The rise of the strategic solution provider

The rise of the strategic solution provider

ASBISc Enterprises Plc is a leading value-added distributor (VAD), developer and supplier of IT, ICT and IoT products, solutions and services in the growing markets of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The multinational technology group is engaged in the distribution of IT products and solutions, and is headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus. Hesham Tantawi, Vice President, ASBIS Middle East, tells Intelligent Tech Channels, how the company is pushing the value focus in the channel as it continues to nurture partners to become strategic solution providers in a fast evolving and maturing MEA IT market.

Hesham Tantawi, Vice President, ASBIS Middle East.

Talk us through the state of the channel market in the Middle East now?

The Middle East channel market despite the many challenges it has experienced in the past has matured and continues to do so at a steady pace. The market is experiencing channel stability, and we are seeing a lot of resellers and solutions providers engaging in developing their businesses to be more value and solutions focused, and not the trading in commoditised IT products that characterised the regional channel in the years gone by. Now, channel partners are developing real customer bases and minimising their dependence on having a trading commodity business. All this is a sign of the maturity levels that channel partners are embracing in the market.

What is ASBIS’ focus in 2022 and how has the company navigated the COVID-19 disruptions over the last two years?

As a leading value-added distributor (VAD), developer and supplier of IT and IoT products, solutions and services in the growing markets of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), we recently announced our preliminary estimations in December 2021, which showed we posted high consolidated revenues of US$397 million compared to US$343 million in December 2020. The latest revenue figures represents an increase of approximately 16% year-on-year for ASBIS. With this accomplishment, we have just officially joined the prestigious group of companies with annual revenues of US$3 billion. This is a great achievement for us that we are all proud of. The past year has been extraordinary for us. We not only achieved record high revenues, but it was also the most remarkable in terms of profitability. We have strengthened our presence in all markets in which we operate, all product lines have grown significantly. We are also actively investing in alternative revenue streams, and we are extremely confident for the years to come.

We continue to focus on development and strengthening our channel partnerships in the CIS, Middle East and Africa. We have firmly established our business in the channel and that has helped ASBIS and its channel partners to stay profitable.

In addition, we continue to champion value and solutions so that partners and entrench themselves in these and develop recurring revenue businesses that ensure profitability.

What is ASBIS telling its partners to focus on this year and why?

A huge focus for ASBIS and its channel ecosystem this year is on value. To this end, we have established and or cemented our video conferencing, networking, server and storage businesses and we continue to unlock and identify new countries and market verticals across the broader EMEA market. Furthermore, we continue to dominate the components market and have expanded into Africa with an aggressive yet ambitious strategy. We continue to reinforce our component business in the Middle East and have augmented it with a push into gaming and gaming solutions.

We want partners to take advantage and capitalise on the opportunities that have emerged during the global health crisis that have opened up opportunities for them as companies are upgrading their IT infrastructure especially in the networking, telephony, server, and storage segment. We believe the gaming solutions space, IP telephony and video conferencing solutions business presents a huge opportunity for ASBIS, and its partner ecosystem grow in these technology verticals and conduct business profitably.

ASBIS has been ramping up its channel activities and onboarding new vendors and in December 2021, ASBIS Enterprise PLC reported record high sales. What would you attribute this excellent performance to?

As pointed out earlier, despite the recent turmoil around our regions, I confirm that our company is strong and ready to weather any unlikely situation which might appear in our way. Our 30-year history has proven that we know how to manage crises and we are confident that our company is at its best to manage.

We have started 2022 in a very strong manner, and we are very confident about business this year. It is in our DNA to aim higher and predict growth during the beginning of every year and therefore we set ourselves ambitious plans. We want to be a leading IT distributor with added value and in doing so we want to grow our business because we firmly believe that when we grow our partners also grow.

To this end, we will enhance our focus in different areas and verticals of our business. We will continue to push our components business to new heights, look for partnerships with vendors in the solid-state drives (SSD) market and up the momentum with gaming equipment vendors. In addition, we are looking at adding vendors who play in the IP video cameras and continue augmenting and reinforcing storage business as a continuation from last year. Our aim is to position ASBIS as the central point and one-stop shop for technology dealers and solution provider partners for ICT and IT products in the Middle East and Africa geography.

Which countries are a key focus for ASBIS in 2022 in the Middle East?

We have the privilege of serving a broad and growing region in MEA. That being the case, our business in South Africa has been growing and that has helped us to spotlight Kenya and Tanzania in the Central and East African region. Business in this important part of the African continent has continued to grow and we anticipate seeing more growth this year. In North Africa where ASBIS’ presence remains solid we have continued to witness growth and solid performances across the various business units within our company and we anticipate that this will continue even this year. Furthermore, ASBIS is witnessing rapid growthin the Middle East across all its solutions offerings, and we are developing this business to be a leading player in offering our channel partners solutions that support and enhance working from home or remote working. We are expecting to see a lot of opportunities opening up for our channel partners in the hybrid and remote space.

