Top 25 Middle East Channel Champions you Need to Know

From the thousands of people involved in the Middle East IT channel, the challenge was to select 25 of the most influential executives operating at a vendor or distributor level. After lengthy debate and heated conversations, here's our guide to the Channel Champions that you need to know to help your channel business develop in the region.

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By  Published  October 31, 2006

The old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still rings true in the Middle East IT channel.

Despite the onslaught of the digital age and the unprecedented rise in electronic communication, it is the personal relationships built up over many years that continue to form the foundations on which a successful Middle East channel structure is built.

Nowhere is this fact more evident than at Gitex — the annual Dubai exhibition that serves as an annual get-together for the great and the good of the Middle East IT channel.

Old acquaintances are renewed and new friendships are formed as senior vendor executives from a MEA, EMEA and even a global level descend on Dubai to meet up with distributors and resellers from across the region.

At the heart of this emphasis on personal interaction in the Middle East IT channel is the fact that this region remains an emerging market.

In more mature markets where growth rates are slower and channels are well established the need to continually build and develop new relationships to grow sales is less acute.

The Middle East is also a market where many vendors — especially those with relatively small operations — continue to operate from a centralised head office, making limited trips to some of the far flung and difficult to access countries and cities.

With this in mind, Channel Middle East decided that the time was right to compile a list of the top 25 executives shaping the future of the Middle East market.

Based on qualitative research, quick polls and a number of interviews with industry veterans, a list was created comprising senior executives at vendors and distributors who wield significant influence over the development of channels in the region.

Inevitably, it is a list that is bound to stir up some controversy in the channel — and rightly so in our opinion.

What have we based the list on?

From the vendor perspective we have considered the size of each company’s operation in the Middle East and their long-term commitment to using the channel as a route-to-market.

Other vendor executives have been included in the list based on the impact that they are having on the future structure of the channel.

Some are relative newcomers to the region who have taken on senior roles that immediately give the individuals concerned significant scope to alter the course of channel development.

Cisco’s new regional channel manager, Adrian Taylor — a replacement for Tarek Ghoul who becomes a country manager at Cisco — and Tech Data’s Hanspeter Eiselt are two prime examples of individuals selected for this reason.

We have also only included one representative from vendors such as HP, Microsoft, Acer, CA and Oracle in the list.

Some would argue that the sheer size and power of these vendors in the hardware and software channels justifies multiple entries on the list from a single company.

For example, Salim Ziade, number one on this year’s list has been awarded that position based on the fact that he is channel manager for the largest IT vendor in the region and one that also happens to be totally committed to the indirect channel.

Ziade’s inclusion is in recognition of his specific role, but it is not intended to overshadow the vital role that other senior management figures at HP Middle East such as Joseph Hanania, Anil Gandhi and Amr Hassan, are playing in the company’s sustained success in the region.

It is a similar story for many of the other vendors where we have named just one representative despite the fact that there were multiple individuals that could have been included.

Length of tenure and experience in the Middle East IT channel have also played their part in the decision to include certain vendor representatives on the list.

Many of the individuals selected have grown their regional operation from scratch, building up a significant operation in the Middle East, encouraging the development of the overall ICT sector in the region and managing the transition from start-up mentality to international organisation with aplomb.

From the distribution sector, some of the executives listed will be familiar faces for regular readers of Channel Middle East.

Leading the way are Redington’s Raj Shankar and Aptec’s Ali Baghdadi.

Redington’s growth in the Middle East and Africa has been nothing short of phenomenal in recent years.

In addition to its strong record of revenue growth, Redington has also been a leader in the development of in-country operations in the Middle East, pursuing a business model that vendors have universally applauded.

With even more new vendors set to come on board and a slew of new agreements across a wide range of territories including Africa under its belt, the future looks bright with Shankar at the helm.

Aptec’s Ali Baghdadi needs no introduction to anyone that has spent any length of time working in the Middle East IT channel.

The ever-youthful Baghdadi has been at the forefront of channel development in the Middle East and has a string of noteworthy achievements under his belt.

Baghdadi’s role in the formation of the regional Technology Distributors Association (TDA) underlined his commitment to the development of sustainable margins throughout every layer of the channel.

Over at Mindware, Jacques Chammas has demonstrated how a forward-thinking distribution outfit can successfully balance volume and value distribution, combining a number of network and software vendors with a solid components business that offers an enticing portfolio of products to resellers.

It is a similar story at components distribution giant eSys where Pavan Gupta — recently promoted to EMEA director — has guided the company through a portfolio expansion phase.

eSys’ global strength in the hard disk drive distribution sector is widely acknowledged, but the company is also now carving out a strong Middle East reputation with vendors such as Xerox.

