Guess who's back...

Guess who's back…back again, Khalil’s back, tell a friend… Possibly not the best introduction in the world but a fitting one for the week in which Ahmed Khalil performed a dramatic U-turn by leaving as boss of Fujitsu Siemens Middle East in order to retake the reins at Toshiba Gulf (a job he left a mere six months ago).

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  September 14, 2004

Guess who’s back…back again, Khalil’s back, tell a friend… Possibly not the best introduction in the world but a fitting one for the week in which Ahmed Khalil performed a dramatic U-turn by leaving as boss of Fujitsu Siemens Middle East in order to retake the reins at Toshiba Gulf (a job he left a mere six months ago).

When we interviewed Khalil in late July and asked him how the new job at Fujitsu Siemens was shaping up, he seemed quite content: “It’s good, it’s challenging — but it’s good to know that Fujitsu Siemens is strategically focusing on mobility. We focus on creating a mobility solution — mobility with security, manageability and wireless connectivity. Yes we have great standalone notebooks but let us add maximum value through the end-to-end product portfolio and position the mobility solution in a unique fashion.”

Now the interesting point about that quote is the fact that Khalil mentioned the word ‘mobility’ four times in quick succession. Bearing in mind that the major difference between Fujitsu Siemens and Toshiba Gulf is the breadth of their product offering in the Middle East, this is actually quite telling. Toshiba Gulf focuses pretty much exclusively on the fast-growing notebook segment whereas Fujitsu Siemens has a much wider portfolio spanning servers, desktops, PDAs and notebooks to name but a few.

There is a world of difference between selling desktops and notebooks in the Middle East. The former is a product segment characterised by wafer-thin margins where vendors are engaged in a constant battle to trim operating expenses and keep their finances on the straight and narrow. With fast growth rates and better margins, pure notebook vendors have more room for maneuver and can be more creative in developing their market tactics.

Explaining his reasons for returning, Khalil stated: “The reason for leaving my previous company is purely for personal reasons. I do owe them all respect. Still, I am very happy to be back home to Toshiba, a company with great people and products.”

Khalil’s ping-pong management move between Fujitsu Siemens and Toshiba Gulf does raise some interesting issues surrounding the precise reasons why senior figures choose to change jobs, and once they have, whether they will be satisfied by their new role or not. One issue that always needs to be considered is the culture of the company being joined. The term ‘culture shock’ applies equally well to someone joining a new company as it does to someone arriving in a new country.

This brings us neatly round to the position of general manager of HP’s Personal Systems Group (PSG) in the Middle East. Although more of a case of ‘guess who never really left?’ as opposed to ‘guess who’s back?,’ eagle-eyed channel observers would have noticed by now that Christoph Schell is still occupying the PSG hot seat in the Middle East.

Back in May, Schell took on the role of Solutions Partner Organisation (SPO) manager at an International Sales Europe (ISE) level — a long-winded title meaning channel manager for emerging markets in EMEA. When the move was announced, it was revealed that Schell would relocate to Switzerland and that Bradley Hopkinson, formerly boss of HP PSG in South Africa would hotfoot it across to the Middle East to take on the PSG role here.

It has now been confirmed that Schell is going nowhere and will combine the roles of manager for both HP SPO ISE and HP PSG Middle East. Whether or not these two job titles can be successfully combined onto one business card remains to be seen.

The elusive Mr Hopkinson was allegedly in Dubai for some time but is now apparently back in South Africa. He had been touted as the main man at an HP press conference a couple of months back but was nowhere to be seen when the event actually took place. The exact location of Schell’s sports car is still unknown. Last reported as being shipped over to Switzerland, we’re assuming it is now making the long journey back to the Middle East courtesy of HP’s relocation budget!

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