Wonder of wireless

Its arid climate and rising PC penetration rates make the Middle East an ideal hunting ground for Proxim Wireless, a broadband wireless systems vendor with annual revenues close to US$30m a year. Pankaj Manglik, president and CEO at Proxim Wireless, sat down with Channel Middle East on a recent visit to the region to explain why the company believes it has such a compelling partner offering

Tags: Proxim Wireless CorporationUnited Arab EmiratesWiMAX
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Wonder of wireless
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 9, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

Give us some background on the company. Who is Proxim and what do you do?

Proxim Wireless is a company that has been in the wireless space for about 20 years now. We are a public company listed in the US and we focus on three main technologies. The first one is point-to-point backhaul [solutions], the second technology is WiMax - which is providing connectivity in a variety of point-to-multi-point technologies - and the third is wireless LAN, which is WiFi indoors as well as outdoors.

Do you have a different channel model for each business?

No we don't, we actually have a pretty straightforward two-tier channel model. We go through distributors worldwide and then the distributors obviously talk to the VARs. We are an extremely channel-focused company. We rely exclusively on our channel. We have what I call a ‘high-touch' channel model because wireless products, especially in the larger deals, tend to be technologies where you want the vendor to come and help the VAR close the deal. We might get involved on a high-touch basis to close the deal, but the fulfillment always goes through the channel. That's de facto for us.

You work through Westcon in the Middle East, don't you?

Out here in the Middle East we work with Westcon, yes. They are not exclusive. We have a couple of other channel partners. Westcon is by far and away our largest partner in the Middle East and we are very focused on doing business with them.

What is your philosophy when it comes to the channel?

When we look at the channel and when we look at VARs, we try to do at least two things that we find VARs are consistently interested in worldwide. The first one is leads and the second one is training. If you look at our product line, our products have a common core. So even though we have these three major product lines, once a channel partner or an end-user has got to know one they should be able to use the others because there is a lot of similarity in how the products are built out from a software perspective.

We focus heavily on training our partners and we have a training facility in Dubai Internet City, which is where our office is. We take partners out there for training here in the UAE and then outside the UAE we try to do local regional training. We try to keep the channel focus from the perspective that every time you introduce a new product you shouldn't have to go back and relearn. All that knowledge you have should apply to each product line and each successive new product that comes out.

At the time of speaking, your latest financial results (calendar Q2) show a year-on-year decline in sales...

For us, year-on-year, sales are definitely down. They are probably down a little more than 10%. But what we have seen this year is that the business environment has consistently got stronger. The biggest problem that we saw [is credit availability] and I will give you an example. We had a deal that we won with the government in Egypt but weren't able to fulfill because there was no credit available anywhere in the channel. That is just one example, but the point is that this happened in hundreds of deals around the world during the first nine months of the year.

Now what we are seeing is that the credit markets have actually opened up and once credit starts flowing you automatically see deals get funded. What happens is that you have Proxim, you have Westcon, if you will, and you have the VARs. Generally the VARs are smaller than Westcon, so until they are able to get credit from somewhere they are not able to actually pick up the equipment from Proxim via Westcon. It is that whole machinery that stops when credit stops flowing. What we have found out is that the spigots are now open and credit is flowing, and because credit is flowing business is picking up. At some level it is linked to the overall economy, but in some ways it is not because it is more directly linked to the availability of credit.

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