Comstor makes its mark on Cisco channel

At the end of last year Cisco called on networking distributor Comstor to open a Middle East office, develop a two-tier channel and provide it with additional coverage outside the UAE. The man tasked with overseeing that challenge is Steve Lockie, a familiar face to these shores having run Tech Data Middle East for five years until 2004.

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By  Administrator Published  June 30, 2007

At the end of last year Cisco called on networking distributor Comstor to open a Middle East office, develop a two-tier channel and provide it with additional coverage outside the UAE. The man tasked with overseeing that challenge is Steve Lockie, a familiar face to these shores having run Tech Data Middle East for five years until 2004.

How has the Middle East distribution channel changed since you were last here?

Eight years ago I remember arriving off a plane, doing a presentation and asking the audience which of the attendees were VARs and 50 hands went up. Then I asked who was a distributor and 50 hands went up. And I asked who was a retailer and the same 50 hands went up so there was no real segmentation in the market. It's pretty clear just from the database and the people we are now trading with - because they have got company names that involve the word ‘integration', ‘networking' or ‘voice' - that there is far more specialisation. People are starting to segment and the market has become more professional in many aspects because of this approach.

It seems that Comstor hasn't wasted any time in getting business moving since first announcing the Middle East office launch last year.

We launched the company on the 8th January and had the full legal entity here by March 7th. Stock on the ground was here by the middle of March and between then and the end of May we have put credit into the channel, got inventory on the ground and done basic networking training for customers in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. We have got two companies up to a specialist level on voice and wireless technologies and we have had 100 resellers register for our OneX programmes.

How many people does Comstor currently have on board?

Nine on the ground and that's purely sales and marketing. We share a common back office in the region with the Westcon Group European operations and that's providing us with the finance, logistics and HR support. One of the key strengths we bring to the region is that resellers who are partnering with us here are not just partnering with us in the Middle East, but worldwide. We have some fantastic tools, such as WestView, which is an application on our intranet. If the guys here have a question, such as getting a Cisco router working with a Juniper access device, they can go into this knowledge database, find that information and find people within the greater group who have got experience with those technologies.

Any plans to establish points of presence beyond the UAE?

Yes, absolutely. It made sense for us to use Dubai as our beachhead, but already the majority of our business - in excess of 70% - comes from outside the UAE. And none of that is from Saudi because we don't have the Cisco contract. Cisco brought us in to give them reach and capability with that two-tier and from that perspective we've been training these resellers, working with them on bids and we've developed a non-UAE-centric business. But we also want our fair share of UAE business here and maybe that's a lesson after the first quarter. We need to keep this balance of being a merchant and a messiah. We can go out there and train and develop, but we have also managed to get a pretty slick logistics process moving and that will be improved over the next month. We are holding in excess of US$85m of Cisco inventory available to the market and that's a pretty compelling advantage to our resellers.

The Saudi market must interest you. Has there been any indication from Cisco that you will eventually get a contract for Saudi?

No, I think Cisco invited us into the region for the purpose of developing the two-tier. They have got existing partners covering the Kingdom. I think if we can identify a way in which we can work in that market and be complementary to what they are doing with their existing partners we'd hope they'd look favourably on that.

How easy is it to strike a balance between what resources you can bring in globally and what you need to tailor for this region?

I can't think of any products in terms of the campaigns and programmes that we've been able to bring in generically and just stick on the website or send to our resellers. Everything needs to be tweaked or managed to consider whether it is appropriate, and if it is appropriate how we roll that out. For example, we haven't bought any of our web tools to the market yet, but we have got the technology available to us to turn on web ordering, status checking and global price lists tomorrow. We just need to pick the right time, understand where we are and what the reseller's needs are here.

4355 days ago
Steve Lockie

There is no clash of interests at all, Comstor is dedicated to Cisco and Cisco channel partners. Online continues to focus on other leading networking, security, storage and mobility vendors which Comstor does not carry. 
 
Kind Regards 
 
Steve

4355 days ago
Mita

Considering that Online Distribution also work in this area and is also part of the Westcon group, What is Comstor doing that is different to Online's business?

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