Banking on Mobility
Almasa IT Distribution is building a robust mobility and services channel. The distributor recently formed strategic alliances with Technocare and Arab Business Machines (ABM) Ltd, a move that gives the group rights to the full range of Apple products.
When Channel Middle East sat down recently with Madhi Amjad, executive chairman, Almasa Group the interview came with a strange twist, which was revealed partway through the conversation. It seems the chairman of one of the longest serving IT distribution groups in the Middle East region viewed this not only as an interview, but as an opportunity with a long time channel industry journalist to do some probing of his own. Amjad is not the only top industry executive to employ such a tactic. Asbis Middle East’s Hesham Tantawi utilises the same technique of turning the interviewer into the interviewee.
That inquisitiveness aside, Amjad has never shied away from competitive market threats. But as technology and market shifts present the regional channel industry with fresh challenges, Amjad is no stranger to change. In fact, Amjad is quick to point out that navigating market transitions and emerging from them not just unscathed, but stronger has been key to Almasa’s success in the Middle East channel.
Since its founding in 1995, Almasa has grown from a small IT hardware distributor to a regional distribution powerhouse representing several vendors and sales of $370m in 2013.
“The biggest move for Almasa, which is going to set the tone for some years to come is the company’s entry into the mobile solutions distribution and taking this to the next level. We have been building our IT business and established our mobile business unit a while ago. Through two new strategic partnerships, we have taken our mobile distribution to the next level,” he said.
Amjad added that the company expects in the next year or so for Almasa Mobile Distribution to start contributing about 50% of the group’s total revenues and will also contribute over 50% of turnover growth this year.
He pointed out that the first strategic partnership is an alliance with ABM, which effectively through this partnership, Almasa as a group is now able to distribute the full range of Apple products in Iraq, KSA and Egypt, as an authorised reseller.
“We always believe as Almasa IT Distribution group in having the right fundamentals for the business in key core markets that have helped the company to provide a sustainable profitable business,” he said. “Over the past four years, we have been able to bring onboard new product lines and during that time, we have also consolidated through the challenging times of the market.”
Amjad said the company is delighted with the Apple association through ABM. “I believe Apple’s products are phenomenal and bring a completely different level of winning with our channel business. We are dedicated to making this partnership a success and effectively bring different levels of offerings to the customer bases, which I believe will see us collaborate closely with the channel,” he enthused. “We are looking forward to bringing a lot of value to the customer base by making these products available to them locally, closer to them at the right terms and right after-sales service that they expect.”
He reiterated that Apple has always been a desirable product for the channel to put their hands on and in some markets it has been more challenging for resellers to be able to do that. “We hope with this partnership with ABM, we will bring that step closer to them and be able to provide the local reach to partners and their customers,” he said.
Amjad explained that the countries Almasa will be serving are in line with Apple’s direction in terms of focus in the Middle East. “Apple has opened the distribution rights particularly on the iPhone range in five key countries namely Iraq, KSA, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Oman. Hence our focus with ABM has been on these key markets and of course we still remain active in Oman and Jordan,” he said.
He pointed out that the company has access to the full range of Apple products through this partnership with ABM. “Basically the mobile business (tablets, iPod and iPhone) will go under the Almasa Mobile Distribution banner and the CPU business as they call it, which is iMac and MacBook offerings will fall under the Almasa IT Distribution in the PC and Notebook Unit. Of course Apple to us is a dedicated business and we have a devoted team,” he said.
The second partnership, according to Amjad is with Technocare, which is one the largest independent service providers in the region for mobile devices. He added that the deal with Technocare gives Almasa Mobile Distribution the technological edge and know-how to understand and expand its after-sales services. In addition, Amjad said this will give the company the technical capability to support its distribution strategy in the mobile arena.
“In distribution, it is very important to focus on the fundamentals like cost of operations, customer satisfaction and value proposition to the vendors and channel partners. As long as you have added value you have a sustainable business model and that’s what we focused on regardless of whether it is revenue, vendors or our channel partners,” he explained.
That focus, the company said, has paid huge dividends especially as PC hardware sales have stagnated with regional customers embrace new trends in the mobile sector.
“The focus has made us to be much stronger with our existing partners and in the region as an example, Almasa is the largest ASUS partner in the Middle East with the largest growth while providing a successful partnership for our channel partners,” he said. “The position we are in now in terms of providing more value gives Almasa the perfect setting to focus on partners and the brands that we represent.
“To this end, I want to point out that Almasa had one of the best profitable years in 2013, and this reflects and can be attributed to the strategy that we have been implementing in the last four years.”