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Sat 25 Dec 2010 12:00 AM

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Brave new world

Digital Studio catches up with Said Bacho (right), VP of Harris’ new MESA region. We ask about the reasons for the realignment, as well as what the future holds for Harris in the new region.

Brave new world
Bacho with First Gulf Company’s Naim Saidi (owner/partner), Walid Mukhtar (owner/partner) and Ahmed Kettan (Engineer).

Harris took over Dubai’s Westin
hotel for several days in November to present its newly created Middle East and
South Asia group to customers, staff and dealers
alike.

The reorganisation of the two areas, which previously resided within the
MENA and Asia Pacific regions at the group respectively, became effective in July
– the beginning of Harris’ new fiscal year, and Said Bacho, VP of the new MESA region,
is convinced the arrangement will be beneficial to both customers and the company
itself: “Both sub-regions that have merged to form the new region are growth regions,”
he explains. “Previously, we had our resources in Dubai
for the Middle East, and in Delhi for South Asia. We had got to the point where we were seeing a
lot of synergies between the two regions – from a growth perspective, from a resource
alignment perspective, and in terms of leveraging of success between the two regions,
for example a lot of companies operate from Dubai but cover Pakistan or India, and
vice versa. We wanted to capitalise on these synergies.”

With this in mind, Harris has now divided its international operations,
outside of North America, into four regions, each of which contains one of the fast
growing BRIC economies – Brazil in the Caribbean/Latin America region, Russia in
Europe and Africa, India in the new MESA region and China in Asia/Pacific. Within
this new structure, MESA
is a region in its own right, with its own resources, its own management structure
and its own stature within the company. According to Bacho, the joining together
of two previously disparate, but independently successful teams should allow Harris
to serve both sub-regions better than ever before.

The new structure could be seen as a significant comment on the
slow current performance of the traditionally strong European market, although Bacho
is keen not to link the new region’s creation too strongly with the depressed, post-recession
European, and to a degree Asian, markets: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re
pulling the Middle East out of Europe directly because of the poor economic conditions
there, but there is certainly more growth in this part of the world currently than
there is in other parts which are still being hit by the downturn. To a certain
extent, if you have a region of growth that’s being pulled back by a region that’s
not growing, that can be a burden.”

Bacho also concedes that with both the Middle East and India
perhaps being seen as relatively secondary markets within their previous regions,
despite their strong performance, it was logical to restructure: “By having the
new region, we’ve doubled our resources overnight – how long would that have taken
organically? We’ve more than doubled the number of service engineers we have in
the region – we did have three in the Middle East,
now we have 10. Our sales team has grown from four to eight, and we’ve restructured
the region such that sales teams now have less accounts, and countries, to manage
so they can focus more, visit customers more frequently and engage in discussions
in a timely manner. The same is true on the service side – we now have a head of
service in Dubai, which we’ve never had before, and
the same in South Asia.

“Like any company, when we were growing so quickly, we’ve faced
challenges with servicing in the past, so we stepped back and looked how we could
improve that situation. Now, with our regional head office in Dubai,
and a second important office in Delhi
we’ve addressed that. We’re one of the few companies in this region with more service
engineers than sales managers – 10 is a lot!”

It’s early days for the new organisation, but Bacho is convinced
it is already achieving results. The Dubai customer
event attracted visitors from all over the MESA region, which Bacho takes as a sign that
the changes are being looked at positively externally as well as within the company.
He adds that the ease, and swiftness, of travel between Delhi
and Dubai, with connections all over the Middle East
at the Dubai end, and throughout India and Pakistan
at the Delhi end has also gone down well with customers
tired of the seven hour journeys to their previous headquarters in Europe and Hong Kong respectively.

India’s rapid
economic growth, meanwhile, is expected to outstrip China’s by 2030, and Bacho is confident
that Harris’ growth will continue simultaneously: “We’ve hired four new people in
the last couple of months,” he says. “We’ll be hiring another four before the end
of the year on the Dubai marketing team, and at least
one more in Delhi.
We’re still investing, we’re very positive about the regional market potential and
we’re looking forward to exciting times ahead.”

It’s not only the future Harris can look forward to, with a number
of major projects in the region already underway. In Saudi
Arabia, the company recently won the contract to upgrade and
digitise six transmission sites from First
Gulf, taking the total number
of transmission sites using Harris’ technology in the kingdom to more than 80. Also
working with First
Gulf, the company is set to
build five HD studios in Saudi. Harris will supply all the HD infrastructure – servers,
graphics, multiviewers, system measurement and so on. As Bacho notes, the company
is performing strongly in both the production and transmission sectors in the region.

In Egypt,
meanwhile, Harris is installing or upgrading a number of HD studios and transmission
sites for ERTU, the Middle east’s largest TV and
radio producer and broadcaster. It is also a key partner in the ongoing upgrades
to Sharjah TV, where a team of project managers and engineers is already implementing
a number of programmes.

Bacho adds: “We’ve gone a long way in terms of enhancing our
presence in countries where we were perhaps lacking some presence previously, and
we’re making great efforts to address new geographies, which is all helped by this
realignment, particularly as our sales guys are now covering fewer countries. Customers
have already been giving positive feedback, and although nothing happens overnight
we will achieve results and build much closer relationships with our customers.

“This is a comprehensive restructuring, both on the sales and
service side, and significantly sales, marketing and service are all now united
under one management team, with myself as VP for the whole MESA region where previously the technical and
commercial sides of the business were disconnected.

“We’ve also increased the size of our Shatha
Tower offices in Dubai fivefold and are in the process of building
a full demonstration facility for customers, which should greatly enhance the customer
experience for all our regional clients.”

Harris’ new regional structure looks set to transform its standing
in the Middle East, and bearing in mind that it
is already a key local player, the potential for growth is significant. With a portfolio
of products encompassing every stage of the production and transmission process,
and a new team on the ground, Harris is clearly determined to consolidate its already
strong position, and confirm itself as a major name in the regional sector.