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Mon 1 Jan 2007 06:49 PM

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Canon fires warning to competitors

Gordon Jones, president at Canon Middle East, claims the electronics and printing vendor is focused on developing even stronger ties with its channel, especially after recently rolling out a new sales programme.

Channel Middle East: What is the scale of Canon’s Middle East operation these days?

Gordon Jones: We started operating in the Middle East in 1998 with 13 countries in the region. In 2004 we added Sudan and Libya, and last year we took responsibility for French-speaking Africa. That meant another 21 countries were added. Currently, Canon Middle East takes care of 36 countries so it’s quite a wide and challenging region that we are handling at the moment.

CME: So Africa now forms a key part of your strategy in this region?

GJ: Our logistics here in the Middle East and in Europe are currently supporting the African region. We are expanding and want to do more in terms of building up the logistics function of Dubai and our skill levels to handle the complexity of the products and the plans that Canon has for the wider region.

CME: Does your sales growth reflect the increasing number of countries that fall under your territory?

GJ: We’ve been expanding rapidly year-by-year and experiencing strong double-digit growth. The operation started with just five people based in Dubai, and it has now grown to 18. In total, we have around 80 people directly employed by Canon Middle East. We also opened up an office in Cairo a few years ago and have an office in Europe addressing the needs of French-speaking Africa.

CME: How big is the Middle East in terms of Canon’s global operations?

GJ: In all honesty, less than 1% of global turnover is actually generated from the Middle East, but that’s not abnormal in our kind of industry. If the Middle East market continues growing at the speed it is, it can eventually get to a very good figure. If you look into certain product categories, the emerging markets in the Middle East are providing a much bigger share; 5% to 10% percent of certain product categories. There is no doubt that the emerging markets in the region are important focus areas for Canon. The Middle East — along with Russia — is part of the central EMEA focus area in the same way that China and India are for Canon Asia.

CME: What programmes do you have in place for channel partners?

GJ: We’ve just announced a new channel partner programme at the sales level to try and stimulate sales in retail outlets. This is in addition to the existing programme for our first tier local distributors. These programmes make it interesting and rewarding for our partners and they give us more insight and visibility into what is happening in the market. It keeps the pipeline between ourselves and our partners as smooth as possible.

CME: Can you elaborate on the sales level initiative?

GJ: The sales level initiative is called ‘Bonus Club’ and it is essentially a registration of products that are sold at retail level so we have some insight into what’s happening. By registering those products, salespeople can get access to benefits, rewards and training, and this increases the skills level within their outlet.

CME: What's the benefit of such an initiative for Canon?

GJ: From our perspective it generates an incentive and sense of loyalty amongst salespeople selling Canon products in their stores. We get more visibility information feedback and salesmen get more stimulation to sell, as well as access to resources such as training and our partner website. We work with one distributor per country and distribute through a mix of resellers and distributors — all of our business in the Middle East is through the channel.

CME: What are your plans for the region over the forthcoming year?

GJ: We’re looking at channel development and have targeted this as an area where we need to do more to take good care and maximise the potential of our product routes. We have a very complex and wide portfolio so we need people who can understand and work with us on that.

CME: What about specific geographical focus?

GJ: In terms of country focus, the main areas are Dubai and Saudi, but we also want to do more in Iran. For the North African region we’re very excited by the potential of Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia and there will be more focus from Canon on these markets over the coming year.

CME: What is your message to channel partners in the region?

GJ: We want the channel to know that Canon is the only company that has the full range of input and output devices, printers and cameras. No other company has that.

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