At the helm

Having gone private a year-and-a-half ago, Dell is pitching its end-to-end integrated solutions, and has chalked out a go-to-market strategy with partners playing a key role in it. We sat down with Driss Elougmani, the new GM for Dell’s recently formed Middle East Turkey and Africa business to understand the channel implications. Dell

What has been the overall focus at Dell?

Our company is in a healthy position, we have been growing our business consecutively in the last couple of quarters since we became a private company. We’re continuing to focus on our solutions growth while also delivering end-to-end support to our customers, regardless of whether they are from the PC or enterprise segment. From the point the customer touches the end user device, to the back end, including the management and security aspects – everything is done by Dell. That gives the customer the peace of mind they are looking for. Today, we are a true end-to-end solutions provider.

What was the thought process behind creating the META region division, especially since markets such as the Middle East and Turkey have very different dynamics?

Our objective with the new regional division is to create scale. The META region represents a significant growth opportunity for Dell. We have already implemented sophisticated solutions in the Middle East. Africa and Turkey are the two of the fastest growing regions for us. We are looking to leverage the specialist resources we have in the region and provide customers and partners with easy access to our whole portfolio of solutions to address their business problems.

Has there been any change in your go-to-market strategy since you went private a year-and-a-half ago?

We are accelerating our solutions penetration. We want our customers and partners to be future-ready, as our recent B2B advertisements suggest. We believe that our distribution and channel businesses will continue to grow, not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, and globally. There is an acceleration in distribution, and a continued effort from Dell to demonstrate that the channel is a part of our go-to-market strategy, part of how we do business. And we then accelerate the solutions through channel partners depending on their competencies such as network, storage and security.

What is the split of channel business and direct sales within Dell’s regional business?

Our business is 100 per cent channel in the region. I don’t want any confusion in the market regarding this matter. We might have a direct relationship with top customers because of our brand and the region’s importance. But we always have our channel partners in the conversation with the customers. The delivery is always through the channel. We might lead and take the channel partner along sometimes, while at others, the channel partner might lead and take us with them to support on the technology and products.
Globally too, since going private, Dell has embraced the channel quite aggressively. According to the latest statistics, the channel business has moved from under 30 to 40 per cent of our business globally. What we have always followed in the region is now being adopted on a global company level.
META is a growth engine for our channel business. It leverages expertise from the Middle East, our end-to-end channel support in Casablanca and fast growing geographies such as Africa and Turkey.

As partners are going beyond brand names and looking to grow profitably, why should they team up with Dell?

One of the strongest reasons is the fact that we do not compete with our channel partners. There is a huge growth opportunity with our entire portfolio, which includes storage, networks, security, end-user devices and professional services. Our partners are part of Dell services. They get certified by Dell to be the delivery arm by working with enterprise centres and the local team to deliver quality control. This helps the partner to continue to take the advantage of the lucrative profit goal. Additionally, we have an excellent rewarding programme called Preferred Partner programme. This enables partners to not only make significant profits but also allows them to acquire and enhance competencies such as networking, storage and services as well. Partners are definitely interested in making money but also look at sustaining business. The only way to sustain business is through expertise. Dell does not compete with its partners on expertise and services. This differentiates us from all others.

Following the creation of the META regional division, what plans can partners expect over the next few months?

We are working towards gaining more coverage, more geographies, more competencies and technology. At the moment, we are looking at taking a consulting approach to the channel. Partners can expect extensive training and certification from us in this regard.

Dell seems to be getting deeper into security now with the acquisitions of SonicWall, Control Point and Credant. Are you looking to compete with the likes of Trend Micro in the endpoint security space?

Yes, we do have an endpoint security suite. Our vision is to offer end-to-end security. Interestingly enough, some of it is through partnerships with companies such as Intel Security. We have the co-opetition relationship – we cooperate and compete. For example, F5 is one of our biggest alliances and also one of our biggest competitors. However, the differentiation from a security perspective is that Dell, as we differentiated ourselves end-to-end, right from the desktop to the data centre to the cloud, now we are doing that in security. We have identity and access management software, and we compete with CA and IBM in that space. With SonicWall, we compete with Palo Alto Networks and Fortinet, while SecureWorks competes with Kaspersky and Symantec. We have Kace Networks and endpoint security, and compete with various vendors there as well. However, by being the only player with a complete portfolio, we stand out in the market. We believe security is evolving, and instead of buying different products from different companies, our customers are requesting an end-to-end security portfolio. You need to be holistic because it is when these products interface that the gaps are created, making them susceptible to attacks. However, if all the security aspects are provided by the same vendor then we can make sure that there are no gaps between the firewalls, the endpoint security, the encryption and so on. We are differentiating ourselves by offering everything. And sometimes when we don’t have a solution, we form a partnership to deliver it the Dell way.

You had an OEM agreement with Aruba, but now that HP has bought it, will you be reselling Aerohive?

We had an OEM agreement with Aruba and that is still valid until further notice and the acquisition is complete. However the customers who have bought Aruba from Dell, as per our legal agreement with Aruba, even with an acquisition, they will have to continue to be supported. Dell will provide the first level of support and then escalate back to Aruba for other levels of support.

We have also recently signed a new OEM agreement with Aerohive. We believe this is an area that is critical for our portfolio with mobility and everybody moving to a wireless product. We will continue to see the development in this area.

Where do you see the growth coming from within the META region?

The entire region is a growth engine. Accelerated growth is expected from Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
In terms of verticals, we see an increasing spend from the government and public sector, banking, and telcos. Also, one shouldn’t underestimate the SMB market. According to research data, SMB market investments are larger than the public sector. This is why our go-to-market strategy is quite efficient as we have the channel and distribution partners working hand-in-hand together with Dell competencies to cater to this market. We expect there to be more growth in this segment.

What is your vision for Dell in the region?

I hope to develop a business which has very happy customers and loyal channel partners with the Dell brand, while also being the fastest growing business in all of Dell’s worldwide operations.

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