Hidden value

While it may be true that value added distribution is where the real margins are, it’s also often the case that those margins don’t come along particularly easily. For Middle East VADs, the business that they are in requires an enormous level of investment and expertise.

Tags: ComguardComputerlinks Middle EastFVC - First Video Communications IncorporationRedington GulfWestcon Middle East
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Hidden value Ramkumar Balakrishnan, Redington Gulf.
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 22, 2010

We spoke to the following market players: Chris Cornelius, senior vice-president sales and support at Tech Access; Mohammad Mobasseri, senior VP at Comguard; Alexandra Pisetskaya, director of marketing MEA and APAC at Computerlinks; Renton D’Souza, Comstor business lead for Westcon’s MEA and India Cisco business; Ramkumar Balakrishnan, general manager of Redington Gulf’s value division; and Dharmendra Parmar, general manager of marketing at FVC.

Channel: What sort of investments are you making to develop the value added skills that your company offers? And can you quantify these?

Chris Cornelius: Tech Access has invested in dedicated vendor teams managing pre-sales, sales and support. These teams attend regular training on their vendors’ products, achieve certification and thereby keep up to date with the products and services. They then pass on the skills by training and assisting partners.

Ramkumar Balakrishnan: We are investing to ensure our team is certified with the highest level of certification on each vendor brand we carry. We have also invested in demo equipment for our teams to get hands-on-experience with some products. There is considerable investment being made on giving the channel the skills to sell some of the solutions we carry. To date we have trained around 500 channel executives across the Middle East and Africa region.

Alexandra Pisetskaya: We invest in all of our technical staff to be certified to the highest level by having them attend all of the vendor certification programmes, as well as sending them to Europe for training and vendor events. We invest heavily in our demo equipment for all our products and have virtualised servers for our training sessions. We are currently in the process of upgrading our internal and CRM systems to have more integrated ordering and management systems for partners. Recognising the importance of marketing for a true VAD, we invest in recruiting top marketing professionals and their ongoing training in marketing, management and IT.

Renton D’Souza: The skills developments are two-fold — soft skills and hard skills. And both are given equal importance and aimed at ensuring our customers (resellers and vendors) have the same professional experience when dealing with us. The HR department has an annual budget allocation for skills enhancement of employees of between 0.75% and 1% of our gross profits.

Channel: What expectations do your vendor partners have of you as a VAD?

Mohammad Mobasseri: We work with globally-reputed vendor partners and they have determined the skill set of our professional and sales staff. Vendors expect us to allocate a minimum of two certified technical professionals for POC and product support, and a minimum of two sales staff. As we provide exclusive services, such as training centres for different products and vendors, we allocate at least two certified technical trainers to conduct training for resellers and customers. Our product managers ensure that all available resources are harnessed within the channel and the desired results are achieved by our resellers and representatives in our emerging markets.

Dharmendra Parmar: As the authorised VAD for our vendors, one of our key roles is to work as an extension of the vendor in the region. This means that for most enterprise customers we are the second point of call in terms of support after our channel partner. To ensure that the customer receives the best level of support at a regional level, FVC invests in continuous training and certification for dedicated engineers, as well making sure that key support staff within our partners’ organisations also undergo the requisite training and certification.

Ramkumar Balakrishnan: The primary expectation is to have certified and highly skilled staff. The people who sell the products have to be trained in order to articulate the value proposition of the brands we carry. Vendors also expect us to have adequate coverage in-country in the markets where we have skilled people on the ground. We have also invested in POC centres in KSA and the UAE, and set-up an engine to conduct in-country training, both onsite and offsite.

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