Vendors takes steps to add Iraqi partners

Forecasts that the value of the Iraqi IT sector will reach more than US$1 billion by the end of 2008 is forcing vendors to sit up and take notice of a market that has been off limits to many until recently.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  March 15, 2008

Forecasts that the value of the Iraqi IT sector will reach more than US$1 billion by the end of 2008 is forcing vendors to sit up and take notice of a market that has been off limits to many until recently.

Both hard drive vendor Western Digital and networking provider Netgear have voiced plans to address the Iraqi IT channel, with the latter recruiting local distributor Al-Naba'a Network Solutions to carry its portfolio of connectivity products and solutions.

Netgear believes its tie-up with Al-Naba'a will support the ICT initiatives of the government as well as raise awareness of its products among SMBs and private enterprises in Iraq.

"We have outlined an extensive plan to provide sufficient support for Al-Naba'a with the aim of better equipping them in the important role that they will be playing in our foray into the Iraq market," explained Omar Lutfi Hussain, corporate account manager at Netgear Middle East. "Al-Naba'a will also avail of the rewards which we provide to our partner distributors through the Netgear Channel Partner Programme."

Al-Naba'a is considered one of the leading networking integrators in the Iraqi market and boasts an extensive list of government customers in departments such as finance and oil. The firm, which deals in Acer, HP, Cisco, IBM, Trendnet, iDirect, VSAT Systems and Dintek equipment, serves over 70 local VARs and is aiming to double its revenues to US$8m this year.

"Our strategy is to maximise our present network of highly trained agents and our strong relationship with relevant government agencies to drive brand awareness for Netgear's products," said Mansour Flammarz, CEO at Al-Naba'a Group. "We also commend their efforts in providing adequate training to our technicians in terms of delivering 24-7 technical support for services for customers in Iraq," he added.

Despite the obvious dangers of conducting business in Iraq - a factor that has led many vendors to treat the market with caution during the past few years - the projections for IT spend are encouraging vendors to look closely at how they can develop local channels. Data from Dubai-based Madar Research Centre estimates the Iraqi IT market will be worth US$1.1 billion this year.

Hard drive vendor Western Digital also admits that Iraq - like other markets such as Libya that it is now able to sell into - is very much on its radar. At a recent event to mark its 15th anniversary in the Middle East, the company met with partners from Iraq to discuss potential business opportunities.

Khwaja Saifuddin, senior sales manager at Western Digital Middle East, acknowledged the volatility of the market, but confirmed that it is looking to increase engagement with smaller resellers and distribution firms capable of addressing demand. "We have dedicated companies over here [in Dubai] who are doing it, such as some of our distributors which are opening offices in Iraq because the contracts have been extended for Iraq. Metra, for example, is setting up in Iraq so we will have the distribution and channel in place," he promised.

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