Signs of recovery

As the new year came in, we reported how the channel is bullish about 2013 after an almost disastrous 2012. Now, you can see the confidence slowly seeping back into the channel and good omens for steady growth all around. As we move into the second quarter, most distributors in the region have reported double-digit growth for the first quarter of this year. Though some issues, such as declining margins and the credit crunch, still plague the channel, most have read the writing on the wall and were quick to move into new lines of profitable business. 

A case in point is mobility. Look around and it’s hard to find a distributor who doesn’t already have a mobility play or plans to do so. The prolonged slump in the PC market has forced even the most-hardened components or peripherals distributors to hitch their wagon to the mobility wave.

It is estimated that around 700 million smartphones were shipped in 2012 alone and the mobility tide shows no signs of ebbing. Mobility is probably on the agenda of eight out of 10 CIOs, and Gartner believes that 25 to 30 percent of users are going to access enterprise apps on a smartphone or tablet. For channel partners, mobility is an excellent business opportunity to maximise margins by helping their customers to provide mobile access to remote workers. In tune with the worldwide trend, SMBs are the early adopters of mobility in the Middle East as well, and I am sure many SIs are looking at the integration opportunity in this space.

Another prominent trend in the channel now is the number of distributors looking to tap the hugely underserved African market. With Levant and Egypt still being volatile, most of the big disties are looking to expand into the emerging African market. But it’s not going to be easy to crack this market because Africa is not a singular entity and is actually made up of 53 countries, each with different characteristics, dynamics and needs. Though political troubles, natural disasters and poor economic policies have slowed down the African market, the prospect for the channel is absolutely bright if you can get a handle on the varying regulations, import rules and cloudy business processes.

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