Breaking the mold

Most companies are content to have a good relationship with their supplier - but not Zamil Industrial Investment, which turned vendor after convincing supplier Navigis of the potential of the Middle East market. Imthishan Giado reports.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 21, 2007

Every day, hundreds - if not thousands - of companies come into existence worldwide. Some proceed to become titans of the industry - while others do not see the end of their first year, largely due to inexperience and an insufficiently developed business case.

New regional entrant Zamil Navigis, however, is different in that it is a partnership between two very experienced firms - KSA-based industrial conglomerate Zamil Industrial Investment and Singapore-based Navigis, a reseller of IT service management software.

Zamil Navigis can focus specifically on the Middle East, taking local needs into account. We’ve developed a great relationship.

The alliance is intriguing in that Zamil initially approached Navigis as a client - but was so impressed with the firm's products that it offered to help resell Navigis systems in its home markets.

Navigis provides infrastructure management tools designed to help an organisation manage its PCs and assets as well as the individuals, processes and services that unite these elements.

"Zamil is a very advanced organisation when it comes to IT maturity. Zaki Sabbagh has been quoted several times and has been recognised as an expert in the region when it comes to IT services and the processes related to them. We see that there is a need here in the region to bring on-demand solutions, which is what we're targeting," says Philip Sidebottom, a partner in Zamil Navigis and CEO of Navigis.

Sidebottom believes that a joint venture was the best way to approach the Middle East because of the unique nature of its market. "As opposed to setting up an operation as the whole of Navigis, Zamil Navigis can focus specifically on the Middle East, taking the local market and local needs into account. We've developed a great relationship and a great partnership," he says.

Zamil Industrial Investment is a manufacturing business with operations in 55 countries. The firm operates under a shared service model where its Saudi Arabian base remotely manages the firm's numerous regional locations. The firm's service model has been widely praised and Zamil is now in the process of applying this concept to its global sites as well.

CIO Zaki Sabbagh - a 14-year veteran of the IT industry and named one of ACN's IT Managers of the year in 2006 - says that the Zamil Navigis venture began with the implementation at Zamil of, a global IT service management system. Navigis, which is the exclusive partner for for Asia and the Middle East, visited Zamil to complete the implementation. During the process, Zamil entered into discussions with Navigis about the possibility of bringing the product to the region.

According to Sabbagh, Navigis welcomed the initiative.

"We decided to found an entity in the region, to come here and benefit from our presence as Zamil, as well as our reputation for IT in the region. As a customer, we understood the challenges - we know how the market is going because we monitor it and realise how the market is challenging everybody these days. Since then, we've made a lot of contacts; everybody welcomed the idea and encouraged us to proceed," he adds.

Sidebottom explains that Zamil Navigis will supply on-demand solutions for enterprises and SMBs across the Middle East. He described the on-demand model as being ideal, in part due to its simplicity - on-demand solutions do not require enterprises to install any software or to make an accompanying infrastructure investment, the only requirement for the company is the presence of a web browser.

Zamil Navigis enters a market already crowded with solutions from competing vendors. Sidebottom notes that the firm plans to compete, initially at least, on price.

"We want to attract everything from the SMBs to the large enterprise organisations. Since a lot of the SMBs don't have the budgets that large organisations do, they want these solutions but can't afford the typical enterprise software. Our solutions are priced very competitively and very affordably on a subscription basis so that the SMBs can actually afford it," he explains.

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