Cisco channel braced for Comstor arrival

You're a billion dollar vendor in need of a new distribution partner in the Middle East. So who do you appoint? How about a company with no visibility or even an office in the region? That's what Cisco has done by signing Comstor.

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By  Administrator Published  January 1, 2007

The Cisco distribution channel is in line for a shake-up this year following news that Datatec subsidiary Westcon Group is to open a division of its dedicated Cisco business, Comstor, in the Middle East.

Just as significantly, the tie-up marks the return of South Africa listed Datatec's distribution relationship with Cisco in the region after a lull stretching more than two and a half years.

Back in 2004 Cisco cancelled a distribution contract with Datatec - then selling Cisco through daughter company OnLine Distribution - following an investigation into the implementation and management of Cisco rebate schemes in the region, which focused on multiple Cisco distributors and staff within the vendor itself.

Datatec CEO, Jens Montanana, claims the launch of Comstor in the Middle East is part of a wider growth strategy concentrated around fast-growing markets. "This is the first of many planned steps towards achieving our objective of increasing our exposure to emerging markets by working closely with key vendors," he said.

The new operation is also set to provide the stage for former Tech Data Middle East chief Steve Lockie to make his regional comeback. He will lead Comstor's charge when he officially takes over as head of Westcon Group's Middle East operations in April.

Comstor claims it will support the reseller channel by providing product availability, technical tools and financial services in addition to rolling out its Cisco centric OneDefense and OneVoice channel schemes in the region.

Those initiatives could also pave the way for Comstor to carry other brands in the region as they command the involvement of complementary vendors to Cisco. "We are talking to these vendors in order to see if we can easily adapt this region to our contract," admitted Thomas Schoon, VP marketing Europe at Westcon Group, who has been working closely with members of the Cisco team to formulate a Middle East launch plan that will be rolled out this month.

The sales, marketing and logistics activities of Comstor are set to be heavily supported by sister company Westcon Group, while Willem de Haan, VP at Westcon Europe, is understood to be playing a major role in getting the subsidiary up and running.

Comstor is now set to take its place alongside other large Cisco distributors in the Middle East, including Tech Data and Logicom, the latter of which came on board when Cisco parted with OnLine and Mindware in 2004.

One source reckons Comstor's arrival does not necessarily spell bad news for other players in the market because Cisco's business is expanding so rapidly. "There is a lot of big infrastructure projects coming up in this region and Cisco requires extra bandwidth to support these," he said.

Nicholas Argyrides, general manager at Logicom Dubai, is confident the company's position won't be affected by the arrival of another distributor in the market. "We have been doing great with Cisco; we are happy and they are happy," he said. "If Cisco thinks it needs an additional distributor then that is up to them. We will keep doing the hard work and focusing on the business."

Hanspeter Eiselt, managing director at Tech Middle East, is equally bullish. "We will be watching [Comstor's entrance] very closely," he declared. "We have been investing an awful lot in customer intimacy and relationship building and we will aggressively continue with that."

However, Comstor believes its business model will prove a hit with resellers. "Normally, distributors offer availability, pricing, logistics and financing - which of course we also do - but our speciality is to use the tools within our [channel] programmes to support resellers in their business approach to the end customer," explained Schoon. "That doesn't mean we deal with the end users, but we help them get a little more organised and structured."

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