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Crossing over to a new era

The building that houses Seven Seas headquarters near Lamzy Plaza in Oud Mehta, Dubai looks quite modest from the outside and you could be forgiven for thinking it were just a warehouse. Step inside and you might be taken aback by the expansive interiors, in some ways which suggests the unassuming but outstanding track record of a company over the past 25 years of its operations in the regional ICT industry.

Quite a few people holding senior positions in other IT companies in the region seem to have served with Seven Seas at some point. Kevin Draper, CEO at Seven Seas quips that they have been a sort of training ground. Incidentally, the company did some restructuring as well in the year gone by and let go of some senior people.

He says, “Some key people left us last year but that also helped us reorganise. We have moved around people internally and trimmed our staff strength to an optimum level which has helped keep our operational costs well under control. In addition, we have continued with significant moves such as bringing in a director for our Managed Services portfolio.”

Nayagam Pillai, the COO at Seven Seas remarks that of the people who left the company last year, some are looking to come back because some of the other companies in the industry may not be in the same state of health that Severn Seas has managed. Perhaps that is one of the best tributes to the company’s resilience in a vastly challenging scenario where some key verticals that had been buoyant in terms of growth last year have shown perceptible slowdown.

One of the long standing players in the regional system integration market, the company has been consistently growing ever since it identified system integration as its forte. In the earlier years, distribution was also a key line of business for the company.

Draper says, “We made the transition from box-pushing activities to true systems integration about 6-7 years ago. While there is no dearth of system integrators, we follow the true ethos of a system integrator, keeping ourselves vendor and platform independent. This helps us in offering solutions from all leading vendors across various domains as and what the customer requires.”

Seven Seas has a comprehensive solutions portfolio that includes six broad domains which include: IT Services, Data Networking (Active & Passive), High Availability (Storage & High-end Solutions), Consulting & Enterprise Management based on ITIL best practices & BS20000 standard, Contracts (Projects, Contracts) and Managed Services (Outsourcing). Seven Seas which collaborates with major hardware and software vendors like HP, IBM, Microsoft, Citrix, CA, Linux etc to provide IT service which include installations, implementations and projects based on Operating Systems, Platform Migrations, Value Added Services and Integration of tools on the IT infrastructure along with applications.

Draper adds, “For instance, one of our strongest customer segments are the multinationals that set up operations in the region and they may have their own standard procedures as well as technology requirements. So unless we are ready and willing to meet that, we cannot get that business. Staying vendor independent helps do that. On the other hand, it is also true that we partner with several top tier vendors including Microsoft.”

Among a growing prestigious list of clientele for the company includes names such as Jumeirah Golf Estates and several hotels including JVR, Ramada, Hilton etc.

The company has not focused on the government sector too much until now although there are several big projects in that sector in a year.

Draper clarifies, “We haven’t focused on it for the simple reason that there is too much competition there. The profit margins are really low because vendors are willing to sacrifice the margins. It can become quite tough for the SI because of that stiff competition and especially because the vendor doesn’t worry about the SI when push comes to shove. It can be counter productive for the SI.”

Pillai says, “We have our strengths and are quite happy focusing on them. We compete in sectors where competition is open and we want to make sure that we don’t compromise on our objectives, which is that the bottom line has to be healthy in a given project. We don’t agree with the strategies of achieving mere top line growth at the risk of eroding the bottom line. ”

One of the key attributes of its long standing success is that it has always eyed steady growth and has not compromised on its vision. Growing on its strengths, it was happy to let go of activities such as distribution of volume products where it had impressive success as well in the past because they saw the margins eroding and the market shifting as well.

The company has been conservative but that is precisely what is helping the company stay clear of the adverse effects in the immediate after math of a visible slowdown. Sectors like Real Estate for instance have taken a huge hit and there are projects that are being scaled down and are impacting suppliers.

Draper also believes that projects that are already in full swing need to be completed. There is no question of those being brought to a halt in the region. However, the company will now look forward to executing projects that have a shorter time frame such as those likely to be completed in the next 6 months or so.

Seven Seas has not been entirely immune to the slowdown developments but the company is on schedule to achieve its year end targets. Perhaps what has helped the company are its diversification strategies. The company has quite smartly moved into providing outsourcing of technical resources to the market. Seven Seas provides managed services in the form of Functional Outsourcing, Total Outsourcing, Remote Services and Hosting Services. The support team at Seven Seas comprises more than 120 technical resources across technology horizontals on Compute, DN/Security, Voice & Telephony, Data Centre Infrastructure & Structured Cabling and Audio/Video installs.

This seems to be a growing segment, which has helped Seven Seas stay on course to meet its targets. A strong focus and the lack of extravagance when it comes to costs seem to be the strong anchors for the company.

Draper adds, “It is a segment where we are seeing increasing demand and we are struggling to meet the demand in spite of our huge pool of engineers. We have been meeting our numbers. We have grown at a healthy rate and while there could be slower rate next year, we still forecast healthy numbers. ”

One of the other segments of focus has been enabling smart homes, which has also been growing in the region with the scale of planned developments in the construction sectors. Solutions in this portfolio include highly Intelligent Lighting Control System – IR/RF/IP, Hi-Fidelity Distributed Audio & Video System and Multi-functional CCTV & Surveillance DVR. The SI provided Lighting Controls, Access Control via Mifare readers, CCTV and intrusion detection for 400 Villas in Jumeirah Golf Estate, one of its bigger installations in this category.

Draper remarks, “We are into smart home installations and this has been another growth segment However, we are only enabling the basic infrastructure for a smart home such as CCTV, remote light controls etc without the bells and whistles which have been part of the hype around digital homes. “

The company which has done several key implementations in the region, owing to its strong fundamentals seems set to go from strength to strength in the New Year. In the course of the next few months, the company would also be relocating its headquarters to a new location, perhaps which signals the dawn of a new era as well for the company that has stayed abreast of the changing landscape.

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