Partner pursuit

Emerging and established vendors are searching for new partners in the Middle East as they look to exploit one of the few global markets still posting double-digit growth. For many brands though, channel expansion is a journey which is rarely as straightforward as it sounds.

Tags: Belkin International IncorporationD-Link Middle EastESETUnited Arab EmiratesWestern Digital CorporationXerox Corporation
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Partner pursuit Shahshank Sharma, Packard Bell.
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  December 12, 2010

With all but the largest enterprise sales carried out by the channel, formulating an efficient reseller network has become a pre-requisite for ensuring market survival, let alone success, in the Middle East.

Any manufacturer with aspirations of gaining access to end-users from the various countries that make up the region needs to understand the importance of devising a channel strategy that focuses on maximising local coverage and reach.

One company endeavouring to expand its presence is Czech security software specialist TrustPort. It recently opened its first office in the region and is hopeful the investment will make it easier to capitalise on the existing value added partner base it has in place.
Roman Veleba, international sales manager at TrustPort, claims a stronger local presence will allow it to react to the needs of end-users in the region more quickly. At the same time, it has to balance that requirement with the need to increase the visibility of its brand.

“At the moment we are focusing more on the retail sector because it is very important for us to enhance our brand awareness in the Middle East,” explains Veleba. “We consider it to be one of our top target markets.”

Like a number of vendors, TrustPort is eager to ensure it has partners located in multiple countries. It currently works with partners in Kuwait and the UAE, but is also in “advanced negotiations” with prospective allies in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia with a view to strengthening its presence by the first quarter of next year.

ESET is another antivirus security specialist looking to ramp up its channel coverage. It is currently assessing VARs and systems integrators to work with in segments where it believes a stronger presence is essential.

“Though we have a good channel network in place, we are looking forward to expanding our network in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where we see an increase in demand,” explains Neo Neophytou, managing director of ESET’s regional business development partner Adaox.

“Partners should have a good technical support team which can promote ESET as it is a security solution that can be deployed and managed on networks with ease. We are also looking for retail partners that can promote retail products aimed at the home segment.” ESET has a number of channel activities planned for the next two quarters, underscoring the importance of cultivating relationships that go beyond a transactional level. It intends to run channel partner sessions in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as well as launch a channel promotion programme encompassing new bundle packages aimed at boosting profitability.

As one of the fastest growing sectors in the market, other security players are inevitably looking to construct more effective partner networks in the Middle East. Network security outfit Cyberoam, for instance, now draws 15% of its global revenues from the Middle East.

It reckons there are currently more than 60 million internet users throughout the Middle East and with corporate usage also rising, the need for comprehensive security solutions is only going to increase.

“Finding the right talent to support this growth is a critical challenge for both Cyberoam and our partners,” remarks Surender Bishnoi, head of channel sales in the region, adding that the first priority of any recruitment drive it undertakes is to ensure prospective partners actually have a comprehensive background in security.

“They need to be up to date with the latest trends in threats, security know-how and skills,” he asserts. “And they need to be able to serve a huge customer base comprising large enterprises, corporates and SMEs through a strong and dedicated team of qualified and trained professionals.” Bishnoi is quick to point out, however, that partner recruitment is a two-way affair. Although vendors have to ensure they build up a profile of the type of partners they want to recruit, they equally have to make sure they provide a sufficient mixture of technical expertise, support and training.
Channel expansion remains an exercise that vendors can carry out in stages. Packard Bell — which is now owned by Acer — made it a priority to tie up directly with large power retailers including Jarir, Extra, Obeikan, CompuMe Egypt and Alghanim when initially launching the brand in the Middle East.

Now the company is starting to develop a more structured distribution network as it looks to expand its reach into the independent retailer and dealer channels. It recently signed Trigon in the UAE, ICC in Saudi Arabia, Better Business in Egypt and Distinet in Lebanon. For some of these distributors, Packard Bell represents the maiden PC brand in their portfolios, which is a deliberate strategy on the vendor’s part. “The key thing for us is to look for distributors that are focused on a few brands because unless the distributor is able to provide the right kind of bandwidth and support to the dealer, the brand engagement is not as effective,”says Shashank Sharma, regional sales director at Packard Bell.

Over in the network infrastructure space, Extreme Networks plans to increase its footprint in the MEA theatre by adding to the expertise of its existing two-tier channel, according to regional director Aziz Ala’ali.

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