Deeper engagement with partners and focus are the cornerstones for growth, says Khalid Laban, Chief Executive Officer, Oxygen Middle East. In a wide-ranging interview with Reseller ME, the CEO reveals extensive channel initiatives and plans for the year.
What have been some highlights at Oxygen Middle East over the last six months?
As a company, we are focusing more on deeper engagement with the channel. We are doing this through our site survey and other channel development initiatives. We are always looking at adding value to the channel, this is our priority being a value-added distributor. We evolve ourselves to meet the dynamics of the value that our partners identifies us with. This is important for us.
We have participated at IDC roadshows across UAE, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As the market shifts from building networks in the traditional manner to the new way of BYOD, it is important to understand how to leverage the opportunities present here. With mobility, the whole network infrastructure as we know it will transform. And this is where Oxygen comes into play. We need to provide solutions to manage mobile content, apps and remote storage. However, it is well known that mobility breaks security. Therefore, you need to have an adequate infrastructure so that mobility and security can work hand in hand. Oxygen is unique in the market because we are the only VAD who talks about ‘secure mobility’. This gives us an edge in the market and brings a deeper value to the customer and to the channel. We have been organically growing at 40 per cent year-on-year and is on target to achieve our numbers this year.
Can you elaborate on the site survey initiative?
Site survey is the least sought-after job in the Wi-Fi implementation process. Through this initiative we are offering to do this job on the partner’s behalf. It is an advanced site survey initiative with Autocad and 3D integration, interference reporting, capacity planning and identifying the best areas to position the access points in order to get maximum performance.
We have given the engineers from our partners, a bonus of AED 300 to allow us to help him with the site survey and an extra bonus of AED 300 per site survey to our own engineers. We want to standardise the way site survey is done to make it professional, simple, secure, smart and equip it with ample support capacity. At the moment we have 20 engineers doing both indoor and outdoor site surveys, my dream is to double this number over the coming months.
Can you elaborate on your training initiatives for the channel?
As part of our Oxygen Value Incentive programme, we have channel enablement programmes to educate the partners on the vision of how you built secure mobility. This is from a strategy point of view and Exceed, our sister company carries out the certification training.
Services are becoming the focus for most regional VADs; have there been any initiatives from Oxygen in this regard?
All professional services are done through Exceed. We have a new initiative on services called Oxycare.
Vendors usually have two types of support – basic and advance, both of which have a fixed number charge. Today many customers are demanding for the advance support, especially as the complexity increases in the technology implementation. This requires higher skills and support and services 24/7. However, the basic support is no longer sufficient for customers while the advance is too expensive.
We have identified an opportunity here and introduced Oxycare, where we have incorporated many features from the vendors’ advance support, so it is the basic with additional advance support features. And we are charging only a bit higher than the vendors’ basic support for almost the entire suite of advance support. This is a big value for the channel and we are hoping this will help us positon better, not only from a technology and a channel support point of view but also from the end user satisfaction perspective. Additionally, we are doing channel satisfaction surveys, where we touch base with partners to understand how their experience was when dealing with Oxygen. We also make amendments based on the survey feedback.
What challenges are the partners grappling with today?
Today the challenge for partners is that there are too many low hanging fruits, which amounts to reduced margins as the competition is fierce. What partners need is a unique positioning so that it gives them an edge over other SIs. And this is a challenge that the channel has to be aware of and fight against consciously. The concept of creativity and positioning is key to sustain a healthy growth, which brings in higher margins.
What are some of your expansion plans?
For Oxygen, the largest market is Saudi Arabia, followed by UAE and Egypt. We have about 40 executives, three offices and a warehouse in Saudi Arabia. We are planning to set up an office in Qatar within the next three months. And we are also looking at expanding into Jordan.
Are there plans to sign up any new vendors over the next couple of months?
We are looking to sign up new and exciting partnerships in the mobility and security space, which we can discuss only at a later stage.
As a value-added distributor, what are your challenges?
It is always a challenge to keep bringing in fresh new concepts and tweaking our policies to match market evolution. Also, it takes a lot of effort and planning to provide more value to our channel and modifying our strategy to create better business opportunity.
What has been the key to your success?
What has propelled our growth is our drive to be ahead of the market. We focus on being different and thinking smarter and faster while also launching new initiatives. The key word is ‘focus’. We began our operations with a focus on a niche segment – wireless. Today we have expanded into a focused secure mobility value-added distributor. And this is where I believe the future is. It is important to maximise the opportunities a disruption in the market offers.
Oxygen is built as a team with a crystal clear vision of what we are trying to do in the market and we are not afraid to invest. We are already looking at having more engineers for the site survey even before the market demands it. Staying ahead of the curve is essential to our growth story.