Verdict on vendors
Vendors are fond of talking up the level of support and assistance they provide to the Middle East channel. But how much of what they say is exaggerated and how much is true? Who better to ask than the partners themselves...
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Channel Middle East spoke to the following resellers about their expectation of vendors:
• Nayagam Pillai, CEO at Seven Seas, a Dubai-based systems integrator focusing on enterprise infrastructure, storage, security and software.
• Gigi George, business unit head at Alpha Data, an Abu Dhabi-based enterprise VAR specialising in infrastructure, business software and services.
• Anil Gupta, managing director at StoreTech, a UAE-based reseller specialising in storage, back-up and recovery solutions.
• Albert Raj, director at Fujisoft, a Dubai-based VAR with a background in providing networking, telecoms and turnkey office solutions.
• Khaldoun Borini, general manager at Integrated Standard Solutions (ISS), a Jordan-based HP and Microsoft reseller that also sells accessories, memory and its own-brand HR software.
• Abdulrahman Al-Kayali, executive director at Fourth Dimension, a KSA Intel integrator that also focuses on Cisco, Dell and HP solutions.
• Tarun Nandi, owner and manager of Bluebell Computers, an HP, Canon and Samsung reseller specialising in hardware and printing products.
Who do you receive the most overall support from: vendors or distributors? And which one is more important to your business and why?
Gigi George: As one of the key UAE system integrators specialising in enterprise level solutions, we work with both vendors and distributors. Depending on the solution, we work with either the distributor or the vendor to ensure that our clients get the best value in terms of technology, price, support and ongoing SLA. When it comes to software solutions, it is often a better option to work directly with the vendor. However, with hardware, more often than not, it is easier to work with the regional distributors since they have facilities like faster RMA and related logistical and technical support at a local level.
Khaldoun Borini: Vendors are the most important for our business in terms of training, marketing and technical support. Distributors are the most important in terms of financing and logistics.
Nayagam Pillai: If you look at the overall support which we are receiving from vendors and distributors then vendors are definitely not as forthcoming. There is pressure on distributors from vendors to meet certain deadlines, so they provide a greater degree of flexibility and support on certain terms and conditions. As a buyer, I am comfortable dealing with distributors as long as I have a very clear-cut understanding that they are purely into the indirect business and there is a transparency and clarity on that front. Distributors are more localised and know the challenges. Although vendors say they know everything, they only do what I call superficial adjustments. At the end of the day, policies and procedures are dictated from some head office in Europe or the US.
Anil Gupta: Vendors are logically expected to provide the much-desired and mandatory product training and solutions implementation. But few try to fulfill these obligations and when they do they line up one after another for a specific period of time and then sleep for many months with virtually no contact. Many distributors have started their own direct product-selling sister companies, which sit next door to their channel sales teams. Their direct-selling colleagues conveniently get all the hard-earned customer contact details from the channel and then they up-sell or sell additional products directly, enjoying the special prices for products that distributors sell in the channel. Considering all this, the vendor is a better alternative.
Abdulrahman Al-Kayali: Most of the support comes from vendors. However, this can bring about problems if a vendor breaks their promises, as there is nothing you can do. The support does vary from vendor to vendor, and depends on the kind of programmes they offer to resellers. Distributors, on the other hand, are more like box movers.
Albert Raj: We receive the most overall support from vendors. Distributors are not bothered about support at all. They are just moving boxes. If we don’t receive support then we will lose our customers.
Tarun Nandi: The most overall support comes from the distributors, so they are the most important to our business. The best distributors are the ones that can provide product availability and give us good pricing information for the current period and the future, as well as provide information about the events they are planning or what they are negotiating with the vendors. The commitment and loyalty from a strong distributor is very important. That is one of the reasons why the market misses Tech Data — because of the support it provided. Today it concerns us if the vendors are not supporting the distributors. Some of the distributors in the market have supported us to grow, so if something happens to them then it will be a loss to us.
Which vendor that you partner with on a regular basis is the best to deal with and why?
Albert Raj: Cisco. Everything is systematic with them. The support process, rebate structure and pricing structure is all in place with the right focus.
Khaldoun Borini: HP, because of their unique marketing support and their engagement with the end-users. Training is also a plus when working with them.
Abdulrahman Al-Kayali: Intel, as it offers clear programmes which help resellers to improve their business. I’m not saying Intel is perfect, but it is the best.
Tarun Nandi: For me, it is HP. We have been doing business with HP for so many years and we are a Preferred Partner. It is the combination of their massive product range and their coverage and promotions. They are the best in promotions and rebate structures.
Nayagam Pillai: It is a very difficult question to answer when you deal with 25 to 28 brands. We see that everybody is more or less on the same page, but over the last six or seven months from a channel perspective Microsoft has definitely been trying to accommodate the local challenges and work on being transparent and channel friendly. On the compute side of the business I would rate IBM better than HP because HP has stripped down its whole SPO structure. They don’t have a channel face now, so if I want to interact with each business unit I need to talk to a different person. The other thing we are seeing is that HP is going after certain accounts that they want under their portfolio directly and they are also eating into the service business of the systems integrators. IBM is more channel-friendly, it is very focused, there is a lot of price protection, and it wants the channel to take the lead. However, its challenges are different because I think it has still not broken loose on the GBM side. To a large extent it is still GBM-oriented.