Revving up the channel

Having co-founded channel development specialist G&K Consulting last year, Samer Karawi has seen the dynamics of the Middle East market change considerably in the past 12 months. With that in mind, we asked the former Microsoft and HP veteran what it will take before the channel is at full-throttle again.

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Revving up the channel
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  October 15, 2009 Channel Middle East Logo

What is your assessment of the IT landscape in the Middle East today?

There is no doubt that the financial crisis imprinted the IT market in the Middle East with its negative effect. The credit crunch, the global slowdown and the liquidity scarcity have created a new set of challenges for the IT decision-makers, as well as resellers and the retail business. The customer today is no longer looking for the best, greatest and trendiest goods. They are more inclined to look for the added value and investment protection. The successful businesses in these troubled times are those who manage to devise plans to provide their customers with more tangible value that answers the customers’ new needs and expectations.

Has the downturn been as dramatic as everyone has suggested?

Despite the cost-cutting and control, maintaining and improving the return on IT investment is at the heart of the business investment and spending strategy of many companies. While we have seen some expansion projects delayed or cancelled, other projects have seen an increase in investment, especially those that are related to consolidation, security, storage and optimisation. Not all cities and countries have been hit equally by the financial crisis. Some places, such as Dubai, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, and Bahrain, witnessed various levels of slowdown, but others, such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, have seen a boost in investments. The net result was a sort of levelling across the region that has left Middle East IT market growth flat.

Sales and projects are no longer as assured as they used to be due to the downturn. How well has the Middle East channel responded to that?

We all know the famous saying, ‘if you keep doing what you do, you will keep getting what you get.’ That was previously used to signify that with no imagination, creativity and daring, one will never achieve any more than what they have already achieved. Today, one is sure to get much less than what they used to get by doing what they used to. Unfortunately, this is what many channels in the region are currently doing by conducting their businesses in the same way they always did and getting modest results that drive frustration, anger and fear.

I believe that it is time for vendors to re-evaluate their strategies and involve their channel in the decision-making process. The roles of each party must be clearly marked and defined.

It is not uncommon to see and hear channel people complaining about how badly the market is behaving, and yet when you ask them to tell you what they have done about it many will flip their hands in confusion and look up at the skies in submission to some divine will. Others will tell you how they have reduced their expenses through massive layoffs, cut benefits or shrunk exposure in some geographies or sectors. On the other hand, you will find few creative and progressive channels who will tell you they have looked around, studied the current market, identified the new trends and restructured their business around these new opportunities.

So if you had to give the channel a list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ at the moment, what would they be?

I’d say to innovate, understand your customer and identify new opportunities, whether it is different customers, markets or solutions. In terms of the ‘don’ts’, doing the same thing but only harder doesn’t work! The situation has changed, buying motives have changed and you have to sell differently too. Don’t drop the prices and then drop them again! Firstly you won’t be able to sustain your business, and after you have closed down you will have managed to spoil it for everyone else. Finally, don’t cut back on the marketing budget and service. Both are probably your only bets of surviving the downturn.

3560 days ago
Harald Horgen

As someone that works with software vendors in building their channels worldwide, I found the interview very informative and helpful. The Middle East can be a challenging environment, and the advice offered here provides some great guidance.

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