Learning To Listen

‘We’re ramping up in Saudi Arabia and remain fully committed to investing in the market through our local partners,” proclaims the vendor. “Vendors still aren’t doing enough to help my business grow and they fall short of what’s needed when it comes to market development,” argues the local reseller.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  March 16, 2008

‘We’re ramping up in Saudi Arabia and remain fully committed to investing in the market through our local partners,” proclaims the vendor. “Vendors still aren’t doing enough to help my business grow and they fall short of what’s needed when it comes to market development,” argues the local reseller.

These two vastly different opinions are something I hear all the time when the rate of channel investment in Saudi Arabia is discussed, and it suggests that there is still an unhealthy imbalance between what vendors think and how resellers perceive the situation.

There is no doubt that the Saudi channel is far better served than it was two or three years ago, but the dissatisfaction that is expressed by some quarters of the reseller community suggests there is still a long way to go before the majority of vendors can stand up and honestly claim that they have met the needs of their local partners.

Just this week, the boss of a large Saudi reseller I spoke to voiced his frustration at the difficulties the company regularly encounters when procuring stock for enterprise-level projects that it is working on. He cited the lack of a suitable in-country inventory strategy from certain vendors as an obstacle to completing project phases on time and on budget. Consequently, the reseller insists it will soon begin bypassing the biggest culprits in favour of partnering only with vendors that can deliver on its requirements.

A second reseller I spoke to, meanwhile, was critical of how willing vendors actually are to establish fully-fledged operations in the Kingdom. His argument is that it is becoming difficult to justify investing in vendors that believe a sufficient Saudi operation constitutes nothing more than a business development manager working from home.

Such incidents highlight some of the reservations still felt by local resellers that consider the channel under-supported. It’s all well and good for vendors to brazenly state how committed they are to Saudi Arabia, but unless they bother to listen to the requirements of their partners and establish clear lines of communication with the channel then both parties will end up singing from different song sheets.

Now is as good a time as any for vendors to share their plans and policies with the channel, and vice versa. In the next issue of Channel Middle East, we’ll publish a review of the Saudi IT sector and one of the most striking trends to have emerged from the past year is that the Kingdom has finally overtaken the UAE as the largest and most important market in the region for many vendors.

The proverbial tipping of the scales is forcing vendors that once allocated limited resources to Saudi to think more carefully about their strategy for in-country success. Engaging with key reseller and distribution accounts to discuss what areas require immediate attention has to be a major part of that.

With GITEX Saudi Arabia just around the corner, cases of manufacturers shouting their Saudi plans from the rooftops are poised to reach fever pitch. But that isn’t necessarily what the reseller channel needs right now. Instead, it wants to hear how vendors are finding answers to the problems that impact their business on a daily basis, and what they are doing to facilitate profitable channel growth.

Resellers in Saudi know that the projected expansion of the market over the next five years leaves them in an extremely strong position. They can be selective about who they invest in because if the effort isn’t reciprocated, they’ll be plenty of others waiting in the wings.

Vendors that don’t want to undo their chances of runaway growth must take the time to hear from their closest Saudi partners otherwise their own assessment of how they are performing in the market will prove remarkably different to the channel’s.

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