Network Middle East Electronic Edition 25th July 2005

Pakistan is rapidly emerging as a market of strategic importance when it comes to the overall growth on the Middle East networking sector. Should Pakistan be classed as part of the Middle East? Network vendors and integrators with foresight and understanding of the economic and cultural ties between the Middle East and Pakistan certainly think so.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 24, 2005

Emerging markets|~|pakghoul200.jpg|~|Tarek Ghoul, regional channel manager at Cisco|~|Pakistan is rapidly emerging as a market of strategic importance when it comes to the overall growth on the Middle East networking sector. Should Pakistan be classed as part of the Middle East? Network vendors and integrators with foresight and understanding of the economic and cultural ties between the Middle East and Pakistan certainly think so. More and more are handling Pakistan out of their Middle East headquarters and forward thinking vendors such as Cisco have already committed significant resources to build up an in-country network of channel partners and develop strong relationships with service providers. With 140 million people, burgeoning telecoms and banking sectors and a government that firmly believes embracing IT in all its forms is one of the best ways to promote the development of the economy, it is little wonder that Pakistan’s star is rising. Cisco has developed strong relationships with both global and national systems integrators operating in Pakistan, allowing it to penetrate the fast-growing service provider sector. A quick search on Cisco’s global partner portal reveals more than 50 companies actively selling Cisco solutions in Pakistan. Cisco has also appointed Marsons as its authorised distributor for Pakistan and is driving the development of a two-tier channel. At present, Marsons purchases from Cisco’s two Middle East stocking and logistics distributors: Tech Data and Logicom. Cisco has already committed human resources to explore the opportunities that exist in Pakistan and is building strong delivery ecosystems with its partners. “We are in the process of opening a dedicated Cisco office in Pakistan at the moment,” said Tarek Ghoul, regional channel manager at the networking giant. “Cisco has probably got more people in Pakistan than we have in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman combined and we are committed to even more investment moving forward.” Cisco plans to grow its revenues 88% in Pakistan next year, reflecting the rapid acceleration in IT spending that is being witnessed in the market. Ghoul firmly believes that if the current growth curve is maintained, the importance of the Pakistani IT market in a regional context will continue to soar. “When we were planning last year we placed big bets on specific countries,” he continued. “Pakistan was one of them. The government understands that the economy has to be transformed and IT is a strategic asset when it comes to achieving this. Cisco is prepared to invest up front in that opportunity and this is something that other companies do not do. They win the deal and then think about the people they need. Our view was to work in a non-traditional sense, think outside the box and put people on the ground straight away.” While the Pakistani enterprise IT sector already appears to be in cruise control, the government still has its work cut out to get the SMB sector firing on all cylinders. “I believe it will take another three to six months to start tapping into this sector,” admitted Ghoul. “We will focus, position Cisco well and sell business values. By building intimate client relationships we will be in a better position to understand the true nature of the SMB opportunity, but we believe it is huge. Like other governments around the world, the Pakistani government realises that the SMB sector will play a crucial role in fuelling economic growth.” Vendors that remain pre-occupied with the admittedly healthy networking markets of the GCC may well be missing the boat when it comes to capitalising on opportunities in emerging markets around the region such as Pakistan. There is a great deal to be said for first mover advantage and those that do not build customer and partner relationships now will find themselves playing catch-up when they eventually take the plunge. ||**||

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