iPoint sharpens focus on Bahrain channel business

It feels like regional distributors have taken over the Middle East market during recent years, but if you search hard enough you’ll soon discover a hearty throng of in-country specialists successfully plying their trade. In Bahrain, local distributor iPoint is one company with aspirations to keep some of its larger regional rivals at bay, as Varughese Mathew, the distributor’s retail manager, explains.

Tags: BahrainBenQ CorporationEpson UKFujitsu Technology Solutions - UAEGoodram Middle EastXerox Corporation
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iPoint sharpens focus on Bahrain channel business
By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 13, 2010

CME: Tell us  about iPoint. What are the main brands that you carry in the market and how large is the company?

Varughese Mathew: We represent a large number of brands including Xerox, Epson, Fujitsu, Goodram, BenQ, Promate, Genius, TDK and Netgear. We are a pure distribution company, so we distribute those brands to retailers, resellers and other channel partners. As well as retail, we sell into the SMB channel, so a lot of the Bahrain market for those products goes through us. We currently have 24 staff spread throughout the departments.

CME: Have you been working to expand the portfolio?

Varughese Mathew: Yes, that is one of the main thing that we look to do. We have added Promate to our portfolio and we feel that they have some products that are unique in the market. Last year we added Goodram as well. That was also a unique product and it has been a success. Our aim is to give our customers — and ultimately their customers — access to unique products that they want to buy.

CME: Is there a danger that by growing the portfolio you could lose focus on existing brands?

Varughese Mathew: We don’t think that our concentration will be affected because we will ensure that none of the brands clash. We are very careful about that. For example, both Promate and Genius offer gaming devices so we have already told them that we don’t want to create a clash.

CME: Do you have direct buying contracts with the vendors that you work with, or do you simply source the product from regional distributors based in the UAE?

Varughese Mathew: We are a true in-country distributor so we buy Xerox from Xerox, Epson from Epson, Fujitsu scanners from Fujitsu, and so on. We have actually added the entire range of Fujitsu laptops and servers to our product portfolio.

CME: Where does this leave iPoint in terms of market position? Would you describe yourself as one of the largest IT distributors in Bahrain?

Varughese Mathew: If you look at a brand like Xerox we have been there for 25 years, serving as the sole distributor, and we have been with Epson for 10 years. I would like to call us the biggest distributor in Bahrain — we are the only one who is carrying this many brands in-country.

CME: Where does most of your business come from?

Varughese Mathew: We have three departments — retail distribution, channel distribution and projects. The projects are for things like servers and solutions. Retail and channel are currently the fastest growing parts of the business though.

CME: What’s your assessment of the Bahrain retail channel? Are you seeing more competitors enter the market, or is the opposite true?

Varughese Mathew: If you look at the Bahrain market over the last five years then only one retailer has gone away: Plug-Ins. But in the last two years we have seen Lulu come up with a hypermarket store, and they are going to launch another, Sharaf DG is planning one more big store and Emax has also come up with a store for home electronics. Five years ago there was only one hypermarket, but now this channel has grown to four or five outlets, and there are now at least four big power retailers here.

CME: How strongly has the Bahrain market recovered from the financial crisis that spread to the region?

Varughese Mathew: The crisis that happened in Dubai or the UAE didn’t affect the market that much. Bahrain is still a developing market. More things can happen if a market is developed.

CME: Channel customers have numerous sources from which to procure products. Why should they buy in-country when they can probably get the same product from a regional distributor in the UAE?

Varughese Mathew: Our strength as an in-country distributor is one of the key factors of our success. Our partners are looking for the warranty and they are looking for the service. If the product is not moving then we won’t push our retailers to take it. We are there to take it from them. There is a relationship there and the parent vendors also support us. A customer might be able to get a product from another distributor, but if somebody approaches our vendors then they will say that iPoint is their distributor in Bahrain. Our relationships with the vendors — and with the channel customers — remain strong.

CME: What are your main objectives for the rest of the year?

Varughese Mathew: We want to make our relationships with vendors and customers even stronger, and if any of our partners launch innovative products then we want to introduce those to the Bahrain market.

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