Ten minutes with… Ernie Gunst & Sergio Maccotta

Two months on from SAP AG's buy-back of SAP Arabia's exclusive regional licence, the company's EMEA president of customer solutions operations, Ernie Gunst, and its MENA MD Sergio Maccotta talk to Matt Wade about their recent regional successes and future growth plans.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  January 26, 2008

Two months on from SAP AG's buy-back of SAP Arabia's exclusive regional licence, the company's EMEA president of customer solutions operations, Ernie Gunst, and its MENA MD Sergio Maccotta talk to Matt Wade about their recent regional successes and future growth plans.

Two months on from SAP's announcement of its buy-back of SAP Arabia's exclusive regional licence, how is the transfer of customers from Arabia to SAP AG progressing and what's the timescale for all current customers being contacted?

Since September we’ve been fully in charge of the region and can implement our strategy here without any discussions with anybody else.

EG: Let's get this right - we are not working through SAP AG here. We are working through our own subsidiaries, which we've now set-up here in Dubai, and we have one in Saudi Arabia that is now in the last stages of being registered. Then of course all these customers are connected to by these subsidiaries, backed up by SAP AG. We are in the process of making these moves.

SM: That's correct. We are already signing extensions of old contracts with customers. The operations here in Dubai are already up and running on our side, and we are dealing with new customers and our old ones. Our Dubai subsidiary is SAP MENA LLC, and the Saudi company will be named SAP KSA LLC.

Saudi Aramco is obviously a huge SAP customer here. Which subsidiary will handle this customer?

SM: We deal with Saudi customers directly through our subsidiary in the Kingdom. We've only mentioned two core subsidiaries however so far - in Dubai and Riyadh - but we also have other branches in order to be closer to our customers. I believe that the Kingdom is too big a market to just focus on one single city, so we already have in the Eastern Provinces - close to the big customers like Aramco and Sabic - a branch office, reporting to the Kingdom's subsidiary in Riyadh.

In the rest of the GCC countries we already have a subsidiary in Cairo and one in Oman, and we plan to establish other branches in order to stay closer to the customers.

On the partner front, how many are you looking to sign up, and in which particular territories?

EG: Speaking generally first, if you look at the growth potential of this MENA market, partners play a very important role.

I think you have to distinguish between partners though: we have partners who are purely implementation partners - usually bigger companies who help us to implement our software - and secondly we're looking at partners, who are not just doing the implementation but also the selling.

The good news is now we have our infrastructure here, firstly customers are happy seeing SAP being more present than ever, our channel partners are getting excited and we're getting some in-flow along the lines of ‘How can we work better with you?'. The third piece of good news is that we're getting CVs from people who want to join this company. The brand is certainly attractive to them, as is the fact we want to grow here in this region. People like to join companies that are growing.

Have you set channel partner growth targets for this region?

EG: Yes we are looking into the partner side, but I would say that at first it's not about quantity. It's about quality; it's about making sure that the partners and the channel really understand what we want to achieve together. It's about making sure that we transfer the quality into the partners and build from there. You won't see too many aggressive plans that would lead to the quantity spoiling the quality.

We see this region continuously developing over the next ten years, and so the first year is about making sure we get the first things right: making sure existing customers understand what we're doing and feel our presence; winning new customers of course; getting the partners involved more and more in how we go to market; the SME channel is obviously a big growth area too, and the piece we're putting lots of emphasis on now is the expansion of our own infrastructure - hiring additional people.

That's looking really good, and we've invested additional manpower from SAP's side to ensure that we can scan CVs, get people in front of us, and get them on-board quickly.

SM: In a nutshell it's about coverage. It's not the number of partners that's needed, but the right coverage of partners in order to respond properly to the requests and requirements of the customers.

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