The Print Premier

Channel ME speaks to Ali Nemati, channel sales manager, HP IPG Middle East

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The Print Premier
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 16, 2011

With around a 41% market share of the hardcopy peripherals market, HP is the dominant force in the print market, shipping over 136.2 million units worldwide in Q2 of 2010 alone. The company’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), contributes around 17% of overall revenues, but HP is not content to sit on the top of the printing pile, instead looking to new technologies, and new models of print service delivery, to drive the market and boost margins. Channel ME spoke to Ali Nemati, channel sales manager, Middle East Imaging & Printing Group HP, about the recovery of the print market, how the company plans to lead its local channel into value-added print services and new opportunities from new technologies.

Channel ME: 2009 was described as a ‘disastrous year’ for the print market by Gartner, and market figures showed that it took until the third quarter of last year for the worldwide business to return to pre-recession levels. Did you see that same recovery here?

Ali Nemati: Naturally we saw the effects of the global crisis, and the effect it had on the Middle East was a delayed reaction, but it did effect us. Slowly and steadily we have gone back to the normal business activity levels, and the trends are very positive. The growth has been positive, and as long as the expectations are within limits, we will continue to have positive growth.

Channel: Is growth back to double or single digits?

Ali Nemati: We are close to double digits, it is also a question of seasonality, we go through periods where business activity in general slows down, but when you look at the fiscal year, we have been very happy with where we have been heading.

Channel: Did you see that recovery happen in a similar timeframe to that which IDC reported?

Ali Nemati: For us 2010 was a very positive year, we started seeing a lot of positive trends. There were a lot of things that contributed to that, when people started coming out of the shock of the beginning of the crisis, once that disappeared, a confidence started to build back into consumers and organizations, and with that comes business activity - with that comes new investment, usage of supplies, so we have seen that.

At the same time, IPG has been very active and very focused throughout this period with its channel and its partners. We have significantly invested in our channel team, we have the largest channel team we’ve ever had. We have totally revamped most of our programs, we have significantly increased our investments in our channel partners and programs.

We have invested in business planning, which is something new to us. We sit with our partner and discuss investments, both from HP to the partner and from the partner into its own organization, in the areas of marketing, training, looking at getting into the value business and contractual sales. From our side, we have also invested into the skills sets of our people, to ensure that these strategies are aligned.

Channel: How did partners fare throughout the recession?

Ali Nemati: When I look at the IPG channel in the last three to four years, we have our established partners, who have been very strong in terms of their processes, their financials, their organizational set up, and I think they have done very well in weathering the storm. We have some partners who have left the IT business in general, but we haven’t had any IPG partners leaving this business. At the same time as we have had strong partnerships, we have also made tremendous amount of investment onto these partners, to make sure they have the right tools to weather the difficulties.

Channel: What’s the make up of your channel team?

Ali Nemati: I have 11 people in the channel organization, overseeing partners in 10 countries, and they are all IPG focused. In the past we had the SPO (Solutions Partners Organization), which went through different phases where we had individuals managing partners, but focused on different business units, but now we have separate channel organizations within the business units. I think this specialization has really helped us, not just grow the business, but really manage the business in the best possible way, through the difficult periods, and put us on a very good path forward. You gain the confidence that you have been doing the right things, you have weathered the storm, and we feel that we are in best position to continue our market leadership.

Channel: Are you looking to more internal headcount?

Ali Nemati: As our strategy and focus moves towards the value business, managed print services and contractual selling, we were naturally going to evaluate our needs, and definitely bring on board people with the skill sets to help us grow that business. That would mean bringing in folks such as technical sales consultants to help the sales folks and the partners to capture those pages.

Channel: Do you have people in-house in the region in that role?

Ali Nemati: There are a lot of individuals that we see within the region that have that expertise, so we have taken advantage of that, because not only do they have the skill set, they have the regional expertise as well.

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