Channel gears for transformation in digital signage

By Arun Shankar   7 May, 2017
Channel gears for transformation in digital signage

Manish Bakshi, Managing Director, BenQ Middle East and Turkey.

Globally, BenQ operates in the product segments of monitors, interactive flat panels, digital signage, LED lighting, and e-sports. It also offers educational solutions, which are a combination of interactive flat panels, projectors and document cameras. Within the region the split between consumer facing and business facing is 40% and 60% in revenue. The gaming products contribute to the consumer side of the business, while projectors, digital signage, video walls, interactive flat panels, mostly sold into the retail and education market segments, contribute to the business side.

According to Manish Bakshi, Managing Director, BenQ Middle East and Turkey, a strong driver for BenQ’s products and solutions is from the public and private education market segments in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. “We have seen and we have ourselves participated in Ministry of Education tenders and there are many big American or European based schools and colleges in this region.” These include American University of Sharjah, American University of Dubai, American International School Riyadh, American International School Jeddah, British International School Riyadh, amongst others. Leading educational institutions are aggressively migrating from projectors to digital interactive flat panels.

Bakshi describes the recent win from American International School Riyadh that covered 120+ units of 79 inch diagonal size of display panels. “So it is not only restricted towards the Ministry of Education, to the government, but even the private institutes are opening up and buying. Big schools and colleges are becoming a huge potential for interactive flat panels.”

For Bakshi, Saudi Arabia is the biggest market in the region. “We can now see the tenders getting converted from projectors towards the interactive flat panels.” In UAE, the large corporate market is driving the replacement cycle from projectors used in conference rooms towards interactive flat panel.

The drive towards more sophisticated and interactive digital display hardware has also brought with it an increase in availability of specialised software solutions. In order to support the flow of non-static digital content into these display and signage products, BenQ now offers X-Sign Manager, X-Sign Player, Multi Display Administrator, Easy Setting, Zoom solutions, amongst others. These manage the display panels remotely via the Internet or onsite via the USB port. “Our products are also coming in a specialised way, and lots of software’s is getting integrated in the hardware also.”

While BenQ has upped the bar on its products, it expects the same to happen with its channel partners as well. A key initiative in 2017 is to recognise specialisation amongst its regional channel partners. It has created the BenQ Club to recognise specialised channel partners selling gaming, video, corporate, signage solutions, amongst others. “You need some good system integrators who can provide the solution in a final way to the end users. That is the reason in 2017 we are trying to create the BenQ Club, where only specialised partners across the world will be given preference,” explains Bakshi.

Sajit Nair, General Manager New Smart Office Automation.

This is reinforced by New Smart Office Automation, BenQ’s key in-country distributor for UAE. Says General Manager Sajit Nair, “There are different levels of integrators who work with us. There are some integrators who are only focusing on education, there are some integrators who are only focusing on retail, and some who are only working with government departments and offices.” BenQ’s value added distributor, New Smart Office Automation is a part of the Al Ahlia Office Automation Division and New Generation Imaging group. Al Ahlia is an Abu Dhabi based group and consists of multiple businesses and has been in operation for over 30 years.

“Our distribution portfolio is mainly to handle the UAE market. We do everything from signage solutions, bar displays, interactive screens. We have everything catering to various markets, from retail, education, government,” explains Nair. As an example, “We are working very closely to the retail market because signage is a solution which is mostly used in the retail segment.”

As a multi-brand distributor in UAE, New Smart Office Automation has a 100 people team. Other than solution and market specialisation, the system integrator channel partners who engage with New Smart Office Automation, are classified into A,B,C,D based on whether they are large or niche. “We classify them into different areas. We give them a different level of support, so everything changes there.”

The challenges of supporting large system integrators working with New Smart Office Automation are two-fold. One is in terms of scale and the other is in terms of technology complexity. Typically with an order shipped to a school, the value of each interactive panel in a classroom may be low, but each school may also order hundreds of such panels. That makes the deal particularly interesting for Nair. “It is not easy to work for a school with a hundred classrooms to get a deal. So, we work with those integrators who are at the top level, who are working on such complex projects.” Such deals are jointly supported by both BenQ and the distributor.

An installation for a retailer with a large number of connected panels along with dynamic content is a technological challenge and complex project. For such projects, New Smart Office Automation will be involved in scaling the project and developing the bill of quantities, along with the end user and the system integrator partner. Another benchmark that Nair uses to determine the importance of a project, is its ability to drive related elements along with its core requirement. “Rather than having the size or the value of the project, I look at how much size the same project is able to drive.”

For Nair, there is one other factor that differentiates BenQ’s hardware amongst the distributor’s channel partners. And that is availability of BenQ solutions that manage the content being displayed. At present BenQ provides the software along with the hardware and there is no cost for the software licenses. End users for whom content management is an important part of the solution, tend to grow faster in their solution requirements. “Definitely the person who has more content will go in for the next level of software. This is a basic solution. We have the next enterprise level.”

The digital signage market has been particularly slow in leveraging solutions to manage displayed content. While signage players have invested in large number of panels, they have not proportionally invested in software solutions. “Today, if we look at the signage market, it is untapped. It is still in the very initial stages. I have never seen them pushing content or having content management with them,” says Nair. But he expects this to change rapidly in the near future. With BenQ also innovating both hardware and software products and solutions, it is not hard to imagine that the impact of digital transformation will soon disrupt this market and its channel partners as well.

Key takeaways

  • BenQ Club recognises specialised channel partners selling gaming, video, corporate, signage
  • It is not easy to work for a school with a hundred classrooms to get a deal
  • Leading educational institutions are migrating from projectors to digital interactive flat panels
  • Corporate is driving replacement from projectors towards interactive flat panels in conference rooms
  • Drive towards sophisticated digital display hardware has brought an increase in specialised software
  • Digital signage market has been particularly slow in leveraging solutions to manage displayed content
  • Within the region split between consumer facing and business facing is 40% and 60% in revenue



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