Both FDC and Empa also stand out as distributors playing a pivotal role driving the development of the regional route-to-market.

Marissa Safe at FDC and Empa’s Rahb M. Hamidaddin have helped their respective organisations carve out reputations as distributors capable of reaching into and developing reseller networks across a wide geographic theatre — including some of the traditionally difficult markets for channel building such as the CIS.

Many of the distributor executives listed in the top 25 are there on the recommendation of specific vendors.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that for a vendor to fulfil ambitious channel goals in the Middle East the support of a strong distribution partner is vital.

Logicom Dubai, led by Nicholas Argyrides, has recovered well from the Intel credit crisis that occurred earlier this year — an event that somewhat overshadowed its success at increasing Cisco’s channel breadth in the region.

The growth and development of Cisco’s relationship with Logicom is a prime of example of how a vendor and distributor working hand-in-hand can play a real role in shaping future channel development.

The Middle East channel continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

The arrival of vastly experienced channel executives from mature markets is one factor driving this process.

Frank Sheu has revolutionised Almasa’s back office systems since his arrival from Synnex in Australia.

Simultaneously, Sheu has forged a series of new vendor agreements including some up and coming brands from the Far East.

Almasa’s move to slick and efficient back-office operations is symptomatic of a channel in transition — a channel that understands the need to control costs while maximising gross margins.

To achieve the latter, distributors have faced up to the fact that building up their software channel activities is now an imperative.

Across the Middle East, a greater proportion of the overall IT spending is now allocated to software and services and a smaller percentage to hardware purchases.

The hardware market continues to grow at a decent pace but there is now a realisation that the margins available for moving tin are not enough to sustain a fast-growing business.

The software vendors themselves are playing their part in this phase of channel development, rolling out sophisticated partner programmes that allow them to engage with the second-tier channel and promote the development of sales and technical skills in the reseller community.

The likes of Microsoft, Oracle, CA and Symantec have invested significant amounts in the development and deployment of structured channel programmes in the Middle East.

Gilbert Lacroix has turned management software behemoth CA into a force to be reckoned with since launching the vendor’s operation in the Middle East and Africa back in 2004.

Lacroix now holds the position of VP and general manager for CA’s EMEA Eastern Markets theatre, a territory that covers Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Storage and security software giant Symantec now has four offices in the MENA region with its main points of presence in Dubai and Riyadh.

Kevin Isaac has been with Symantec since 1999 and under his leadership the company has continued to overachieve and deliver Symantec’s world class internet security solutions, products and services to an ever growing list of clients from blue chips to individual users — a success story built on the motto that Isaac lives by: “Success is about people, people are about relationships, and relationships come about as a result of effort.”

Business software colossus Oracle’s regional boss Husam Dajani has been with the vendor for almost two decades, during which time he has established Oracle in a number of countries in the Middle East.

Dajani started his career with ADNOC, and prior to joining Oracle he established a number of start-up companies and also has experience of working in the channel.

He was the managing director of one of these start-up organisations — UAEbased integrator Itqan — for three years.

Rounding out the software executives featured in this year’s list is Charbel Fakhoury of Microsoft.

Fakhoury joined Microsoft in December 1998 and has moved up within the company to tale on the role of general manager for the Gulf region.

With Microsoft gearing up for some massive product launches including Office, Vista and Exchange, this year’s Gitex promises to be an important channel event on the software giant’s 2006 Middle East calendar.

With end-users across the Middle East demanding complete solutions from resellers, never has it been more important for channel companies to cultivate multiple links with a variety of vendors that enable them to offer customers a one-stop-shop.

With notebook sales soaring in the Middle East — both through the consumer and business channel — the race is on for vendors to build market share and channel buy-in.

After all, the SMBfocused reseller selling security software to smaller companies is also a perfect route-tomarket for notebook vendors to pursue.

The battle for notebook market share is intense in the Middle East but several vendors stand out.

Toshiba continues to put in a strong performance with regional boss Ahmed Khalil at the helm.

Similarly, Lenovo now has numerous success stories in the region and has developed a solid channel model, building on the partner networks it acquired when it purchased IBM’s PC division.

Lenovo’s regional boss Imtiaz Ghani will host a delegation of extremely senior executives from the vendor during this year’s Gitex.

Acer too has made its mark in the notebook channel with senior regional executives Philip Ashkar and Krishna Murthy using an indirect sales model to meet their ambitious goals.

European vendor powerhouse Fujitsu Siemens has underlined its commitment to the Middle East market by launching an assembly facility at Jebel Ali.

