Tech kings

We count down the top executives who are at the helm of the region’s foremost networking and security vendors.

Tags: Blue Coat Systems IncorporatedLeviton Middle EastManaged servicesMeru NetworksNetgear IncorporationRiverbed Technology IncorporatedUSA
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Tech kings Roger-ElTawil Managing Director for the Gulf and Pakistan, Avaya.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 21, 2010

We count down the top executives who are at the helm of the region’s foremost networking and security vendors.

There’s little question that the Middle East represents one of the biggest opportunities for infrastructure vendors in the world.

Unlike vast swathes of Europe and the United States which have been well served for decades now, this part of the world is still largely a Greenfield location, with opportunities to be found on every street corner. But by that token, it’s also an extremely challenging market in which to operate.

Here perhaps more than anywhere else on the planet, relationships are pivotal to achieving market success. It’s not hard to find storerooms in enterprises across the Gulf which serve as a virtual graveyard of discarded network components with the names of the vendors that sold them long forgotten. They failed because they failed to innovate, failed to address the needs of companies that are evolving faster than any nearby, and have sky-high goals that they aim to achieve in half the time it would normally take.

It takes a special kind of vendor to thrive in this kind of pressure-cooker market – and it takes a very special kind of person to run those vendors. We’ve decided to honour those talented individuals with this list, which runs down 15 of the top networking infrastructure vendor execs, and the top five security chiefs as well.

Most of the names on this list are well-known to regular readers of Network Middle East. Others will be hopefully be unfamiliar – while the vendors themselves are all no surprise to anyone’s who’s ever walked through a datacentre companies, many of these executives you will be reading about prefer to stay out of the spotlight. That’s a state of affairs that we thought necessary to change.

For this list, out of the hundreds of talented people who work in the Middle East vendor community we have chosen to highlight specifically the heads of these organisations. Intentionally, we’ve limited it to those who live and operate principally in the Gulf region, although not necessarily in the UAE. While all these firms are part of larger EMEA organisations, those regional bosses rarely visit their region – and we’re looking to highlight the efforts of those who are in the trenches every day.

Above all, we’ve selected individuals who we think have made the strongest difference to the bottom line of their organisations – and that’s not just purely in fiscal terms. Out here, a good vendor head has to wear many hats – from a general marshalling his sales and support teams, to the understanding and patient advisor who spends hours with CIOs to discern their exact needs and tailor solutions to match.

Many will read this list and be perhaps disappointed that their names aren’t to be found. That will be not entirely surprising; lists of this nature are by nature polarising affairs and some will inevitably feel left out. If you have a comment, criticism, or just want to praise our worthy nominees please write us to – we’d love to hear from you.

15. Zakir Lokare, Regional sales director, Meru Networks

Like many of the contenders on our list this year, US0-based wireless infrastructure specialist Meru Networks likes to go against the grain. Unlike many of its rivals which work of offices in the trendy Dubai Internet City, Meru’s based itself in Dubai Airport Free Zone, right in the heart of the city. Unconventional, but it’s a strategy that’s paid off in spades for local boss Zakir Lokare.

His tenure has seen the firm bag the 2010 award for Best Wireless Solutions Range at our very own Network Middle East Innovation Awards in June. It’s no surprise, considering Lokare’s long-held belief in sticking to basic principles and building a strong base of partners to work with. Next year, we expect Meru to ascend even higher.

14. Ahmed Zeidan, Regional sales manager, Netgear

Ahmed Zeidan’s got Saudi Arabia on his mind. The chief for SMB and SME networking outfit has set his sights on the Kingdom, declaring it a key part of Netgear’s expansion strategy. In his view, the country’s got a potent mix of a youthful population, strong demand for online services and mobile data, and price conscious customers – something that plays well with his value proposition.

Netgear’s already got an enviable presence in the consumer and SOHO space where it does battle with Linksys and D-Link but of late it’s moved to target the SMB sector with a product range that speaks directly to the concerns at the heart of the market, including power consumption and simple management. With new product on the way including revamped network storage kit, the established leaders would do well to keep an watchful eye on Zeidan’s outfit – it might well be the next mouse that roared.

13. Marcus Chambers, Vice president of sales EMEA, Riverbed

It’s all systems go at Riverbed this year, as the firm has redoubled its efforts to rule the WAN optimisation market. The firm’s laser-like focus on its market niche has seen a strong response from customers over the past year, as enterprises look to slash their massive telecoms bills and reclaim their networks back from their bandwidth hungry applications.

The major themes this year have been the three Ps – people, product and partnerships. Under the watchful eyes of Marcus Chambers, Riverbed has claimed Symantec’s channel manager and engaged in successful partnerships with McAfee, while adding Aptec to its distribution partners alongside FVC and Naizak. It’s also been ahead of the technology curve, releasing new versions of its acclaimed Steelhead range designed specifically for cloud-based infrastructures.

12. Nidal Taha, Managing director, EMEA, Blue Coat

Blue Coat’s regional outfit is one of the smaller players in network security and management but don’t be fooled – it packs a mighty punch under the hood. Part of the reason why it’s been able to box above its weight class has been the presence of customers like Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, which has been using its filtering devices for close to a decade.

This year has also seen Blue Coat extend its successful alliance with IBM – the two currently work together to offer a managed security service to customers. It’s also taken the wraps off some cloud services of its own, including reporting and analytics services that enable partners to assist customers with understanding their traffic better.

11. Ramzi Nassif, Managing director – Middle East, Africa and India, Leviton

Leviton’s been in the region for just over three years, but it’s already established itself as one of the key vendors to watch in the cabling space. Key to this growth has been an emphasis on investment – late last year it opened an office in Saudi Arabia, at a cost of a not-inconsiderable $2 million.

As chief Ramzi Nassif explained at the time, it was simply time to have a presence apart from the distributor model – and as every successful vendor knows, having boots on the ground is the key to cracking a tough market. But he’s equally aware of the need for corporate responsibility; Leviton has pushed hard to make its products more environmentally friendly which is crucial when one considers that cable installations can often involve miles and miles of wiring.

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