Having recently expanded its operations in the Middle East after the vendor opened an office in Egypt, AOC, the manufacturer of LCD display panels is looking to cement its market coverage and reach in the region.
The move to grow operations comes on the back of the vendor’s continued growth which in the last three consecutive years, saw it record growth of 20% in the Middle East.
Brian Liu, VP sales at AOC, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region, says the Middle East IT market compared with other developing markets is very much similar. Liu says Middle East countries, like most of the countries in Asia Pacific, represent rapid growth in IT products demand. “We expect the Middle East to grow at the same pace with rapid growth happening in the next few years,” he says.
Liu says in 2010, AOC is focusing on widening its’ sales territories in the MEA regions although the company has only been operating in this region from 2009. “From the inception in the region, AOC has introduced its’ state-of-the-art LCD display to seven countries with direct shipment,” he says. On the other hand, Liu adds that AOC’s products have reached more than 15 countries in the region.
“Horizontally, AOC keeps on seeding as many countries as possible in order to build up an outstretched coverage through our regional partners, while vertically through close cooperation with our in-country partners,” he says. “We are deepening our footprint in each country in the region to provide the best service and support to our resellers.”
Liu says that at the moment, the channels which the company is focusing on mainly are the B2B segment through the traditional reseller base. However, he points out that the company has ambitions in the near future to enlarge its B2C channel through power retailers and also step into the corporate sector as well.
Middle East expansion plans
As one of the global players in the LCD display space, AOC will keep on maximising its production efficiency continuously, integrating its supplier and logistics chain, time-to-market, adopting the latest technology, deepen the marketing for further strengthening of AOC brand value and channel awareness, Liu says.
He adds that even as LCD monitors become highly commoditised, the opportunity is always there if the company continues to develop and bring to market innovative products. “Under the current highly competitive market, we see great opportunities for growth,” he says. “Aside from its LCD monitor business, AOC is also concentrating some of its resources on developing the TV business in many regions, which represent significant growth potential for the next few years.”
Moreover, Liu says the company is also eyeing the all-in-one (AIO) market and other display-related products, but the company will introduce these to the MEA slowly. He believes that the diversified product portfolio can also help AOC to continuously remain competitive in the market.
Liu says currently, AOC splits its MEA business into several different parts like North Africa targeting Algeria and Egypt, CIS central Asia, focusing in Kazakhstan, Middle East, mainly Dubai as the regional centric site and eyeing KSA and Levant. “For these main markets, AOC is planning to obtain 5 to 10% market share in 2010,” he enthuses. “Specifically talking about Egypt, we are doing quite well down there together with our in-country partner I&M. This has further enhanced AOC awareness in the rest of the North Africa region. For other countries, we are also having positive feedback and are much confident to our future expansion plans in the geographies we cover.”
Product & technology roadmap
Liu says as the company continues on its path of innovation, the channel in the region can expect to continue seeing slim, green and user friendly solutions. “We are continuously investing to bring consumers a different type of user experience with LCD monitors,” he says “This year, we will be announcing our full range of stylish slim monitor array with LED technology, fused with green concepts such as our e-Saver and Off-Timer to minimise the power consumption while providing RoHs, EPEAT, EPA and TCO compliable to guarantee the commitment to preserving the environment.
In addition, Liu says AOC is also proud to bring IPS technology to its range of TV products which provides consumers in the Middle East a different experience to watch with much better viewing angle and picture quality. “In the near future, touch-enable and 3D will also be combined into some of our product lines,” he says. “We will be bringing the end-user a much more entertaining experience when using AOC display panels.”
Liu says AOC is running different channel programmes periodically to maintain the enthusiasm with its channel partners. “We have designed a customised package for different partner tiers and these include Gold, Diamond, Platinum and Titanium, all qualified to redeem different incentives and privileges from AOC.
In addition, Liu says the company is also bringing the experience of its reseller partners in different regions to share with each other, either through AOC seminars or road shows. “These initiatives are open to all partners we have on our channel programme, as we believe successful stories can always be copied from one to another one, in addition to the traditional product training sessions we host.”
With a lot of vendors in the monitor space working closely with power retailers, Liu believes the retail channel in certain countries of the region is extremely important for AOC. He singles out the KSA and Dubai as countries that have a vibrant retail channel in the Middle East. “We’ve kicked off cooperation initiatives with certain power retailers in Dubai, KSA and other countries in the region,” he says.
He explains that retail channels need to be sophisticatedly managed and supported hence the company is intensifying the resources into this segment in order to build up a closer, stable and sustainable relationship with its retail partners. “We do believe in the potential of the IT business in general in the Middle East,” he says. “In the near future we would like to see more service providers in the E-commerce space emerge in this region, providing payment security, delivery handling and all that can make end-users feel much more comfortable and secure to shop online.”
Liu says as most consumers are still weighing in on online shopping, the maturity of e-commerce in the region will bring it on par with regions such as North America, Western Europe and the far East Asia.
Looking ahead Liu says despite all the challenges that the Middle East IT industry faces, the business potential is undeniable hence the confidence in the channels needs to be re-built. “As consumer confidence was greatly impacted during the global downturn, this has continued to hang on and is reflected in the channel and back to the vendors.
Meanwhile, Liu says competition is also getting stiffer as all major brands are facing pressure of growing and protecting their existing market share, mainly because sales in developed market have continued to dwindle. “Consequently, the focus for many has switch to emerging markets and for us, that is why the MEA is not only an important market but it is a region we would like to grow our business in,” he concludes.
Taiwanese monitor vendor AOC is getting busy with plans to broaden its Middle East footprint. Reseller Middle East listens to Brian Liu, Sales VP, AOC Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) regions.