Originally commissioned just to produce desktop PCs, there is now a possibility that the joint venture assembly operation with PWC Logistics could add notebooks to its product range.

Since joining Fujitsu Siemens as regional manager Stephane Rejasse has reiterated the company’s commitment to the channel and also created a strong team ethic within the vendor’s Middle East operation.

Any list of the top 25 most influential executives in the Middle East channel would not be complete without some of the leading lights of the infrastructure market.

IBM remains a major power in the market — in terms of hardware, software and services — giving Big Blue’s regional channel manager Mourad Zohny a top five slot.

Elsewhere, Sun’s Bruno Haubertin is working hard to introduce the vendor’s new channel programme in the Middle East while Emitac’s recently appointed CEO Balall Yaqub is showing that it is possible to create a successful IT group combining distribution, integration, software sales, services and business units with in-depth vertical expertise.

On the components front it is impossible to ignore AMD’s regional manager Gaith Kadir and Intel’s Gulf channel manager Nass Nauthoa.

While Intel has undoubtedly had a topsy-turvy year in terms of its channel engagement model in the Middle East, the actions of these two companies will determine whether the Middle East is to develop a vibrant and successful local assembly market.

The final executive we want to draw attention to is Dell’s Michael Collins.

Dell has boosted its headcount in the Middle East in recent months, meaning more feet on the street to boost its partner engagement efforts in the region.

Dell knows that its success in the region is dependent on its partners and this point more than any other underlines the significance of the channel in determining a vendor’s success level in the Middle East.

The IT market is growing and partner business models are maturing.

Despite these trends the Middle East has retained a unique sense of channel community that many other regions have now lost and this is why personal relationships remain so important.

We’ve profiled 25 executives influencing the Middle East IT channel.

The reality is that there are many thousands of people that have an influence.

Meet as many as you can because conversations create transactions.

The Middle East channel continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

The arrival of vastly experienced channel executives from mature markets is one factor driving this process.

The Middle East has retained a unique sense of channel community that many other regions have now lost and this is why personal relationships remain so important.




Dr. Gaith Kadir


General Manager




AMD has seen its profile soar in the Middle East during the past 12 months following a series of moves to widen its distribution channels and engage even more closely with local PC assemblers.

A Dubai-based channel conference hosted by the vendor in the autumn attracted a solid turnout, emphasising AMD’s growing status in the region.



Hanspeter Eiselt


Managing Director

Middle East


Tech Data

Brought over from Europe to inject more of an enterprise flavour into the company’s volume portfolio, Hanspeter Eiselt is leading Tech Data’s Middle East charge.

He might be a relative newcomer to the region, but his experience of high-end distribution — combined with Tech Data’s extensive portfolio — makes him a channel executive that resellers need to know.



Rahb Hamidaddin


General Manager



Empa remains a key name on the distribution circuit with points of presence in Dubai, Saudi and Egypt.

Under the stewardship of Rahb Hamidaddin since 2002 — when new investors became involved in the firm — Empa serves the CIS as well as the Middle East.

The company is expected to break the US$100m sales mark for the second consecutive year in 2006.



Marissa Safe


Vice President



With brands such as ASRock, Elitegroup, XFX and LiteOn in its portfolio, FDC offers extensive reach into the region’s reseller and assembly markets.

Like any Maxtor distributor it probably feared the worst when Seagate recently announced plans to modify its distribution line-up, but it came out of the rejig in fine shape and now carries the rights to Seagate’s entire product range across the Middle East.

Components aren’t FDC’s only speciality — it also stocks a range of completed systems from vendors such as Lenovo and NEC.



Balall Yaqub





Balall Yaqub played a key role in establishing Emitac 30 years ago and now he is intent on turning the UAE-based IT group — which has extensive distribution capabilities alongside its software and services units — into a regional giant.

The company already serves Qatar, Jordan and Persia and if 2007 plans to enter the Saudi and Kuwaiti market come to fruition, Emitac will truly be able to provide an enticing pan-regional offering to any vendors looking to penetrate the Middle East reseller landscape.



Michael Collins


General Manager




A Dell regional manager in most territories wouldn’t usually be a figure that resellers exchange pleasantries with, let alone get to know.

But in the Middle East it’s different.

Dell’s indirect approach to market puts the channel at the forefront of a strategy that continues to make it one of the fastest-growing vendors in the Middle East PC sector.



Nass Nauthoa


GCC Channel




US-based Intel remains the dominant CPU vendor in the Middle East channel with a long list of assembly partners flying its flag across the region.

Channel boss Nass Nauthoa has the role of ensuring the vendor gives local partners the support they need to stay competitive against the A-brands especially as more than 50% of PCs in the region are built locally.



