New HP chief makes expansion his first priority

HP finally ended its search for a Middle East managing director last month by appointing former Smartworld CEO, Eyad Shihabi, to the position. Channel Middle East met with him just a week after he began his new post for an exclusive chat about taking the reins of the region’s largest technology vendor.

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New HP chief makes expansion his first priority
By  Andrew Seymour Published  November 8, 2010

Channel Middle East: What you see as the strengths of HP?

Eyad Shihabi: I think what’s exciting about HP is the breadth and end-to-end portfolio that they bring to the table. They provide everything from the desktop PC all the way into data centres — so servers, storage, converged infrastructure, software and services; the entire portfolio that can handle today’s business challenges in the industry. Our focus is to expand our commitment to the region and we are really trying to focus on innovation. It is key for us to help our customers.

Channel Middle East: What do you mean when you talk about expanding HP’s commitments? Are you referring to geographical expansion?

Eyad Shihabi: For example, we are investing in certain parts [of the market] in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Jordan, we have opened a new centre of excellence to support the region and we will hire a number of employees there. We are opening and expanding our business in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, so we are really putting more focus on the countries where we want to be much closer to the customers across all the verticals, whether it is public or private enterprise business.

Channel Middle East: HP has placed considerable emphasis on partner loyalty over the last few years. What will be your philosophy for partnering now you are in charge of HP Middle East?

Eyad Shihabi: We have more than 150,000 partners around the world, so we are very committed to partners. In the Middle East, in particular, as we expand our enterprise business we will be imploring our partners to become more engaged when it comes to some of the enterprise offerings that we have, especially on the convergence and cloud computing side, where they are able to bring higher value into their customers. Our partners are our channel into the market, so we will be providing much more commitment and enablement to take this innovation into the market.

Channel Middle East: You previously headed Smartworld, which is known as a hosted service provider. How much of the experience you gained there will you be bringing to HP?

Eyad Shihabi: It aligns very well. Smartworld is an ICT service provider focused on the virtual side of the business. Its entire infrastructure — we built two data centres — is based on HP’s converged infrastructure. So from the servers into the virtualisation and software side of the business it aligns very well, and we worked very closely to expand that concept. Within the region there is a big need to come up with new innovation, so we need to be able to develop technologies that can help customers reduce their cost and enhance productivity.

Channel Middle East: Is your appointment likely to signal a change in the strategic direction of HP going forward?

Eyad Shihabi: I believe my appointment will enhance the strategy and the vision of HP. We will be pushing and focusing heavily on expanding our focus in the region and being able to bring as much innovation and support to our customer base.

Channel Middle East: You have mentioned innovation a few times. How do you define it?

Eyad Shihabi: If you look at the spectrum of HP and take the printing side, there is innovation of e-printing. Every printer has an e-mail address — so printing into the cloud. This is supported on the enterprise side, where we are focused on innovating the convergence. Today, if you look at the challenges of IT managers and CIOs, they are struggling to manage the day-to-day business and keep up with the investments that are required. Our innovation and convergence into the cloud is going to significantly help cross this gap, so they are able to perform better. Instead of focusing 70% of their time on managing the day-to-day business and 30% on innovation to help the business, we will be able to balance things out. They will be able to spend much more time on becoming innovative to create more services — more virtual services — to support their business.

Channel Middle East: What do you see as the biggest challenge for HP Middle East?

Eyad Shihabi: I think the challenge is to go in and expand as fast as we can expand. What will make it easy for me as part of this role is the HP brand and what HP brings to the table. This is something that is going to help us significantly; to go out and show the value that we can provide to our customer base.

Channel Middle East: What is your view of the health of the Middle East market?

Eyad Shihabi: The last two years were challenging. In 2009 HP did well and when it comes to 2010 we have started to see signs of improvement. We are seeing significant signs of recovery in different pockets.

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