Western Digital loses Middle East chief

Hafeez Khawaja parts company with Western Digital

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 16, 2008

The Middle East hard drive channel is reeling from news that Western Digital has parted company with its Middle East and Africa boss Hafeez Khawaja. Khawaja relinquished his duties yesterday, bringing the curtain down on a 14-year association with the US-based vendor.

According to the vendor's VP sales for EMEA, Peter Edinger, a replacement for Khawaja will be unveiled in the coming days. He says the new boss has experience of the Middle East region, but declined to reveal if the individual is an existing WD employee or an outsider.

Either way, the new occupant undoubtedly faces a steep task to match Khawaja's time in the hotseat. He was responsible for establishing Western Digital's Middle East operations and building up its distribution network throughout the region. Under his guidance, Western Digital's share of the Middle East hard drive market is believed to have soared to more than 40%.

Edinger - who is currently in Dubai meeting with customers and channel partners - stressed that Khawaja's departure was not performance related and paid tribute to his achievements at the company. However, he admits the departure followed discussions over the direction of the vendor's business and its strategy to expand activities in various market segments.

"The [channel] strategy is not changing, but we will intensify our activities to drive the mobile and branded businesses to the next level of market share and success," added Edinger. "There is enormous headroom to grow, which is why we need logistics, special programmes and more intensive conversations - with distributors and their customers - about why WD is the better choice, rather than just looking at price and capacity."

Khawaja, meanwhile, is assessing his options, but expects to make a quick return to the fold and take on a senior-level post that mirrors his Western Digital role. He has already fielded a number of calls from companies - including competitors to Western Digital - enquiring about his availability.

"I have a lot of options and haven't yet made up my mind which one I'm going to go for, but it will definitely be a similar assignment for the same region," he said. "I think that because of my strengths, relationships and proven track record, the best option is to stay in the IT market."

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