Adrian Taylor


Channel Sales



Cisco Gulf Cisco is no slouch when it comes to growing its headcount and remains one of the largest technology employers in the Middle East.

The latest recruit to join its ranks is a former regional sales chief from its European SP arm.

He might be an unfamiliar face at the moment, but resellers will need to get to know new channel boss Adrian Taylor in the coming months.



Bruno Haubertin


Partner and Alliances

Sales Office Manager


Sun Microsystems

Sun’s channel-centric strategy is a key factor behind the strong double-digit growth that the company expects to achieve in the Middle East this year.

And with the acquisition of StorageTek adding an extra string to its bow, Sun has an attractive proposition to offer the storage reseller channel.

Regional channels chief Bruno Haubertin has the job of driving the vendor’s Middle East ecosystem of solution providers and ISVs as it seeks to add an increasing level of services and value around its product offering.



Imtiaz Ghani


General Manager, Middle

East, Egypt and Pakistan



Chinese vendor Lenovo might share the same building in Dubai Internet City as IBM — the vendor it remains closely linked to since buying its PC business back in early 2005 — but it has rapidly achieved its own identity in the Middle East market during the past 12 months.

Headed by Imtiaz Ghani, the PC and notebook and manufacturer has posted solid unit growth this year and continues to win plaudits among resellers who have been impressed by its ever-widening product offering.



Ahmed Khalil


General Manager MEA



Notebook specialist Toshiba has doubled its growth in the Middle East during the last couple of years and with that has come the expansion of its reseller channel.

Boss Ahmed Khalil has moved to strengthen his management setup in recent months by naming new managers in Saudi Arabia and the Levantine.

He has also appointed Middle East sales and marketing chief, Santosh Varghese, as his right hand man.

Khalil’s new management team is under no illusion that the aim of growing faster than the market remains the number one goal going into 2007.



Nicholas Argyrides


General Manager Dubai



Cyprus-listed distributor Logicom is recognised as one of the 10 largest distributors in the Middle East with sales of more than US$150m a year.

Its components and networking division continue to form the mainstay of its business, but it also has a solid software portfolio that it has added to during the course of 2006 by signing antivirus specialist Trend Micro.

The company also gained endorsement from office software behemoth Microsoft, which named it ‘GCC distributor of the year’ back in February.

Nicholas Argyrides, who arrived in Dubai last year, remains the face of the company.



Kevin Isaac


Regional Director MEA



In a security market littered with different brands and products, Symantec remains a trusted partner for many SMB and enterprise resellers throughout the Middle East.

The omens certainly look good for 2007 given customers in the region are paying increasing attention to their security infrastructure, but Symantec’s fortunes are directly connected to how well it empowers its channel.

Regional director Kevin Isaac has stressed the importance of clearly communicating its channel vision to the reseller community and that message remains even more valid as the market matures.



Gilbert Lacroix


Vice President CEE and MEA



With most of emerging Europe under his jurisdiction, Gilbert Lacroix has a pretty big patch to cover as boss of CEE and MEA.

But his ability to get things moving in the Middle East has led to strong progress in the region this year.

The launch of partner training events in Dubai and Cairo have been well-received by local partners, while the recent addition of a dedicated web tool for French-speaking North African partners emphasises a focus on the wider region.

CA also became one of the first vendors to officially appoint a partner in the newly opened Libyan market.



Frank Sheu





After swapping life in Australia with distributor Synnex for the top-dog role at Dubai-based Almasa earlier this year, Frank Sheu has wasted no time in taking Almasa’s business model to the next level.

A series of vendor signings, including D-link, Proview and Sonicwall, have strengthened the breadth of its portfolio, while his dedication to making Almasa easier to do business with has won Sheu plenty of friends in the reseller community.

As boss of a distribution company now turning over sales north of US$400m a year, Frank Sheu is clearly a Middle East channel champion worth knowing.



Husman Dajani


Vice President



Database giant Oracle might be as renowned for the antics of its colourful CEO Larry Ellison as it is for its applications skills these days, but that is unlikely to bother management at the company’s fast-growing Middle East operation.

Having digested such heavyweight names as PeopleSoft and Siebel in recent times, Husman Dajani and senior members of his crew continue to play a major role in ensuring that partners throughout the region take advantage of its expansive offering.

Oracle still remains the name that most Middle East customers turn to when they need a new ERP system.



Pavan Gupta


EMEA Director



eSys’ ambition knows no bounds.

If being at the heart of the fiercely fought components distribution market wasn’t tough enough, the company is currently in the process of launching its own notebook range.

