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Thu 26 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Flat screen project

UK flat-screen display specialist PSCo is aiming to carve a niche in the Middle East AV equipment rental sector by offering its technology inventory for hire solely to established rental companies. Aaron Greenwood got the lowdown on the company's regional ambitions from managing director Stuart Holmes.

Flat screen project
Flat screen project

UK flat-screen display specialist PSCo is aiming to carve a niche in the Middle East AV equipment rental sector by offering its technology inventory for hire solely to established rental companies. Aaron Greenwood got the lowdown on the company's regional ambitions from managing director Stuart Holmes.

You've achieved considerable success in the UK having adopted a trade-only business model. Do you think this model can be applied with the same degree of success in an emerging market like the GCC?

We wouldn't be here if we didn't. Typically, we invest in the kit rental companies don't want to buy. So, technologies like 103" plasmas, which have limited applications in isolation, but are still in high-demand across the board.

Our business is trade-only and this model is actually aided during a downturn, because a lot of our clients don't have the budget or unwilling to invest in the kind of technology we specialise in, which might only get used every now and then.

Given the impact of the recession, do you have the same degree of faith in the model working here as you did 18 months ago?

SH: I think there's more potential now than there was during the good times. Previously, rental companies might have been more inclined to buy this sort of kit themselves regardless of its cost because the demand was there and they knew the ROI would be substantial. Now, that's not the case.

When equipment investment budgets are tight, our trade-only commercial model makes even more sense. It's very similar to a traditional distribution model in the sense that given our inventory levels, we can quote certain deals confident in the knowledge we'll be able to supply the kit they require in its entirety.

Dubai's been hit particularly hard by the recession. Were you conscious of this when settling on the emirate as a base for your Middle East operations?

Sure, but it still makes perfect sense as a hub for our operations in the region, given that most of the bigger equipment rental companies are based there. In saying that, the majority of our business in the past couple of months has come from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

We're currently working out of Creative Technology's (CT) offices in Dubai's Green Community. We've had a strong relationship with the CT guys in the UK for quite a few years now, so we jumped at the chance when they offered us some temporary warehousing space.

What unique products are you introducing to the local rental market?

We've purchased more than 150 items of kit specifically for this market and we've also brought over some of our existing stock from the UK, including a couple of Sharp 108" full-HD LCDs, which are particularly rare in this part of the world.We purchased them for the UK market but to be honest the demand hasn't really been as high as we'd expected. But we think they'll work a lot better here.

Touchscreens and other forms of interactivity are industry buzz words at the moment. We have the hardware to enable these technologies, but we have to rely on our clients to create the content. It is quite challenging creating really compelling interactive content for these displays.

Have you confirmed any rental contracts to date?

SH: We had a few orders from clients exhibiting at GITEX [Technology Week] in Dubai. We could have rented out the 82" displays three times over given the demand during the show.

The CT guys have also confirmed they plan to use some of our kit for various projects they've got coming up in the next few months.

What other services are you looking to provide local rental partners?

We've brought over our own team of service and training specialists from the UK and we're going to offer free technical training services to clients. They'll also service our own displays locally, so we don't have to outsource these facilities to a third-party. It's vitally important clients fully appreciate the technicalities of these display technologies, so they can get the most out of the product.

By offering free training services, we expand our contact base while ensuring production crews in this region appreciate the technical aspects of this technology, particularly in regards to the colour balancing applications we employ.

This is vital, because you can spend a fortune investing in visual display tech but if the colour balance isn't set up properly, the end result can look awful. 

Do you think some of the more established AV equipment rental companies will perceive you as a threat?

I sincerely hope not. Given that we're a trade-only supplier, there's no reason they should. We're not looking to play with the big boys and we have no interest in diversifying our business now we're here.

We're just looking to carve a niche supplementing technology these guys don't have access to or are unwilling to invest in.

Which companies are you talking to at the moment?

SH: We've met with quite a few of the well-known Dubai-based equipment rental companies, such as Almoe AV Rentals, Eclipse and CT. They've all been really responsive to our business model and what we're trying to achieve here.

Some of these companies have been investing massive amounts of money in new gear despite the recession. Does this concern you?

We sit below companies like Gearhouse and Protec in terms of the pecking order of equipment rental suppliers.

As I stated previously, I simply hope these guys will perceive us as an AV technology supplier providing the means for them to supplement any gear they require for a particular project they're working on.

PSCo’s New kit list

PSCo UAE has invested in more than 150 pieces of new equipment for its Dubai-based rental operation, including:

Videowall screens

30 x new generation 4230R Infinite plasma screens that can be linked to create videowalls

Full HD screens

30 x 42" Full HD Panasonic plasmas

20 x 50" Full HD Panasonic plasmas

10 x 65" Full HD Panasonic plasmas

4 x 103" Full HD Panasonic plasmas

Interactive Products

4 x multi-touch interactive bars

42", 50", 65" and 103" touchscreen overlays

Stands

20 x parabella stands designed for 50" display screens and above

20 x contemporary axia stands

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