Give it a chance

The Dubai Computer Traders Group faces challenges, but such a body can only be beneficial to the development of the market says Andrew Seymour

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  May 11, 2008

A little under a year ago I wrote an editorial column championing the imminent formation of the Dubai Computer Traders Group (DCTG), an organisation set up by IT resellers on Computer Street to tackle the issues affecting their business, and generally provide some much-needed unity in the face of mounting challenges.

As it turned out, the term ‘imminent' didn't quite live up to its literal meaning seeing as almost twelve months on the group is still not operational. There have been no official meetings between the board and prospective members, not a single dirham in membership fees has changed hands, and the market is still none the wiser about how much influence the organisation will actually be able to wield in an environment not particularly famed for its transparency.

However, this week it's been revealed that the group has announced a general assembly in mid-June, a date which the DCTG insists will mark the beginning of its activities. That's if it goes ahead. Previous attempts to finalise such meetings have not been fruitful, largely because of the unavailability of key people and the need to co-ordinate it with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which sanctioned the DCTG's creation.

It's possibly these delays and the DCTG's failure to get things moving since the authorities approved its formation last August that has led to a growing degree of scepticism among some traders on the street. Their opinion is that trying to look after the interests of so many parties, most of them competitors, simply won't work, while they question just how much authority the DCTG has to impose governance when serious matters involving members arise.

It would be very easy to side with that view, particularly when the group has not yet been able to demonstrate what it has to offer. However, I still stand by my initial assertion, which is that such a body, if managed properly, can only be beneficial to the development of the market. I agree there is a possibility that the group might not turn out to be as powerful as its mandates might suggest - and if it succeeds in attracting the 500-plus members it is initially targeting then keeping everybody happy will be a tall order - but that doesn't mean it deserves to be written off as a failure before it's even had the opportunity to get going.

For me, one of the most important factors in determining its prospects will be how strongly vendors support the group. I am curious to see how many manufacturers back the DCTG above and beyond a mere verbal endorsement. The word on the ground is that AMD and Microsoft are two of several vendors that have indicated an intention to work with the group. The latter does not come as a surprise. Microsoft needs resellers and traders on its side as it intensifies its battle to stamp out piracy in the Gulf, while local IPR chief Jawad Al Redha is an honorary board member.

As a non-profit group, the DCTG is going to need all the fiscal help it can get to make its presence felt in the market. Even the most basic activities that the group must organise, such as hosting meetings, carrying out administrative duties and organising representation at exhibitions, cost money.

Let's face it, if the DCTG can convince traders to pay a AED 250 ($68) joining charge and AED 1,000 ($270) membership fee then getting the first 500 traders on board will only bring in funds of just over AED 600,000 ($165,000). Therefore, the willingness of vendors to provide assistance by sponsoring DCTG events, for instance, could easily determine the speed and success at which the group is able to achieve its objectives.

It is more than just a case of ponying up some spare marketing cash though. The group's ability to make a difference will hinge on the frequency of interaction and dialogue it has with vendors (and distributors) on everything from stock allocation and credit, to margin enrichment and profitability.

You'll never hear a vendor say that Computer Street has become less important to them, yet at the same time traders are not shy in complaining about what they still regard as a chronic lack of engagement from certain manufacturers. Given this apparent indifference, the DCTG has the potential to serve as an ideal platform for ensuring a more wholesome working relationship in future.

Assuming the DCTG does formally launch its operations on the 18th June, it should rightly be heralded as a landmark moment for the IT trading community in Dubai. I've no doubt that the group will face many challenges in the months ahead, but none will shape its future more acutely than its ability to win over the cynics and get vendors onside.

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