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 Proxim sees huge growth potential in ME. (Getty Images)
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 9, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

Has the global economic downturn reduced your ability to invest in the channel?

It has actually made us focus more on the channel. In an environment where you have sales challenges, you can either go out and hire more sales guys and put them in two or three countries or you can hire one or two people inside the company and then just focus on trying to push more through the channel and see if that turns into more business. So, in fact, in a downturn, the focus on the channel increases substantially versus the sales force, and when times are better we are able to focus more on hiring individual sales guys - it is kind of a reverse.

The other thing that is interesting with the downturn is that wireless is actually cheaper than wired. When I say the broader economy is less of a factor than credit for us, it is because when times are tough people try to pick the more economical option and wireless tends to be cheaper to buy as well as to deploy over a period of time than wired solutions. That has played to our favour. Obviously you hope that doesn't happen because of a recession, but it is what it is.

What does a typical Proxim reseller look like?

Wireless is a fairly specialised business, so I would say the typical Proxim reseller probably has roughly 10 people or so in their office. Their backgrounds are obviously in technology, but they generally carry more than just wireless products. They are usually more of a networking VAR so they have networking knowledge and will probably carry Proxim just because we have the entire portfolio of products. When we pitch to end-customers our go-to-market strategy is that we carry the entire portfolio of products in wireless. That's our pitch to resellers - if you carry Proxim you have got it all.

You previously worked with Aruba and Cisco, to cite two examples. Has your experience with those companies shaped the way you have implemented Proxim's channel strategy?

Yes, absolutely. I would say both Cisco and Aruba are very channel-oriented companies. Having said that, the stage at which I joined Proxim - just the nature of Proxim being in business for the last 20 years - means the channels tend to be developed and broader and deeper than I had experienced in some of the previous roles. The difference also is that my role is much broader in Proxim than it had been at, say, Cisco, so that is certainly part of it.

How satisfied are you with the coverage and the business you have in the Middle East? And what are your expectations going forward?

The Middle East is the sweet spot for wireless, both from a technology and a business perspective. From a technology perspective if you had to create an environment in which wireless works well you'd pick dry air - flat, dry air -and in the Middle East you have plenty of those two things. Wireless goes much longer in terms of distance when you get those factors. The second part is that from a business perspective, the Middle East is not an emerging economy, it's pretty flush with funds.

Downturn or no downturn, there are enough funds in the Middle East because of the general economy so in that sense it is pretty well to do. Secondly, it is growing at a clip of the emerging economies. So you get this dynamic where it is growing like the emerging economies but they have the standard of living of some of the western nations and that makes for a very attractive market for anybody, not just for Proxim.

The Middle East is seen as a high growth market with huge potential, but on a pure volume basis it is not any larger than a single European market such as Germany, for example. Is there a danger that vendors put too much emphasis on the region?

It's hard for me to comment on the broader issue. In our specific case, because of the way Dubai, for example, has set up different cities which all need wireless connection, communication is not an option. It has to be set up and wireless does well, certainly in the Middle East. So we are a little immune from that scenario. I'll tell you that I couldn't even compare the revenues between the Middle East and Germany for Proxim - there is so much more business in the Middle East in orders of magnitude.

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