Hitting the retail channel sweet spot

As regional VP, Nima Ahmadinejad is the man charged with ensuring Belkin’s sales strategy is properly executed in the EMEA theatre, where the company has carved out an extensive retail presence. He reveals how the wireless networking and accessories maker determines which categories to compete in and outlines its approach to serving emerging markets.

Tags: Belkin International IncorporationRetailUnited Arab Emirates
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Hitting the retail channel sweet spot
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 6, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

How satisfied are you with your coverage of the retail market in the Middle East? Are you looking for more partners in the region?

We are always looking to expand our presence. Obviously our global partnerships with companies such as Carrefour and Office Depot are always a very organic way for us to expand our business, but we never discount the strength and presence of local retailers, and therefore we are committed to both.

The market has faced a globally declining desktop sector  in the past year. How has that impacted on your product direction?

We pride ourselves in being able to spot trends that are happening in the market place, and try to adapt to those as best as possible. We are hyper-focused on growing trends, so when laptop sales overtook desktops we had product offerings for that; when we saw the netbook explosion happen we started offering product solutions around that; as HDMI content starts to build up we start offering products that support that explosion. We really try to figure out where those high growth trends are and make sure that we have a relevant assortment for our partners to attach our products too.

How easy is it to keep up with Chinese accessory manufacturers that are sitting right next to the OEMs and churning out an enormous range of products?

That is obviously a reality — we view that as just what happens in the market place. Is that necessarily good for our retail partners and consumers? Probably not, because basically they are producing products purely based on a cost model or a semi-replica model. But offering a solution that consumers want and the quality and service that they are looking for — they are not giving it.

It is our job to be able to differentiate ourselves, constantly, from what is happening with the direct import Chinese vendors and that pushes our brand even higher over time. Where some of the products we were doing 10 years ago are now common products for direct import, we are not even interested in those businesses any more.

In the emerging markets, can you get the value proposition of more expensive items across to the retailer against cheaper brands?

Yes, for retailers that are expanding within emerging markets we really play a role in being a sort of consultant in terms of how to grow their business profitably and what role accessories could play for them. At the same time, we have to be conscious of relevant prices that people are willing to pay. We don’t want to price ourselves out of the market, so it is a fine balance. Our value proposition always has a ‘good-better-best’ type of scenario and depending on those retailers’ consumer demographics, we tailor our strategy accordingly. Some people want to start with the ‘good’ strategy and over time they plan to move their category into the ‘better’ or ‘best’ space.

What is the major solutions trend that you need to focus on?

Today it is the green trend — power and energy conservation. That is a massive trend, which is happening all around us. It is a big buzzword, but how a consumer can actually contribute to that is where I think we are going to win by offering solutions that enable consumers to say, ‘I am doing my part’.

cme: Belkin’s products cover many categories. Is there a risk of diluting the brand and confusing people?

It is definitely a challenge for Belkin. We are always evaluating which spaces we are going to play in and which spaces we are not, and we’ve even had the courage to walk out of certain businesses because we didn’t think it was going to be relevant to our long-term strategy. It is a continuous questioning of our sweet spot, and making sure that if anything falls outside of that sweet spot we have the discipline to say, ‘no, thank you’. We are intrinsically in a lot of different businesses, but they all surround one major theme and that is the consumer.

Are you looking to expand in the Middle East and if so, what factors do you take into account when going about this?

The standard position we always take is we will expand as soon as we are not able to maintain service levels in a particular country or region. If we have to have a presence in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, and we cannot maintain service levels or keep up with the market opportunity in that country then we would make those decisions accordingly. We have never been shy of doing that. We are present in a lot of countries.

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