Great expectations

Cisco KSA has been singled out as a star performer by the networking giant in the past few years, reinforcing its status as one of the Kingdom's top channel-focused vendors in the process. But is the growth really coming so easy? Channel Middle East caught up with managing director Dr. Badr Al-Badr at the company's CiscoExpo event in Riyadh to find out.

  • E-Mail
By  Andrew Seymour Published  June 7, 2008

Cisco KSA has been singled out as a star performer by the networking giant in the past few years, reinforcing its status as one of the Kingdom's top channel-focused vendors in the process. But is the growth really coming so easy?

Channel Middle East caught up with managing director Dr. Badr Al-Badr at the company's CiscoExpo event in Riyadh to find out.

What factors are behind the rapid growth of the Saudi IT market at the moment?

If I start with the economic factors that are driving the Saudi IT market you can very easily begin with the trend in increasing oil prices. This is increasing the income of the government, which is focusing on building out infrastructure.

That is also coupled with the liberalisation of the telco market, which started about four years ago; both of those factors coincided and led to a boom in the ICT market.

In addition, this is matched with new lighthouse projects that have been announced in Saudi Arabia, such as the new economic cities that are leapfrogging existing technology and aspiring to be the first in class in deploying smart services.

What kind of growth expectations do you have for this year and how do they compare to what you achieved last year?

Saudi Arabia is one of the markets where Cisco has doubled its business in two years, and our focus is to continue to double our business in the next two years.

Two years ago Cisco announced a five-year investment plan in Saudi Arabia, which involves scaling the workforce up to 600 people. How is that particular target going?

We are two years into the plan and we have more than 250 employees now. And at the time of announcing the plan we were about 100, so we are well on track.

What do you regard as the biggest challenge facing the KSA networking channel, and what is Cisco doing to tackle it?

The number one challenge is the skills shortage - that is exactly what we are focusing on in our Networking Academy Programme, through which we are now increasing capacity to graduate 25,000 students by 2010.

The other one is the NetVersity Programme, that focuses on developing the business leaders of the future.

These programmes are open to our partners, and we have also announced the Cisco Partner Talent Portal that brings together our partners and their technical needs with the guidance of our educational programmes.

The skills shortage is creating intense competition for talent among channel partners. Is this having an adverse effect on their overall performance in the market place?

The skills shortage is a challenge. Some of the ways they have been addressing this include bringing in talent from outside, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. But the long-term solution is qualifying local skills, and that is what we are helping them to do with our education programmes.

The likes of Dimension Data and Wipro have been building up their local presence in Saudi Arabia. Do you foresee more international resellers and integrators entering the Saudi market in the near future?

We are inviting international players to come to the Saudi market. The reason is that the Saudi market is growing faster than the capability of the market to absorb.

Plus there are specific areas of expertise that have evolved in other places in the world that we want to bring into Saudi Arabia and encourage knowledge transfer.

If more internationals are coming to the market, what advice do you have for local Saudi resellers that are concerned how they should protect their market position?

First of all, I just want to underscore that the market is big enough for all the existing and new-coming players. At the same time I have seen many of them invest in training their staff, increasing their financial capabilities and building relationships with a client.

This is exactly what needs to be done. This is the basis of doing business, and if these things are applied consistently then these companies will definitely secure their share of business.

One of the advantages that these local companies have is a better understanding of the business landscape and relationships. They need to capitalise on these factors.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code