Westcon aims to fortify MEA presence

Channel Middle East spoke exclusively to Dean Douglas, president and CEO, Westcon Group about the company’s recent acquisitions and how it’s cementing its MEA presence.

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Westcon aims to fortify MEA presence Dean Douglas, President & CEO, Westcon Group
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By  Manda Banda Published  September 23, 2013

Channel Middle East spoke exclusively to Dean Douglas, president and CEO, Westcon Group about the company’s recent acquisitions and how it’s cementing its MEA presence.

Having recently acquired Comztek, a specialist networking solutions distributor based in South Africa and Afina Group in North Africa, Westcon Group is on a mission. The distributor, which already has presence in all six continents across the globe, has continued to invest in emerging markets.

Westcon Group’s CEO Dean Douglas, said over the last several years, the company embarked on a strategy that focused on broadening its geographical reach, while maintaining consistence in the line card. “In the five years that I have been with Westcon, we have moved from 20 countries and revenues that were 70% generated in North America and accounting for 80% of our profits, to a global operation that is present today in over 70 countries,” he said.

Douglas said Westcon is a distributor present in all six continents across the globe and about two-thirds of its revenues and profits come from outside North America.

With Westcon growing its clout in the MEA region, where the distributor says it’s witnessing significant business growth, it comes as no surprise that its latest acquisitions have seen in buy companies in North and South Africa. “The acquisition of Comztek gives us a larger presence not just in South Africa, but also in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

He added that the Afina deal expands Westcon’s presence in Latin American, Iberia and North Africa’s Maghreb region. “We see the business in the MEA region to be larger than the GDP that the area represents and it’s a geography that has significant opportunity for growth not just for us but the vendors we represent and the reseller partners we serve,” he said. “I came here to talk with the rest of the emerging markets team about the opportunities that we have across the region. When we look at our break out, it’s about a third of our business from North America, a third in Europe and another third coming from emerging markets of which the Middle East and Africa is a larger part of that.”

Apart from courting coverage and exploiting business opportunities in the MEA region, Westcon has been honing its value-add business model across the various theatres around the globe.

“Before I joined Westcon, I spent a decade managing businesses that were service focused specifically – financial services. If you think of the financial services business, it’s not a manufacturer or software developer, but it’s a business that really sells the people that work for it and the intellectual capital,” he said.

Douglas explained that it’s the people skills, capabilities and methodologies that a company puts forward as a business that differentiates it from its competitors. “For Westcon and any value-add distributor, it’s the same thing. It’s about the people as we don’t manufacture products, we don’t red code but may integrate products in the final assembly,” he said.

He pointed out that it’s the people that establish relationships with customers or the vendors thereby creating the differentiation that is need in the market. “Because we have been around the EMEA region for so long, we have a very capable management team backed by a capable workforce,” he added.

Douglas said the key piece to Westcon’s success in the market can be attributed to having the right methodology and business model, and how it approaches the different markets. “We have some very solid people and I know this comes across as CEO-speak but in the business we are in, it is the differentiator. It is how we differentiate ourselves from our rivals that we have been able to fortify our presence across the globe,” he said.

With its global expansion drive now complete, Douglas said at this juncture the company has no immediate or further expansion plans. “There maybe a few countries that we need to get into, but I think we have done a good job of getting into the places where we want to be present in,” he said.

Douglas said the global expansion drive stemmed from a vendor need to be served by a distributor that had global reach. “The vendors we have were looking for a player that could represent them in a consistent way across all markets. The more difficult the market, the more important we became,” he said. “So we thought it would be important for us to have a global reach in order to represent our vendors in a consistent fashion, putting together channel enabling programmes, support and training schemes.”

Douglas said for the reseller base and from a service provider, and systems integrator perspective, they are doing cross border transactions and so, they are also looking for consistence. “In many cases they are looking for a partner that’s reliable, is large, covers the entire region and can provide channel enabling initiatives and marketing programmes tailored for a specific region or market,” he remarked.

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