Earning its stripes
Asbis’ ability to see market transitions and constantly reinvent itself have kept it thriving and made it a better channel partner in the regional IT distribution segment.
Hesham Tantawi is fired up. The Asbis Middle East FZCO vice president has just walked into his office at the company’s regional hub in Dubai Jebel Ali Free Zone after speaking to his regional management team and he is talking about a new, more competitive Asbis. It is an Asbis more in line with Tantawi’s hard-checking, hyper-competitive style. It is an Asbis playing offense, willing to do what it takes to win as it moves to become a dominant player in the value and solutions distribution space.
As his usual self, Tantawi is quick to do some probing of his own, asking a long time channel industry journalist about the market conditions and business climate in the Middle East. As he sits down, he quickly signals to commence with the interview.
As one of the undisputed leaders in components distribution, Asbis has over the last few years been steadily transitioning from a pure hardware distribution play to embracing value and solutions-selling.
The company has not just embraced value and solutions distribution in name, but it has been able to reinvent itself by dropping hardware brands (including its desktop PC and notebook business) where it can’t add or bring value to the product line.
“Last year was key for Asbis as the company managed to successfully develop its mobility business for its in-house Prestigio offerings, which is one of the major private label brands of mobile devices in the Middle East,” said Tantawi.
He added that in 2014, the smartphone business did extremely well in sales, growth and profitability and this came on the back of the many years of hard work that the company has put in since launching its tablets business.
Today, Tantawi said the tablets market and business in the region has stabilised and Prestigio has been successful in this sector because it was early to get involved in this segment when no local or regional distributors were willing to invest in this business. “We were able to develop the business from scratch by bringing to market quality products that are backed by outstanding post-sales support,” he said. “Today, we have 17 different tablet brands available in 70 countries across the globe.”
Tantawi said this year, Asbis is aiming to grow its smartphones business not only in terms of market share, but also stabilising the business and strengthening market presence. He added that the regional market has seen stability return to the tablets business, while smartphones have continued to surge. “Internally, we have stabilised our tablets and smartphone business and our next step in the evolution of the mobile business is to strengthen our routes to market,” he said.
That according to Tantawi, has meant that Asbis has had to change some structures internally and establish a dedicated team to manage Prestigio. “Going forward, Prestigio will be taken to market as a brand on its own not as part of Asbis,” he explained. “We have done this to ensure that we have a team within the group that will manage distributors, the dealer channel, retailers and the mid-tier channel partners.”
While sales in desktop PCs and notebooks have stagnated for the past eight consecutive quarters globally and in the Middle East, Tantawi sees the components business as changing the character of the company. It is Asbis’ components business that has been with the group from inception. “Asbis has been gaining market share year over year at the expense of rivals. We are currently the number one distributor of components in the region and we want to maintain this position,” he said.
Tantawi explained that although there is consolidation in the components sector, the CPU and VGA business still remains solid while the hard disk drive (HDD) business continues to grow. “We are driving our components business to new areas such as storage with high value products. We now provide our components channels with storage boxes especially partners playing in the high-end segment,” he said.
Tantawi’s belief that the company needs to add value at every stage of the supply chain has led Asbis to focus more on the solutions and value offerings. “We believe it’s time for distributors across the region to add value to the supply chain, to offerings, technology and bring back the components segment on a steady footing,” he said.
Aside from the mobility and components thrust, Asbis has been developing its value solutions stack both from a product, technology and solutions offerings perspective.
He said on the solutions side, Asbis has introduced in the market and channel Prestigio solutions, multiboards, white big screens and digital signage offerings, where the company has seen rapid growth and acceptance of these solutions especially in government, enterprise, public and education sector. “Currently, we are now in the top three in the region in the multiboard space with our Prestigio Whiteboard array,” he said.
Apart from this, he explained that Asbis is growing its networking business internally and currently TP-LINK and Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT), a provider of a variety of high-end wireless networking products. “Having both TP-LINK and UBNT in our stable means that we have the SOHO and SMB array, and high-end wireless networking range respectively,” he said.