Fast-growing resellers

Bored of boxes? The fast-growing resellers of the software and services space line up to spill the beans on stellar growth

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  March 28, 2005

Channel stars|~|FastProtecht200.jpg|~|Sami Wahab (left), general manager at Protecht and Tim Martin (right), MD at Fusion Distribution|~|The Middle East channel is maturing fast with innovative resellers capitalising on the growing opportunity for service and solution delivery. Channel Middle East embarked on a whistlestop tour of the region to identify companies that epitomise the changing face of the channel. Welcome to the world of fast-growing resellers. For those with a boxshifting disposition, now is the time to look away. The one common factor that unites all the resellers appearing in this feature is a focus on delivering IT solutions to customers that combine software, hardware and services together. The message is simple and powerful: hardware sales continue to climb, but unless they are complemented with software and wraparound services, margins are negligible. For those that do wish to remain wholly focused on hardware, there is a pressing need to scale up and ensure that the economies of scale are established which allow the business to prosper against a backdrop of declining margins. Specialisation is the name of the game for many of these resellers — be it in terms of domain expertise or the development of strong relationships with a limited number of vendors. What is clear is that there are numerous opportunities available to resellers looking to diversify, add new skills and future proof their business. From converged networks to business service management solutions, the resellers profiled on the next few pages are leading the way in channel development in the Middle East. For some, such as Zayani, commitment to a particular vendor has reaped rewards and allowed the company to turn itself into a respected supplier of IT solutions in its home market of Bahrain. For others, such as Computel and ACC, strong growth has been achieved on the back of close alignment with a particular software supplier. One common thread that unites these players is a shared belief that solutions must meet business needs. It is the ability to communicate this vision to the customers that gives these resellers the edge over the competition, and also provides them with the opportunity to increase their product margins by selling value-added services such as pre-sales consultancy, implementation and post-sales support. It is this emphasis on services that also elevates resellers to the position of trusted advisors in the eyes of their customer base. To achieve this transition, resellers have to understand that the relationship is moving beyond a simple one-off transaction towards a long-term business relationship. The resellers profiled in this feature represent only a small fraction of the Middle East channel companies already moving down this path. Undoubtedly many more success stories of resellers that have successfully reinvented their business in the past few years or indeed, in some cases, created a whole new business to reflect the changing channel dynamic, also exist. The last year has witnessed a dramatic rise in the investment that software vendors have made in the region to reach out and recruit a network of systems integrators, IT services providers and even IT consultancies to help take their solutions to market in the Middle East. In many ways the regional IT channel now stands at a tipping point and many resellers need to take tough decisions on the strategic direction of their company. For those that are serious about building an organisation capable of adding value to the solutions of the vendors they represent and delivering value to the customers they serve, now is the time to scale up the investment and turn the plan into action. As software and service sales grow, resellers from all backgrounds will need to look closely at the formation of effective ecosystems that unite all the skills required to deliver a complete IT solution in a seamless way. ||**||Convergence cracker|~|FastViewnet200.jpg|~|Chris Atkin, GCC sales director at Viewnet|~|Viewnet Technologies Business focus: converged networks Key vendors: Mitel, Orthogon Converged networks solution provider Viewnet Technologies has been up and running for just 15 months, but is already well established as a cutting-edge consultant and systems integrator in the fast-growing arena of voice over IP installations. Chris Atkin, GCC sales director at Viewnet, explains the business focus: “We saw an opportunity in the market to establish a converged network solution provider without a lot of the historical problems that a lot of the other channel partners had — namely large divisions of voice and data teams that did not necessarily understand both disciplines. Our team understands both sides of the solution and can take that message out to the users and explain why they should invest in this technology area.” Working with key vendor partners such as Mitel, Viewnet has already carried out projects in the UAE and has a strong order pipeline for 2005. In the UAE, Viewnet works in a variety of fast-growing vertical markets including hospitality, healthcare and financial services. “We are already up to 15 staff and the company is expanding month-by-month as new projects emerge,” continues Atkin. “Viewnet approaches approach clients on a consultancy basis and also provide the systems integration requirements. Our staff can talk to customers about their overall network infrastructure, address their pressing business issues and explain how specific applications and technologies meet their requirements.” ACC Business focus: IT services Key vendors: Oracle, EMC, HP Efficient systems implementation and the installation of advanced state-of-the-art business infrastructures are the dual concerns of Arabian Construction Company’s (ACC) IT arm. “The Kuwaiti market is vibrant, growing at breakneck speed and is full of possibilities for solutions providers like ACC to offer turnkey solutions,” said Houssam Rafeh, Oracle sales manager at ACC. “We have been offering enterprise-class ERP solutions to Kuwait’s corporations for some time, and with the Special Edition suite of products which includes financials, sales, inventory, purchasing, business intelligence, CRM and discrete manufacturing modules a whole new market segment opened up for us.” Over the past 18 months, ACC has gone from strength-to-strength in Kuwait’s SMB sector. Partnering with Oracle in the SMB space, ACC’s revenues have doubled and profits are much higher. “Oracle did an excellent job — they have participated with us at trade fairs, trained our team of implementation experts and their commitment has been second to none,” concluded Rafeh. ||**||Storage solution|~|FastComputel200.jpg|~|Dany Rahme, Computel|~|Computel Business focus: turnkey solutions Key vendors: