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Juniper backs marriage of Middle East partners

Juniper has given its blessing to the recent marriage between regional distribution partner ComGuard and Dubai-based training services specialist Spectrum. The networking vendor is adamant the merger will help it gain a stronger foothold in the SMB market.

Networking vendor Juniper has given its blessing to the recent marriage between regional distribution partner ComGuard and Dubai-based training services specialist Spectrum.

The company believes the merger — which gives Spectrum authorised Juniper distribution rights to sit alongside its comprehensive Juniper training course offering — will help it gain a stronger foothold in the SMB market.

Spectrum boss Ajay Chauhan has confirmed that ComGuard will operate as an autonomous unit, but he plans to enhance the business by embracing a stronger online model and setting up SMB-focused call centre capabilities.

Mohamad Abdul-Malak, regional director at Juniper’s 70-strong MEA arm, told Channel Middle East that the vendor backs Spectrum’s strategy to increase engagement with the small business market.

He explained: “We believe Juniper has enough technology to supply solutions to the SMB market. However, because of the tradition of our partners — who mainly focus on large accounts or service providers — we need some sort of change in the way that we do business in this part of the market.”

“The new management [of ComGuard] have come up with a strategy that sits and addresses this particular segment for us from a telesales and telemarketing approach by having more field resources to work with resellers and putting a specific training programme in place for resellers to get quickly up to speed to the level they need to address this segment,” he added. “That will happen along with some marketing campaign and promotions with other IT products that complement what we are offering.”

Abdul-Malak continued: “This is exactly what we are looking for in a distributor — pushing the product out and creating an environment where it can increase the volume, especially in the SME market. We were supportive of the move because we felt the right reasons are behind it.”

Juniper’s Middle East business is split evenly between service providers and enterprises, with 30% of the enterprise portion made up of SMBs. “I would say that figure will reach 40% towards the end of the year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 60% of our enterprise business towards the end of 2008,” speculated Abdul-Malak.

Spectrum’s foray into the distribution arena may seem an unlikely move to make, but with one of the strongest Juniper training course portfolios in the entire EMEA region the company insists it makes sense to also begin selling the equipment.

“We wanted to get into the value added business and if this opportunity hadn’t come our way six or nine months down the line we probably would have established a new company altogether,” revealed Chauhan.

“We will reinforce the strengths that ComGuard already has,” he added. “We plan to enhance our channel reach and want to do something different in the region by setting up call centres for outgoing calls. Distributors have typically been more about fulfilment and we want to move beyond that point. Vendors have used call centres very actively and we want to go and pursue opportunities in the region of US$5,000 and US$10,000.”

In addition to Juniper, the acquisition also hands Spectrum distribution rights for Kaspersky, Borderware, Argus, Webspy and a recently-signed deal with UK-based data communications vendor Metrodata.

Spectrum has over 40 consultants on its books specialising in IT security consultancy services. The company has only been operating for two years but has already won a number of training awards from Juniper and runs the only Juniper Authorised Centre in the region.

The change of ownership may also put an end to any reservations that Juniper had over ComGuard’s dual role as both a distributor and systems integrator. Juniper’s other Middle East wholesalers — Almasa, Mindware and Online — are all classic distribution houses.

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