ComputerLinks on board as Juniper restructures distribution

Networking vendor takes first major step to evolve its distribution model in the Middle East

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  March 11, 2008

Security distributor ComputerLinks has begun carrying Juniper products following what is set to be the first in a series of major steps by the networking vendor to evolve its distribution model in the region.

Channel Middle East has learned that the vendor intends to axe its long-standing approach of only working with Dubai-based regional distributors in favour of a strategy that combines a mixture of both regional and local distribution.

News of the restructuring has put Juniper’s existing set of distributors on high alert as the revised model will almost certainly require fewer regional players. ComputerLinks’ appointment has added weight to suggestions that a line-up which currently includes Almasa, Comguard, Mindware and Online is too over-crowded.

Further changes are expected to materialise in the coming months as the company attempts to bring local distributors on board in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“I am looking into having local distribution in those countries, to be able to leverage on the local influence of these distributors based on their channel relationships,” explained Taj El-Khayat, enterprise channel group head for the Middle East and Central Africa at Juniper. “Reseller partners usually feel more comfortable dealing with a company that is local and beside them rather than having to deal with distributors in Dubai, just because of things like local availability and customs,” he said.

While it seems probable that Juniper will appoint an indigenous distributor in Saudi, El-Khayat insists a definite decision hasn’t yet been made. He refuses to rule out the possibility that one of its regional distributors will be given the opportunity to develop a Juniper business locally by having people and stock on the ground, as well as independence from the central company.

“I need to have someone who understands the culture of the market, has good relationships with the partners we are aspiring to work with and understands the customs and logistics of the Saudi market” said El-Khayat. “That all adds a lot of value to us and we want to bring that type of leverage to our partners so that they are able to do more business.”

While El-Khayat stresses that the reorganisation is not about shrinking the number of distributors, but putting the distribution focus into areas where the vendor really wants to drive momentum, he acknowledges that such an approach reduces the need to have an abundance of distributors based in Dubai.

With EMEA VP Gert-Jan Schenk warning Juniper’s four existing Middle East disties that they need to either shape up or ship out on his last visit to Dubai, the vendor’s second-tier partners are under no illusions that changes are likely.

Although El-Khayat declined to comment on the future of individual distributors, speculation in the networking channel suggests that Almasa and Comguard could have the most to fear if Juniper’s new model only permits room for three regional distributors.

However, when contacted by Channel Middle East at the end of last month, Almasa described the relationship with Juniper as “very strong” and said it had recently promoted its top Juniper sales manager Ahmed Magdh to lead its value team, while Ajay Singh, CEO at Comguard’s parent Spectrum, insisted it was business as usual. “[Juniper] has not indicated anything to us as of now,” he said. “If there is something in their minds, then I’m not aware of it.”

Meanwhile, new recruit ComputerLinks claims the addition of Juniper to its Middle East portfolio is a natural extension of the relationship the pair enjoy in other markets. It says that the credit limits it has with Juniper gives it an advantage over smaller distributors that are restricted in their operational and financial bandwidth.

“You can’t really stand in the way of Juniper growing — they are growing at such a rate,” said Lee Reynolds, director at ComputerLinks Middle East. “We are the new and next generation distributor for Juniper. Juniper is sorting its act out now, going to go to market aggressively and will probably double their revenue this year.”

ComputerLinks will carry Juniper’s entire portfolio and says it will help the vendor develop a market for a UTM device with layer-3 switching that it plans to launch through its commercial business unit during the past year. “That moves it into security — hence us and where we are going,” explained Reynolds. “We will be looking to strengthen the existing channel that Juniper has and add some quality security resellers and system integrators that can put value onto the Juniper business.”

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