Metra looks to climb the channel ladder

Notebook and IT hardware distributor Metra Computer recently expanded its UAE business outside of Jebel Ali-based re-export work and now says the emirates make up almost a third of its revenues.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  August 11, 2008

Notebook and IT hardware distributor Metra Computer recently expanded its UAE business outside of Jebel Ali-based re-export work and now says the emirates make up almost a third of its revenues.

After branching out into retail distribution, Mohamed Eissa, VP at Metra, claims the company is now out-pacing the market and has its eye firmly on the distribution rankings top spot.

How is your business going in the UAE now that you have distribution rights here?

The business is seeing organic growth year-on- year and we are not seeing any aspect that is too concerning. We are seeing huge growth coming from Saudi Arabia and from other markets in the region such as Qatar and Iraq where we have in-country operations.

Today, the UAE represents around 30% of our business. We currently have Dell, HP supplies, Western Digital, FSC, Samsung and in Saudi we carry Acer, BenQ and Viewsonic.

A lot of distributors believe the region's emerging markets carry huge opportunities. How does Metra plan to capitalise on those markets?

We have aggressive plans to grow in the African markets and we are planning to open an in-country operation in any African country that has more than 100,000 PCs sold per year. The African market is going to hold huge potential for us.

We are the only company that has 70% of our sales outside of the UAE. Still, the UAE holds a very big potential for growth for us and as long as we keep adding more products to the portfolio we can work on increasing the importance of the UAE market.

Metra has ambitious plans to become one of the largest IT distribution companies in the Middle East region. How are you going to achieve that objective?

Today, we are number three or two in the Middle East and growing in markets such as Africa. Securing new vendors in the UAE and Saudi will be the main drivers behind our growth.

Also, we want to grow into segments like retail and corporate where we have typically missed out. If we can penetrate these segments, we will get a lot of business from them. We're planning to expand across the Gulf region into Kuwait and Bahrain this year.

Open retail is something that Metra has cited as an important aspect for the retail channel to consider in the past. How are you helping retail partners achieve this?

We are planning to offer, on specific products, buy-back guarantee options for the end-users, in accordance with the vendor's instructions. We have not seen this done in the past, usually questions are asked. If the end-user doesn't like the product they can return it, no questions asked.

If I am offering this to my retailers they would love to implement it because it means they can offer a value added service to the customer. This will give the end-user confidence in the retail store and in the product.

As a distributor how do you develop value added services?

We work very closely with our customers and have a specific strategy for each one, not a generic strategy. The account manager is responsible for providing the best service possible.

This includes order processing, on-time delivery, stock promotion and maintaining the profitability of the partners by ensuring the correct product mix. We try our best not to push too hard, but make sure that they can get the product out and make money.

What trends are you currently seeing shaping the Middle East distribution business?

The market is growing at almost 30% and Metra has out-grown the market by 15% year on year. I hope this will continue, fuelled by the emerging markets in the region and we will see a lot of new users coming online.

There is a new initiative from Intel that will create a very low-cost notebook product and we will see another segment of consumers and young people buying into the market.

How do you get a balance between notebooks and PCs in your portfolio, especially when you say you are planning to up your work in emerging markets?

With very low prices in the notebook sector, the desktop sector in the consumer segment will be phased out and I think it will only survive in the corporate sector. This is especially the case in emerging markets as notebooks are mobile, offer more connectivity and personalised options. Today the whole user experience of computer usage is changing.

You have been targeting the top retailers over the past couple of years. Does this mean that the small retailers have lost their attraction?

We have just taken our first steps into the retail market. We have just started in Saudi Arabia and we targeted the key top five accounts. It is a new business for us and we want to understand the needs of the large retailers. Once we have done this we will come and address the medium and small retailers.

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