Despite the global economic downturn having impacted IT hardware and software sales in 2009, technology vendor Lenovo has taken this period of uncertainty to ramp up demand generation activities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
As more IT vendors are looking at ways to boost their sales, Lenovo does not want to be left behind and is using this recessionary period to help its channel partners tap into the much sought after enterprise customers with a semi direct engagement model. The strategy is aimed at ramping up demand generation initiatives for its technologies, services and product array. This the vendor believes will help partners focus on providing solutions while Lenovo takes over the burden of partners having to create their own demand.
The vendor states that this initiative is in no an indication that it is abandoning the channel model but rather complement it by creating demand for Lenovo offerings so that channel partners can fulfil.
As a result, Lenovo has set-up a dedicated team that will engage with clients in the government and public sector organisations, telecoms, oil and gas, manufacturing and financial services sector.
Khaled Kamel, Executive Director Regional GM at Lenovo Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan, admits the market conditions in the Middle East region are tough as small businesses and enterprises are spending cautiously. “Businesses in general in the region have been affected by the economic slowdown,” he notes. “This does not mean that businesses in the region are not strong enough to weather the storm.”
Consequently, Kamel says Lenovo sees this period of uncertainty as the perfect time for it to engage with end-user clients with the sole purpose of understanding their pain points in their businesses. The strategy aims to inform, educate, demonstrate and engage with clients on various aspects of their business and how they can work together with Lenovo.
Kamel believes now is the best opportunity for Lenovo to engage with clients and get to understand the challenges they face and how Lenovo through its ecosystem of channel partners can work together to find solutions to these business challenges.
He says through this semi direct engagement model, Lenovo is paying particular attention to customer feedback and using this response and advice to better improve on the overall service delivery, product roadmap and customer experience in the region.
He points out that this strategy should not be viewed as a move by Lenovo to launch a direct business model but rather a complementary effort aimed at helping channel partners to boost their sales. “It is vital to know that during recessionary or challenging business times, clients big or small are looking at engaging with vendors that are viewed to be trusted business advisors,” he says. “We believe we have the expertise to help our customers through these difficult times.”
He adds that Lenovo remains a channel centric organisation and this initiative will help to harmonise efforts that solution providers are making to serve their clients better.
Having inherited the IBM legacy after Lenovo bought IBM’s PC Division a few years ago, Kamel says there is need for the company in the region to reach out to enterprise customers and showcase its offerings beyond the technology and products. “Our vision through this strategy is to capture the enterprise market with an extremely aggressive strategy that addresses the Lenovo value proposition through its breadth of products, technologies and services,” he says. “Having a strong legacy that we inherited after acquiring IBM’s PC business is great but that on its own does not translate into success.”
Kamel says having acquired IBM’s PC business, the IBM brand in the region is well known, but Lenovo hasn’t done enough to promote itself in the Middle East. “Most of our customers are telling us they know IBM but are wondering and asking where Lenovo is,” he notes. “This customer feedback has helped us to shape this initiative that will focus on raising brand awareness and visibility in the enterprise space.”
Kamel acknowledges that the market has become very competitive especially in the enterprise space as the needs for these customers are forever changing. He says because of these changes, Lenovo has had to step in to offer support to partners so that they can create win-win scenarios for themselves and the company.
He explains that part of these demand generation activities will focus on raising awareness of the Lenovo brand, products, services offering, technology showcases for enterprise customers and educational forums targeting enterprise customers.
Kamel says to achieve this, there has to be a concerted effort on the part of Lenovo to raise visibility of the brand and products in the government, telecoms, oil & gas, manufacturing and financial services sector. “We have decided to focus on these five sectors of the economy because we would like to grow our footprint in these segments,” he says.
He emphasises that success will not come over night but with a concerted effort and a level of commitment over time, Lenovo will capture the much sought after enterprise market in the Middle East.
Kamel says although demand generation activities will be the company’s focus for most of 2009, Lenovo is also looking at ways of growing its security and software channel in the Middle East. “There is no doubt that IT security and software present growth areas for Lenovo,” he says. “We are steadily building a channel that will not only be enabled to deliver solutions but integrate and support solution at enterprise level as well.”
Although Lenovo has a broad product array, not all its products have been introduced in all the markets it is present in globally. One such product which is yet to hit the Middle East region is the vendor’s own server offering.
Lenovo has been bundling its PC offerings with IBM’s server solutions in the Middle East. According to the vendor, plans are underway for the eventual launch of a Lenovo branded server into the region.
Kamel says the introduction of the server range in the Middle East is coming soon. “We already sell our server range in the US, China and some European countries,” he says. “We believe that having our own server brand will not only enhance our offerings but broaden our rich as well.
Kamel adds that the region continues to invest in IT and digital literacy infrastructure, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and UAE leading with government driven IT infrastructure projects. “We are looking at increasing our reach in these countries as well,” he says.
Vendor seeks to reinforce its message on wanting to help channel partners with demand generation activities