Asus is aiming high in the retail rankings

Asus is just one of many vendors competing in the over-subscribed Middle East mobile computing sector. George Su, account manager for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, tells retailers why they should choose Asus and what more they should be doing to get ahead in a tough market.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  July 7, 2008

Asus is just one of many vendors competing in the over-subscribed Middle East mobile computing sector. George Su, account manager for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, tells retailers why they should choose Asus and what more they should be doing to get ahead in a tough market.

Vendors are increasing pressure on the Middle East retail channel to develop more in-store services. What is your perspective on this?

This is not a new concept or trend, even for the Middle East. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, one of our retailers has a sub-brand called Zomic and it has opened a shop in Jeddah which I have visited.

They have all the solutions and consumer scenarios. When the customer enters the shop they're not looking for a specific product but a scenario. Many retailers generate their own ideas of shop-in-shop solutions. Previously, most IT retailers focused on box-moving but nowadays the retailer,

distributor and even the vendor focus more on value added aspects. Value can come from additional warranty, from the finance and so on. Not only can retailers compete on price, but they can compete on services.

Do you focus on large power retailers or is there space for smaller retailers in Asus' strategy?

We don't have the concept of small or big retailers, all of our customers are very important. We provide what they need and they provide us with a very good outlet.

As mobility is taking significant chunks out of the PC market, local assemblers are suffering. How are you helping them to survive?

If you want to build a PC we provide everything, except for CPU, hard drive and memory. So for the assembler that needs to buy a PC they know that if they choose Asus all they need to outsource is these parts.

Therefore the decision-making time is shorter and [the product] has more value add than what you can pick up on the street. As research shows, the shrinking of the PC market is a fact and it remains a trend. In the Middle East region, 70% of new purchases are focused on mobile devices. To help the retailers sell to that remaining 20% or 30% we give them all a solution and a varying portfolio.

How are you helping the retail channel in the emerging markets across the region to develop?

Price points are very important to help mature the market and also deliver a good deal to the end-user. This is a very important factor, but the most important is the solution and value add to the end-user. Price is only a reference for us.

What other assessment do you have of the retail channel in the Middle East at the moment?

In retail as a whole, the channel is becoming more organised - it doesn't just want to box-move, it wants to be a service provider. A lot of retailers are opening service centres or repair centres or even build-your-own PC centres.

This is a positive trend. If you go into a PC shop and buy a PC you're not going to buy just a box, you will buy other accessories as well. If there's anything else that can be added then the retailer must provide that.

Who is best placed to offer the skills training that sophisticated services demand?

It has to be the distributor. A lot of the retailers will not be working directly with any of the vendors because there's a lot of work to be done. In the store they have to sell more value added products. That is why the end-customer is more driven towards the retailer.

What sort of abilities must an Asus distribution partner exhibit?

Overall, we can say that a distributor in the Middle East must have three things. The first is the financial capability - if the financial capacity is not good enough it is very difficult for them to penetrate the channel that we desire. Secondly, the channel base of the retailers is very important, and thirdly they have to be co-operative with the vendor.

The first two aspects are easy to find. It is hard, however, to find a distributor with the same philosophy and concept as the vendor. It requires a huge amount of communication and discussion in the channel.

What future channel development plans do you have?

We are moving into closer touch with retailers and would like closer feedback on what is happening with the retailers and their market. We have put in place very challenging targets for our channel. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, according to IDC, we ranked number five for notebooks in the first quarter this year.

We want to continue this momentum and through channel commitment hopefully our ranking this time next year will still be in the top five in Saudi and also in the top six for GCC countries overall. Growth rate is not very important to us. Our main focus is the position and the ranking.

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