To some that may seem a foolish move, but after enjoying success in the distribution market with its low cost business model, the company shouldn’t be written off before it’s had a chance to prove its worth.

While Pavan Gupta spends half his time in the Netherlands these days as part of his expanded EMEA role, he still remains the face of eSys’ Middle East operation.



Jacques Chammas


Managing Director



Jacques Chammas continues to pull off one of the biggest balancing acts in Middle East distribution — juggling a crucial volume business on one hand and a focused, value-added operation on the other.

There are few distributors with the guile to successfully build a portfolio that pairs together such brands as Intel and Seagate with Business Objects and Citrix, but Mindware has proven that it can be done.

Plans are afoot to broaden its storage and networking range during the coming months as it seeks to make its offering even more appealing to Middle East resellers of all varieties.



Stephane Rejasse


Managing Director Middle East


Fujitsu Siemens Computers

Under the leadership of Stephane Rejasse, Fujitsu Siemens continues to hold its own in a Middle East PC market where the leading A-brand vendors continue to win market share from local competitors.

Having set up its own assembly plant in the region, the Germany-headquartered outfit has demonstrated its long-term commitment to the market.

The company’s corporate focus is firmly attached to mobility products and the dynamic data centre, and those principles remain close to its strategy in the Middle East as it bids to raise its profile in markets such as Saudi Arabia.



Philip Ashkar


Director Sales and Marketing

Middle East



Acer’s aggressive strategy — particularly in the SOHO and SME notebook segments — has served it well in Europe and continues to do the same in the Middle East.

It is now the clear number three vendor by all form factors in the Middle East, breathing down the neck of US rival Dell.

Devoid of any direct sales capabilities, the vendor is keen to paint a picture of itself as a channel-friendly outfit that relies 100% on partners — something that it claims can’t be said of all its rivals.

Philip Ashkar is the channel champion likely to greet any resellers that decide to join its growing army of partners.



Mourad Zohny


Business Partner

Organisation Manager



The fact that IBM no longer has a PC business is unlikely to have made much difference to Mourad Zohny’s all-encompassing role, such is the extent of Big Blue’s infrastructure, software and services offering.

As head of IBM’s Middle East business partner organisation, Zohny presides over one of the most diverse and impressive channel ecosystems of any vendor in the region.

IBM was one of the first technology companies to lay foot in the market and therefore enjoys a level of credibility that many incoming vendors to the region can only aspire to.



Ali Baghdadi





Aptec is another distributor that has strived hard to ensure that its broadline portfolio is complemented by a solid value-added business.

Its offering spans an impressive array of hardware, software, networking and services lines, marking it out as a key middleman for many of the region’s leading vendors.

The recent move to a sparkling new head office in Dubai Internet City will give Aptec the impetus it needs to continue the good form it has shown this year into 2007.

With six warehouses spread around the region, Aptec clearly knows its way around the Middle East market.



Charbel Fakhoury


General Manager Gulf



There are few sectors of the market that Microsoft doesn’t touch given the epic journey it has made from office software pioneer to enterprise applications giant during the past decade.

The result of that is a partner network spanning everything from local retailers to systems integrators. Making sure that Microsoft connects with all aspects of its diverse partner base is Gulf boss Charbel Fakhoury.

He remains a channel champion that all resellers in the region need to know — even more so now that the Vista operating system is set to wing its way to the Middle East any time soon.



Raj Shankar




Redington Gulf

The number one distributor in the Middle East by 2005 sales, Redington continues to blaze a trail in the local market and enjoys partnerships with leading vendors from Canon to McAfee.

Samsung and Western Digital have both recruited Redington’s services in recent months, while Cisco has just given it the green light to begin distributing its network kit in Nigeria — a deal that underscores its reach.

Not one to rest on its laurels, Redington is currently finalising plans for a state-of-the-art automated warehouse facility in Jebel Ali.

Oh, and did we mention the company is also set for an IPO?



Salim Ziade


Solution Partners Organisation Manager


HP Middle East

With 670 employees all fighting its corner in the Middle East, HP is the undisputed heavyweight technology champion of the region.

The leadership position it enjoys in multiple sectors of the market from desktop PCs and notebooks to printing products and consumables emphasises the scale and influence of its operation.

Although CEO Mark Hurd has made it clear that he has no qualms about serving customers directly, the company remains wholly committed to a partner model based on profitable growth, particularly in the Middle East.

The man tasked with managing the current generation of Middle East HP partners is Salim Ziade, head of HP’s Solution Partners Organisation.

With a responsibility for the entire region and the senior point of contact for local partners, Salim Ziade is a Middle East channel champion that every reseller or new market entrant needs to know.

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