Resellers prompted to read between the lines

Now that the technology caters to a broad range of businesses, resellers from small single-staff outlets to large enterprise-level system integrators are fast discovering the potential represented by the Middle East barcode market.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  September 2, 2007

With barcode technology only recently forming a part of everyday life in the Middle East, companies are beginning to appreciate the value that barcode products can bring to their business. From small convenience store clerks to government dignitaries formulating new healthcare projects, everybody is taking the time to educate themselves on the prospects the technology offers, handing the reseller channel an ideal opportunity to service their needs.

According to Alaa Nawash, channel account manager for the Middle East and Pakistan at barcode solutions vendor Zebra Technologies, resellers in the Middle East are appealing to a variety of customer profiles. The vendor claims those resellers it works with directly are more skilled in this niche and tend to cater to large enterprises, whereas those it services through its distributor stand to gain by providing ‘off-the-shelf' general purpose boxed products.

"Direct partners are specialised, have integration capabilities and are more into barcoding," he said. "It would be very difficult for a reseller in Computer Street, for example, to handle such a requirement if it was needed for government or healthcare. A lot of the small partners who we reach through our distributor sell more ‘off-the-shelf' products."

The Middle East is well placed when it comes to taking advantage of this growing market given barcodes have traditionally been an instrument of retailers.

Sudhir Phadke, logistics manager at Bahraini Gulf Warehousing and Distribution Centre, claims the retail sector is a key area for resellers in the Kingdom.

"A lot of retail markets are coming up, and a lot of hypermarkets and supermarket chains are opening, whereas there were only one or two in Bahrain about five years ago," he said. "Today, even the small supermarkets are also implementing barcode technology. Therefore, knowledge of barcode technology is needed, even at the level of shopkeeper, and this is something that was not there three or four years ago," he revealed.

However, the potential of the barcode market stretches far beyond the conventional channels and is fast being utilised for more intricate purposes than merely stock-keeping and billing. "The opportunity in the Middle East is massive," claimed Nawash. "During the 1990s it was something very niche, not something talked about or even known. Gradually barcoding is entering in more and more aspects of our lives. Before it was maybe in retail or smaller sectors like logistics and now it's going into solutions in more verticals like grand scale applications, asset tracking, people tracking, government, conformity procedures and more applications in logistics," he said.

With such a diverse market for the IT channel to target, opportunities are plentiful, but resellers that can add value through services stand the strongest likelihood of gaining business. Barcode and printing solutions vendors are urging partners to develop their own staff through training and education, and claim that the right knowledge will enable them to open customers' eyes to opportunities they themselves may not be aware of.

"End users are using barcode technology to recognise a number of concerns such as stock levels, asset management and expiry dates, and the channel can offer services to help them to configure that," claimed Phadke.

However, as the benefits of the technology receive greater acclaim, vendors keen to maximise their exposure to the region's current surge in retail are vying for a stake in the market. That is likely to create a much fiercer competitive environment. "The market is becoming more and more price sensitive," insisted Nawash. "Resellers are focusing on price more than before, knowing that the market is big and there are new players coming into it," he concluded.

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