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Aiming high

Having recently taken on the reins as the new HP Middle East PSG GM Salim Ziade, has set three top priority as head of a division which is responsible for supplying simple, reliable and affordable personal computing solutions and devices for home and commercial use.

Top of Ziade’s PSG push and agenda in the Middle East will focus on corporate clients, the consumer/retail space and channel partner transformation as HP rallies solution providers to embrace more solutions selling rather than focusing on box moving.
 
Amid all this focus, Ziade says HP as an IT company has been tracking new technology developments in the area of virtualisation, convergence of IT and communications, mobile email and high-end computing. “Because of all these trend setting changes taking place in the IT industry today, solution providers need to be competent in not only delivering solutions but supporting them as well,” he says.
 
Ziade says PSG is focusing on corporate clients with a view to getting partners that focus in this market segment to deliver solutions based on their competencies and capabilities not just pushing volumes. “A key message to our partners as we seek new business opportunities in the region is to focus on providing quality solutions rather than quantity,” he says. “We are urging them to embrace solutions selling and to develop expertise in niche verticals.”
 
Ziade, who previously was the Channel Sales Director for Consumer and Commercial Products for HP Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa, says plans for 2010 in the Middle East will encompass a focus on both the channels and customers.
 
With regards to the channels (solution providers and retailers), Ziade sees this as a major priority for PSG as it seeks to cement its dominant standing in the region and open up new business opportunities for solution providers. “We will be expanding and enhancing our existing end customer relationships, as well as seeking new and valuable partnerships with the channels,” he says.
 
In addition, Ziade says part of the PSG strategy is to help solution providers in the region to invest in training and building knowledge. “The channel has to change the way they do business and adapt to market conditions and dynamics,” he notes.
 
Ziade says the transformation of the channel is aimed at developing a competent reseller ecosystem in the Middle East that is able to compete and support clients based on the knowledge, expertise and know-how of HP’s technologies. “Resellers who are still selling products and solutions the old way will find it tough to compete or even survive in this market,” he says. “It is for this reason that part of our approach in engaging with partners in 2010 will revolve around helping them to transform their businesses and take their companies to new heights.”
 
He says this year, the PSG will be working together with all its channels, a move the company believes will help resellers and retailers to evolve.
 
Customer experience
 
Another predominant focal point for the PSG this year will be to improve on the customer experience. Ziade says HP started four years ago with this initiative of improving the overall consumer experience. “Back then as it is now, HP realised that a PC is such a personal vital communication tool,” he says.
 
Ziade says the push with the customer experience is to expose consumers to more HP technology and solutions, and how these can be applied to suit their daily lifestyles.
 
He explains that it is for this reason that HP has rolled out the Store-in-Store initiative in the Middle East with all its super retailers. “This concept is specifically aimed at providing consumers with a more personal HP experience. They now have the opportunity to interact with the full range of HP products whilst receiving in-depth information and expert advice,” says Ziade.
 
Ziade says the Store-in-Store concept augurs well with consumers and smaller home office users as this is the right platform for them to learn more about HP products and technologies. “Plans to develop and build technology partnerships with both corporate and enterprise customers are also underway,” he says.
 
According to Ziade, the new HP Store-in-Store consists of various digital lifestyle zones, where trained HP experts provide consumers with in-depth information, assistance and education as part of their shopping experience. “This initiative aims to give HP’s customers a more pleasantly shopping experience,” he says.
 
The Store-in-Store initiative is set to spread throughout the Middle East including, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt. Ziade points out that HP has partnered with many other retailers to launch future Store-in-Store initiative in the region.
 
Retail focus
While HP has had retail presence for some time now, Ziade says the PSG will be sharpening this focus with a view to enhancing the IT knowledge of sales people in the retail channel. “We have recognised that retailers play an integral part in selling IT solutions,” he says. “Hence we are providing in-depth sales training to individuals in retail stores.
 
He says in the past HP used to have a generalist approach to selling IT products in the retail channels. “We have honed our focus by increasing sales training of all our super retailers in the region,” he says. “This has been done with the view to developing IT sales specialists with each of our retail partners.
 
Ziade says because of the importance of the retail channel, HP in the UAE has hired a full-time trainer who conducts regular training sessions with all the super retailers in the country.
 
In addition to training, HP will continue to roll out the Store-in-Store initiative as the feedback from both the retailers that have these stores in place and the customers that have visited them has been positive. “We will be expanding this initiative in the region to ensure that HP’s products, technologies and solutions continue to have a positive impact in the region,” he says.
 
As the PC market continues to grow in the Middle East, Ziade says it is crucial that the PSG expands its business together with its channel partners.
 
Building value
 
Aside from sharpening its retail focus, HP through its Preferred Partner Programme has been urging partners to build value based businesses by empowering themselves through training, certification and most importantly specialisations.
 
Ziade says from the time the Preferred Partner Programme was launched a few years ago, HP has certified more partners who are selling solutions and building value for their clients and their own businesses. “We will continue to invest in this regard,” he says.
 
He adds that having a competent and well-trained channel base will not only have a positive impact on HP and its technologies but contribute in building a tech savvy channel that is able to advise its clients to make the right technology purchasing decisions.
 
Ziade explains that the PC market is growing and as PSG, the focus for the group as this PC growth continues will be to change how products are brought to market.
 
From a product perspective, Ziade adds that HP will be expanding its thin client range, retail POS array and virtualisation technology offerings. He says another area that will be off interest this year is the tablet PC market. “I believe in the second half of this year, tablet PCs will garner momentum,” he says.
 
In addition, Ziade says the PSG has seen increased adoption of Touch Technology. “In the last 18 months, there has been a massive pickup of these solutions in the Middle East and we foresee this continuing in 2010 with consumers leading the charge with touch technology. “The consumer market in the region normally leads with early adoptions with the corporate being more conservative,” he says.
 
Ziade says because 2009 was a year of survival for most channel partners as they struggled to stay afloat, now is the right time to turn off the survival mode. He says as the market is stabilising and begins to show signs of IT spending, it is important for channel partners in the Middle East region to switch their mindset from survival to growth mode. “The IT market is stabilising and therefore channel partners have to turn off the ‘crisis’ mode,” he says.
 
He believes that solution providers that invested in training, certification and continued to specialise even during tough times stand in good stead of winning new deals, revenue streams and business opportunities when IT spending picks up in the Middle East 2010 and beyond.
 
As HP’s PSG seeks for new channel opportunities in the Middle East, to fully execute its strategies will require a concerted effort where the channels will have to play their part.

With a new Personal Systems Group (PSG) General Manager at the helm, HP Middle East is seeking new channel opportunities as the vendor pushes forward to transform its channels and sharpen its focus. RWME?s Manda Banda writes.

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