Mitel outlines MEA growth strategy

Graham Bevington, managing director EMEA at Mitel networks talks us through plans to grow its business and replicate the success it is enjoying in Europe across its Middle East and African channel.

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By  Andy Tillett Published  April 2, 2006

|~|graham-bevington200.gif|~|Graham Bevington, managing director EMEA at Mitel networks |~| Cme: What is the focus of Mitel’s EMEA partner meeting?

Graham Bevington: The whole point of this conference is to show our partners what we have done in other markets like Europe or North America and trying to see how to apply that to the local markets. This is different for every individual market. We use the term Middle East, but if you are in Dubai it is a completely different market situation to, for example, Saudi.

Cme: What are the main investments that you have made in the MEA channel recently?

GB: We have our office in Saudi now, as our partners told us that without that, Saudi customers would not keep ringing Dubai. We have invested in bringing in Arabic and Farsi voicemail, and we will continue to invest in the areas that our partners tell us make sense. If there is a vertical that a partner thinks he can do well with, they just need to approach us and we will discuss their plans and develop them from there, together.

Cme: How do the partners in the Middle East compare to your partners in Western Europe?

GB: A typical proprietor or owner of a business in the Middle East tends to understand the technology. A large proportion of proprietors are themselves ex-engineers and have come through the ranks and run their own businesses and want to understand the detail. The only fear I have is if the managing director knows everything, we have to make sure that the skills are flowing through into their operational business, but this is not a major concern.

Cme: Does it take longer to train up your channel in the Middle East overall?

GB: There is a willingness to learn, which is stronger in the Middle East than in Western Europe. I’m always delighted by the skill sets, the interest and the way that people want to learn and study in this region. We are doing a lot of web based tools and online training. When you look at it regionally, the Middle East guys are way ahead in registering for the courses and taking the tests, often a lot more pro-active than their European counterparts.

Cme: Mitel’s offering has been very geared towards the medium and enterprise sector, will you be targeting the SMB in future?

GB: A large number of Japanese and Asian manufacturers seem to be capable of producing a standalone system for a price we can’t even get one built for. As much as I would love to say yes, I think we have to do more value add work for the SMB to justify the offering, and I’m not comfortable that we are there yet.

Cme: Where are the areas that partners in the Middle East need to work on their skills?

GB: We have to focus on what we are, which is an application company. Our channels are typically traditional voice resellers and they want a sale to include boxes and phones. We have to get them to include applications solutions next. We have to get partners to understand that data isn’t a black art and make them realise that their understanding of voice is a quality that actually gives them an edge in the market.

Cme: How fast is your business in the Middle East growing compared to the rest of Europe?

GB: From Mitel’s perspective, the Middle East is probably growing about 10% slower than Western Europe. In Western Europe our growth in IP has been about 45% this year, so the Middle East is about 35%. Two years ago we were being told that there would be no market for IP in the Middle East.

Cme: How do you feel about the competition from vendors who have a wider portfolio?

GB: We focus on voice as an application. We are a specialist in that area and have developed a range of products around that. We have about 650 features in our call control that have been incorporated over the last 30 years. Our user base said that they had to be able to do everything that they could do now, but with the benefits of IP. With Cisco it was a blank sheet of paper so it brought in what it perceived as the 40 most commonly used ones. There are some pretty important ones that they have missed in our opinion.

Cme: What are your plans for the Middle East in 2006?

GB: We will continue to develop our channel as we have and leverage the new opportunities we have with the integration between our products and Microsoft communication server.
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