Whose stand is it anyway?

Many congratulations to Trend Micro for securing a decent-sized stand in Hall 6 at Gitex this year. As we all know, space is at a premium at the Middle East’s premier IT exhibition and vendors have to book early and make sure that they plan well ahead in order to secure a decent spot. Visitors to Gitex 2005 will be able to see all the latest security goodies from Trend Micro at Stand F6-1.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 26, 2005

Many congratulations to Trend Micro for securing a decent-sized stand in Hall 6 at Gitex this year. As we all know, space is at a premium at the Middle East’s premier IT exhibition and vendors have to book early and make sure that they plan well ahead in order to secure a decent spot. Visitors to Gitex 2005 will be able to see all the latest security goodies from Trend Micro at Stand F6-1.

However, while Trend Micro is raring to go at Gitex 2005, you can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for those vendors that have been unable to secure a stand of their own at this year’s show — especially when they are a major force in their respective IT field.

One vendor not exhibiting through its own stand at Gitex this year is networking player 3Com. The vendor plans to hold a couple of external events and may have some space on its distributors’ stands according to its PR agency, but there will be no repetition of last year’s double-storey stand in a prime position. Given that vendors typically plan for Gitex a year in advance and book their space as early as possible, 3Com’s absence remains a bit of a puzzle.

In fact, casting my mind back to Gitex 2004, 3Com’s stand was actually in Hall 6 alongside all the other networking vendors. Stand F6-1 if I’m not mistaken — the very same stand that Trend Micro has secured for this year’s show.

At this point I feel it is time to congratulate Ghassan Lababidi once again on his appointment at Trend Micro. Lababidi was confirmed as Trend Micro’s new regional channel marketing manager in May 2005. Where was he before? Oh yes, that’s right; Lababidi was marketing manager at 3Com Middle East. Small world isn’t it.

Tech Data mulls Midrange launch

Broadline distribution behemoth Tech Data plans to launch its midrange distribution business in the Middle East later this year. Called Tech Data Midrange, a provisional November 1st start date has been pencilled in for the division in the Middle East. Tech Data Midrange already operates across vast swathes of Western and Northern Europe.

The business unit focuses on the distribution of midrange systems and enterprise solutions, representing a range of vendors including HP, IBM, VMware, Trend Micro, Oracle, SAP, SuSE, Veritas and Macromedia.

This is a definite move down the value-add road for Tech Data and reflects the company’s position as a well-respected distributor for major vendors operating in the market. Tech Data Midrange offers partners a range of value-added services. In Germany, the company operates technology centres used to showcase solutions for the vendors it represents.

The nearest comparable offering in the Middle East at present is probably from the team at Magirus, which has gone from strength-to-strength in the region during the last year. Representing a similar set of vendors including HP, IBM and VMware, the fact that Tech Data is also looking at moving into this area of business is testament to the Middle East channel’s progression down the value-add road.

Can Tech Data successfully balance volume and value distribution in the Middle East? Absolutely is the emphatic answer from regional boss Adnan Al Falah.

In fact, Al Falah has also thrown down the gauntlet to the big boys of global distribution from the US and Western Europe, challenging them to set up genuine operations in the Middle East and give the team at Tech Data a run for their money in the region.

According to Al Falah, the model used by distributors such as Avnet, which involves building links with local distributors in the region but not having an actual presence on the ground, has never worked in other regions around the world and will not work in the Middle East.

Will they, won’t they?

So, will more of the global distribution giants arrive in the Middle East market anytime soon? Don’t bank on it is the message from major vendors that have been doing their best to persuade their long-term partners to take the plunge.

Our recent quick poll asked the Middle East channel to vote for the global distribution giant that they thought would set up shop in the Middle East next. Ingram Micro picked up a whopping two-thirds of the votes cast, with Avnet grabbing 11.1% and German distribution powerhouse Actebis securing 7.4%.

Hans Koppen, president of Ingram Micro EMEA, has already stated this year that Eastern Europe remains the primary target when it comes to expansion over and above the Middle East. However, recent comments from Ingram Micro CEO Greg Spierkel to European channel press suggest that potential acquisition targets in Eastern Europe are pricing themselves out of the picture with unrealistic valuation expectations.

Vendors such as HP still think it is unlikely that major distribution players in Western Europe not already in the Middle East will be tempted to establish operations in the region anytime soon.

“They had the opportunity, they still have the opportunity, but there has been no real responsiveness so far,” admitted Christoph Schell, HP SPO manager for the ISE region.

The Middle East market may be growing fast but the lack of critical mass in a global context and the perceived risk continues to deter many global IT distribution giants from taking the plunge.

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