By Andrew Seymour
CNS’ managing director discusses the system integrator’s regional development aspirations
|~|TonyAlamII.jpg|~|Tony Alam, CNS|~|Tony Alam, managing director at 200-strong HP, Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle specialist Computer Network Systems (CNS) discusses the Middle East growth plans for the systems integrator.
CME:How extensive is CNS’ coverage of the market?
TONY ALAM:We have offices in the UAE, but we support all the Middle East. Our offices in UAE are in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, but we have partners and resellers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman which we support.
CME:How many people do you have working at CNS at the moment?
TA:We have around 210 staff and are in constant hiring. But one of the problems is the resources in Dubai. We are always looking for people with good skills, but somehow nowadays it is becoming more difficult. The cost of living is becoming very high in Dubai so many people are looking at alternatives places where they can save some pennies. Even though we pay high salaries, finding the right resources is still not that easy. We invest a lot in our people. On average we pay between US$5,000 and US$10,000 per technical and sales person in training a year.
CME:Back in the summer CNS qualified as a Microsoft Gold Partner. How important is that certification to your strategy?
TA:As a system integrator and solution provider you have to offer end-to-end solutions. Our customers have multiple vendor sites and Microsoft is very important to us, as well as Oracle, Cisco and HP. We are not a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ — whichever partner we deal with we make sure that our people are certified to the highest level.
CME:Are you exploring partnerships with any new vendors?
TA:We have our strategic partnerships and our normal partnerships. The strategic ones are the pillars of our offering, but we have partnerships with other companies as well. It depends on the solutions. Wincor Nixdorf is a strategic partner as well because we have around 500 ATMs installed in the UAE today. We are the second largest supplier of ATMs after NCR and hopefully we will overtake them very soon.
CME:How does CNS’ strategy differentiate from its competitors?
TA:Specialisation and focus are the key elements to our success. Basically the differentiator between us and our competition is that we add value to the products and solutions from our core partners. We don't work to meet our customers’ requirements, we work to exceed them. And because they know us for our quality services they come back to us all the time.
CME:How tough is the competition in the market these days?
TA:It is tough but I think the market is also developing now. Price is still an issue, but it’s not the major issue. You have competition when you have someone equal to you offering the same products and services, or even better. But customers are well aware of the opportunistic companies that come and try to hit a price, make a deal and go. They would rather give it to someone who will stay there and offer them good services.
CME:Which markets are growing the fastest at the moment?
TA:We are in the enterprise market and we honestly see growth in all areas — government, public utilities, telcos, banks and property companies.
CME:What are CNS’ forthcoming growth objectives?
TA:We have multiple initiatives which we are working on for our growth. For the next four or five years at least, we see huge growth in the IT market in the UAE and the Gulf. But the market will not be open to any company. Unless you are specialised, focused and offer value added services you will not be able to get business. We have plans to expand in other countries as well where we feel there is a demand.
CME:Which countries in particular?
TA:We used to have an office in Saudi Arabia and we are looking again to open offices. We kept it for some time but because there has been huge growth in the UAE in the past two or three years we needed to focus our resources. UAE accounts for 95pc of our business. It’s still a big market and it’s going to keep growing.
CME:Do you see yourself as a local systems integrator or a regional player in future?
TA:Our strengths come from our local existence, but we will count on this existence and our stronghold in the UAE market to go outside. We are definitely looking to be a regional player but we still see a lot of potential in the UAE market that needs to be covered.