Seeing the light

Technological developments and changes in customer behaviour have turned the Middle East projector channel on its head, which is creating a wealth of opportunities for the reseller channel

Tags: Acer Computer Middle EastCanon Middle EastNEC Display SolutionsUnited Arab Emirates
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Seeing the light
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By  Piers Ford Published  February 14, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

These are interesting times for the projector hardware market. The advance of new technology - particularly the rise of LED in the business-to-business arena, a growing range of highly portable ‘Pico' projectors and, in the consumer market, increased demand for 3D products - promises to take projector hardware into a new phase of adoption.

In education, the projector vendor's traditional mainstay, there has been a noticeable fall in the number of larger tenders. And that means manufacturers have now set their sights on these business and consumer prospects, with high expectations that the channel can help them create and develop customer bases in these sectors - even in such challenged economic times.

"We all know the difficulties of the worldwide economic situation," said Aman Khan, marketing and communications manager at vendor Acer. "In the Middle East region, the market has been more or less flat. Public administration - specifically education, the single largest buyer segment for projectors - has been affected to a certain extent, with no major tenders actually decided in 2009 due to budget constraints."

In October, market analyst Futuresource Consulting reported that while the first half of 2009 had been flat - 1.3 million units were sold globally, but in real terms that was a 16% year-on-year drop from the same period in 2008 - the prospects were brighter for the second half, particularly in emerging markets like the Middle East.

Despite the gloomy wider economic forecasts, this tallies with the experiences of key vendors in the region. Ian Gobey regional manager at NEC Display Solutions, agrees that because education has been the biggest spender in the projector market, the reduction of large tenders has had a significantly slowing effect. But there are signs of recovery.

"The regular channel business has also suffered but has recovered robustly in recent months to the extent that many vendors have shortages, specifically on DLP projectors," he said. "Retail has been impacted but overall this is not a huge segment for NEC, although we do have models that fit in that segment quite nicely to service the SME market."

"We have witnessed an overall slowdown in all sectors and across all segments," said Sam Oommen, projector product manager at Canon Middle East. "The downturn has also witnessed a drop in sales on the high- and mid-segment projectors; various projects related to the hospitality industry were either postponed or stalled," he added.

To the outside eye, manufacturers' over-reliance on education looks a touch complacent, and there is a sense that they are now engaging the channel more aggressively to kick-start campaigns for the hearts and minds of the business, hospitality and entertainment markets.

"I believe we can do better," acknowledged Gobey. "NEC was relatively late opening up a regional office in the Middle East, a clear mistake in my opinion. During 2009, we have signed a number of new partners, all highly capable, and our selection criterion is clear: can this partnership take us to the number one market share position?

"Additional investment will be put into channel training, market by market, for selected partners. We'll be providing access to information and promotions via the NEC Solutions Plus channel programme, and our CRM system should speed up access to pricing and technical information for project quotes."

Most vendors operate a traditional model for their projector lines, with distributors handling entry-level and midrange sales to resellers and retailers, and systems integrators and AV project specialists covering the enterprise market. But as Gobey says, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate as projectors become a more strategic purchase at lower levels of the market.

"Today's customer needs have been increasing and are looking at total packages that provide a complete, turnkey solution," commented Oommen at Canon. "Everything from the panning and installation to the servicing of projectors and training staff in the use of our products."

"Our commitment to channel partners extends beyond mere product placement," said Acer's Khan. "By constantly monitoring the purchasing trends of its customers, Acer is able to tailor its entire product development and marketing strategy to suit the needs of specific target customers, indirectly helping the channel as a result.

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