Courting Saudi Arabia

The Middle East’s largest IT market continues to attract the interest of global IT multinationals.

Tags: Alcatel-LucentEpicorFVC - First Video Communications IncorporationInternational Data CorporationKaspersky LabSaudi Arabia
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Courting Saudi Arabia
By  Piers Ford Published  November 21, 2013

The Middle East’s largest IT market continues to attract the interest of global IT multinationals. Piers Ford investigates factors that channel stakeholders need to be aware of to build successful channel businesses in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains the engine room of the ICT market in the Middle East, with government and corporate projects driving demand for the latest technology.  The range of green-field developments and implementations is helping to create a hot bed of innovation, with a young, technology-savvy population constantly raising expectations of a state-of-the-art user experience and access to a limitless spectrum of ICT services.

Now, there is every sign that this dynamic growth is set to filter down to the SME sector, creating opportunities for regional channel partners to join the IT multinationals and systems integrators who have already established a strong foothold and identity in the KSA.

Analyst IDC, which has just hosted the annual Saudi Arabia CIO summit in Jeddah, rates the Kingdom as the biggest UCT spender in a Middle Easter market worth more than $32 billion. Government investments in telecoms and e-government infrastructure alone will be worth $10 billion this year.

“The overall maturity of the Saudi market is increasing due to demanding, uncompromising, and more aware customers that understand the importance of IT in driving overall business growth and stability,” said Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice president and managing director of IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.

“As a result, the pressure on ICT providers to deliver is increasing like never before. To this end, the Saudi Arabian ICT market is now at a key juncture in its evolution, with an increasing number of business leaders looking towards IT to enable business transformation and continued growth.”

According to Anish Kanaran, channel director for ERP and retail software specialist Epicor, there are three key influences on the market: financial, administrative and cultural.

“IT adaptation automates and streamlines business processes, increases efficiency and contributes to the bottom line,” he said. “Culture is also a major influence. A very recent example is the adaptation of BYOD and mobile applications culture in the local businesses, which means that IT resellers and distributors now have to focus on providing mobility solutions and services.”

The downside is that widespread cultural acceptance of the benefits of ICT, which is being driven down from the highest level in the Kingdom, inevitably brings with it the challenges and threats posed by cybercrime. But here, too, is a great opportunity for the channel to develop a range of responsive services.

“A major portion of IT investments is dominated by the government’s own investments in the creation of shared infrastructure and e-government vision,” said Khalid Abu Baker, managing director at Kaspersky Lab Middle East.

“IT adoption is further fuelled by heavy internet and mobile penetration across the Kingdom as telecom operators continue to create world-class infrastructure to offer greater connectivity.

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