Harris grows presence in the Middle East

When Harris took over Encoda Systems and later Leitch, there was concern in the Middle East that the region might be overlooked as the American company did not have as strong roots here as the companies it had acquired. Said Bacho, who has taken over as director of sales and operations for Harris in the Middle East & Africa, in an exclusive interview with Digital Studio, allays such fears and explains the company’s extensive plans for the region.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  April 1, 2006

I|~|saidbig.jpg|~|Said Bacho. |~|You have always worked in the Middle East. Why would you join an American company that has had few ties with this region? Harris is an American company but it is a misconception that it does not work in the Middle East. I admit it has not had an office in the region until now but its transmission products have been used extensively in this region for several years. But let me first give you a brief history of Harris to clarify. Few people know that Harris is a US $3 billion company with 13,000 employees and 110 years of history. It was established as far back as 1895 although of course, the broadcast division is a much more recent part of the company. Harris was mainly into transmission equipment, and later, the Broadcast Communications Division (BCD) was set up. It made its first entry into software with the acquisition of Louth. Then it acquired Encoda to enhance its software solutions group. Since this acquisition, Harris became a major player in automation, media asset management, traffic and billing, and enterprise software solutions. That was at the end of 2004. Nearly a year after that, with the acquisition of Leitch in October 2005, Harris became one of the key players in the broadcast industry not only on the transmission and software side but on the content delivery and management side as well. Of course, Leitch had already bought over Inscriber (graphics) and Videotek (test and measurement) in 2004. This is what made the whole thing interesting. Suddenly, with all these acquisitions, Harris has come to include so many different brands that deal with different aspects of broadcast. We are the only company in the world today that makes the big bulky 10 KW transmitters and the very creative graphics solutions on the content creation side and everything in between except cameras and VTRs. The other first is that no other company makes automation solutions as well as video servers except Harris. Do Harris have any plans to acquire anything in the camera/VTR range as well? I can’t comment on that. Now that you have acquired several companies such as Leitch and Encoda that have deep roots in the Middle East, do you have plans to open an office here? Yes, most certainly. In terms of brand and product presence, Harris has always been around. The transmission products from Harris are extensively used in radio stations here. So, to be fair, Harris’s products have been around. What we have never had is a structured organisation in this region but we have been selling here although not as much as we would have liked. Now we’d like to change that and grow our presence here. The Iraqi Media Network (IMN) project probably was the only one that got so much prominence. Regarding an office, Leitch already had plans in early 2005 to start an office here. With Harris’s acquisition of Leitch, it was clear from the perspective of both companies that we must have a presence in the region to reflect the company’s strategy. As part of these efforts, we have opened an office in Dubai, and will have two people manning the office including one sales person and one after support person. ||**||II|~||~||~|How do you intend to grow your presence in this region? We plan to grow both vertically as well as horizontally in this region. We would like to handle the Middle East in a very distributed way and avoid being dragged into a position where we are only regarded as serving one particular country where we have a sales and support office. For this purpose, we will support people distributed across the region instead of in one central office. This is a new approach that allows us to operate like the global giant that we are while also having a strong local presence. Where are you hiring your staff for the Middle East from? We intend to hire people from the local market. Some will come from competitors and others will be from the industry here as they understand this region best. We have often heard it said that Omneon servers integrate better with Harris automation than Leitch products. Now that Harris has taken over Leitch, will that be a problem? Not at all. Because we have the unique status of having automation on one side and servers on the others, we will now work towards providing better integration between the two products. But this does not mean that we are not open enough to integrate with other servers on the automation side. Many server vendors have wondered how Harris automation would work with other servers in future and how Harris servers would work with other automation products. We will continue to follow our open strategy and give the customer what he wants, and if he prefers Harris automation with Omneon servers, so be it. Although we intend to work towards better integrating the products within our fold, we will be committed to an open strategy and our customers can rest assured of that. ||**||

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