In search of originality

NME Innovation Awards provide a platform for smaller firms with innovative technology to demonstrate their capability.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  March 5, 2008

Yesterday, I met global executives from a firm called Meru Networks. The US-based company, which is entering the Middle East market, provides wireless technology for enterprises. Meru's wireless architecture is positioned and functions in a much different way from most other products in the market. According to the spokespeople, the solution provides seamless movement between access points and ensures better coverage for firms.

True or not, it was an absolute pleasure discussing a technology that is quite unlike everything that I have been hearing in the market so far. It is not often that I come across firms which discuss technology in its simplest, most basic benefits-to-a-firm context. More often than not, talk about products and solutions in the Middle East and globally, reaches us through a marketing filter.

Marketing is an essential tool for companies to get through messages of their solutions to potential customers. Nevertheless, when done too much and too often, marketing can blur the lines between one solution and another, especially if they possess similar features to begin with.

This is sadly true of most solutions in the IT industry today. Marketing lingo has become so common and widespread in describing products that enterprises and end-users cannot differentiate one vendor's products from the other. This is often also linked to final purchase decisions that are based on apparent price.

If end-users in the region believe that the constant rhetoric of marketing indicates a general lack of innovation among most firms, they would be wrong. Technology innovation does happen - but more often than not, they tend to happen in smaller firms. One theory states that smaller firms, which lack marketing muscle, invent technology in a conscious effort to stand out from the bigger brand names. The converse is also true - that inadvertent technology advancements can create new entrepreneurs, who will need to start small.

The good news is that such firms exist in the Middle East as everywhere else. However, this lack of capital works against them in that a company which does not have adequate marketing funds cannot really make widely known its technology. These small firms often tend to limit their activities to specific geographies and sectors, and conduct their product introductions in a much smaller scale, in order to build a reliable base before moving into mass markets. While this makes perfect sense for the company with its new solution, it does mean that most enterprises will remain in the dark about the unique technology till much later.

In the larger interest of the market, it is essential that more of these technology dark-spots are brought to the light. Apart from providing enterprises more choice, these products and firms will certainly add vigour to the Middle East market and hopefully, get more firms to do some plain speaking.

Events like NME Innovation Awards 2008 act as a platform for small firms to introduce their products and solutions to the Middle East with a relative bang, especially if they have a strong implementation or end-user story to back them up. Smaller firms have an equal, if not higher, chance of winning the awards as do more well-established and bigger vendors of the region. I would invite these companies to visit, download the official nomination form and send in their entries at the earliest.

Nominating and winning at the NME Innovation Awards 2008 can provide a boost to smaller companies and a higher recall value among potential enterprise clients. For the companies which do not, however, the long marketing struggle still awaits.

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