How is ASBIS positioning itself to ensure that businesses in the Middle East utilise some of the solutions you have that are tailored for hybrid and remote working?

As a mature IT and ICT value-added distributor, we are positioning ourselves to be at the forefront of advancing new technology innovations in the regional channel while at the same time ensuring that that everything our partners are doing in their business and the channel leads to more profitability.

In terms of our vertical focus, we will continue to push our offering together with partners in the government, education, and solutions business. We believe the government sector across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is in a prime position to continue investing in technology as they push Digital Transformation agendas to boost economic growth and development.

Key countries that will be in the spotlight for us in the government sector include Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and most Middle East countries. We believe that these countries will gain from the improving crude oil prices and invest some of the revenue coming in on IT, ICT and solutions that advance digital and business transformation in their respective countries. Similarly, smaller markets in the wider MEA region will see growth as the business climate starts to improve following the lifting of restrictions on business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outlook is bright.

Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, how has ASBIS managed the components and chip shortages that have impacted the Middle East channel and the global supply chain?

Despite the recent turmoil across the MEA region, ASBIS has continued to work closely with all its vendor and channel partners to ensure that business plans, expectations and objectives are aligned and in synch. The company remains a major distribution partner of note for vendors making various IT technologies, products, and solutions in the market. To illustrate this, ASBIS is commemorating 30 years of doing business with Seagate and in number countries across EMEA we have either been number one or two in terms of market share, revenue growth and most importantly profitability with the vendor’s solutions.We will continue to capitalise on the longevity of this relationship we have with Seagate and continue to develop solutions for the future. What has really worked well for ASBIS is that it doesn’t wait for a vendor to come up with new innovation in the market. We take it upon ourselves to be on the ground and assist our partners to develop in-country businesses with solid customer bases.

Looking ahead, what will be ASBIS’s main objective in 2022 and how are you preparing your partners for the year ahead?

ASBIS intends to continue pushing for channel partners to embrace solutions selling and ensure that they continue on the path of business maturity. We have even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to work with channel partners through online digital platforms where we were able to plan, forecast and develop targeted business plans that aided our partners to stay in business despite a challenging business climate. In addition, we continue to be in discussions with our vendors and channel partners in terms of our own predictions for the market and the expectations from them. On the partner front, we are preparing them to face any challenges that may come together with us.

What channel initiatives and programme are you lining up together with your vendor partners this year?

We are planning to rollout ambitious channel schemes that will be announced during the course of the year. Right now, we are still mapping out details and studying these initiatives so that they benefit our entire partner ecosystem for them to grow and competently support their customers with the solutions and technologies from ASBIS.

One of ASBIS’ strength is assisting channel partners to develop in country business opportunities and markets. Which countries have performed extremely well for the company in 2021 and why?

One of ASBIS’ key strength has been its philosophy of putting transparency at the forefront of everything we do with channel partners and vendors. We pride ourselves as one of the most transparent distributors in the region and this one trait has helped the company to stay focused all these years that it has been operating in the MEA channel. Without solid vendor partnerships that are built on trust and transparency, we wouldn’t have demonstrated such longevity in the IT industry. We believe is being crystal clear to our channel partners and that’s a key element that has led to our many successes in the market. My attitude to partnerships is guided by a belief that I shouldn’t make money at the expense of the channel partner. If ASBIS makes money and is profitable, the partner too should make money and be profitable. This is very important to us and is reflected in all our engagements with channel partners.

What’s the channel outlook for 2022 and why should channel partners be upbeat and continue to work with ASBIS?

For ASBIS, the channel outlook for 2022 and beyond is bright. We are optimistic that the foundation work we have done to consolidate our business even when the whole region and world was experiencing business disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has positioned us in good stead. That said, growing our business and partner footprint in Africa is a key focus for us this year. We will be looking to work with a new breed of solution providers on the African continent as opportunities continue to open up and expand. We have already established solid partnerships in some countries on the continent. What we intend doing is take this to another level and enhance alliances with channel partners and vendors to focus on in-country market and business development initiatives to target key verticals like government, education, banking and financial services, SMEs, FinTechs and the general start-up businesses on the continent. We are looking to engage with channel partners that share the same ambitions and goals with us for Africa. This year, we will be paying so much attention to developing our Africa business beyond the traditional strong hold markets where we have been doing business for a long time. I believe this and the many other initiatives will be our competitive edge.

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