Veritas, Acer, Microsoft Lebanese solutions provider Computel has been established in the IT industry for over 30 years, and has an illustrious track record of supplying its Levant customer base with turnkey leading-edge solutions. Computel sought to fill a gap in its solutions portfolio a year ago when it partnered with Veritas for multiple platform backup, disaster recovery solutions and data storage management. “Veritas is a new partner for Computel; we started one year back with the vendor and we are moving our customers over to Veritas’ solutions now,” said Dany Rahme at Computel. “Despite having signed up less than 12 months back, we already have a lot of customers who are showing an interest in what Computel and Veritas have to offer, especially in the banking sector.” Veritas’ solutions have garnered a lot of attention from Computel’s 500-strong client base, due to the technology underlying the product, and also the support offered by Veritas to both Computel’s team of engineers and its end-users. “The potential is immense; we foresee major opportunities in the corporate sector and particularly throughout the country’s banking establishments. Lebanon has long been famous for its financial powerhouses, but this is the first time that they have been told to safeguard data through a secure IT environment. This will transform our growth and profits,” added Rahme. Computel has been further strengthened by Veritas’ commitment to its channel partners and the Lebanese market as a whole. Joint customer visits and seminars are high on the agenda with vendor executives flying in from Veritas’ Middle East headquarters based in Dubai to help out a partner that has already demonstrated strong commitment. Protecht Business focus: security solutions Key vendors: SurfControl, RSA With a vendor neutral stance that ensures its clients receive the technology that most suits their needs, DIC-based Protecht has been busy carving out a niche as a provider of security services and solutions to a growing customer base in the UAE market. Sami Wahab, general manager at Protecht, explains: “We are specialised in IT services and security. The company has built itself up in a unique fashion and is now well-positioned to address some of the gaps that exist in the market. The background of our staff means that we can provide multinational experience and deliver it through a flexible local platform that allows us to remain close to the customer and appreciate their individual needs.” Protecht has already carried out projects for SurfControl in the region and has established a strong working relationship with Dubai-based value-added distributor Fusion Distribution, which counts SurfControl as one of the vendors it represents. Tim Martin, managing director at Fusion Distribution describes the benefits of the channel ecosystem that has developed: “We’re all businesses — vendor, value-added distributor and reseller — and we’re all interested in the bottom line. The combination of all three parties is an excellent example of how, by working together, profitability can be maintained within the channel structure.” For Protecht, local touch is vitally important to the successful deployment of a security solution. When selecting a vendor to work with, Protecht looks primarily at the customer requirements but will also assess the local presence of the vendor as well. In many cases this involves looking at the skills and support levels available through distributors. “We strongly believe that a great product will not work unless the local support infrastructure is there,” adds Wahab. “Our relationship with Fusion is built around the fact that they are here on the ground to provide the services for the vendors that they represent.” ||**||Service management|~|FastITServe200.jpg|~|Erkan Gulec, general manager at Mawahib|~| Business focus: IT services Key vendors: BMC, 3Com, Cisco IT-Serve has been operating successfully in the Dubai market for five years, establishing itself as a high quality supplier of IT support and maintenance services. A joint venture with Mawahib Business Developments paved the way for expansion into Abu Dhabi and the company has now begun to position itself as a provider of IT service management solutions. Partnerships with key vendors such as BMC and Interactive Intelligence have produced a software and service offering that offers customers a powerful solution, according to Erkan Gulec, general manager at Mawahib. Gulec believes that the evolution of IT-Serve is indicative of a wider trend that will reshape the channel landscape in the Middle East: “I think the first point to make is that being a reseller is no longer about pushing a box to the market. As a customer I can buy a switch from a dozen different companies. The question now is how do these companies differentiate themselves from each other?” For Gulec and IT-Serve, the differentiation comes through the development of the skills and expertise that allows a reseller to deliver an IT solution that relates closely to the business objectives of customers. “When you look at the solutions available in an area such as ERP, functionality-wise they are all very similar. What we believe is that how you implement the solutions, manage change and provide support is far more important than the product itself — these factors will determine success or failure for resellers,” Gulec adds. “Many companies have great IT infrastructure in place and are adding enterprise applications, meaning that the need for service management is growing. That is the future opportunity for IT-Serve,” Gulec concludes. Zayani Business focus: IT solutions Key vendors: HP, Cisco, Oracle Vivek Jaitpal, general manager at Zayani attributes the company’s ongoing success to the strength of its partnership with HP. Citing close alignment with HP strategy and a focused approach to business coupled with a long-term vision of the company’s direction, Jaitpal is confident that the relationship will continue to flourish. Bahrain-based Zayani Computer Services has been a close HP partner for more than 20 years. From its position as a distributor for HP PCs and peripherals in 1984, Zayani has constantly reinvented its business to stay one step ahead of regional channel development and is today a sales and support partner (SSP) for all HP product lines, as well as an authorised HP warranty service partner and authorised service delivery partner. Since its inception in 1982, Zayani has grown from a five-man organisation to a 50-strong ISO 9002 certified IT solutions provider boasting strong relationships with a string of major IT vendors including Cisco and Oracle. Zayani’s expertise and strong vendor alliances have resulted in an impressive client base including Batelco and MTC-Vodafone as well as Gulf Air to name but a few. Zayani remains committed to further development with regional expansion and enhancing its solution portfolio both on the agenda. ||**||

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