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Sun 15 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Visions of growth

The Advisor asks Ahmad Hijazi, Business Development Manager, LFD Solutions at Samsung Gulf Electronics on the future of visual communication for smes.

The Advisor asks Ahmad Hijazi, Business Development Manager, LFD Solutions at Samsung Gulf Electronics on the future of visual commun ication forSMEs.

How has the SME market (relevant to AV & IT sector) in the Middle East, grown over these years?

During the last few years, we witnessed an accelerated economic boom in the Middle East, driven by oil prices, shift of investment capital and growth in key investment sectors.

This has fuelled growth specifically in the IT sector, being one of the main areas of infrastructure developments which normally accompany these booms.

There are a lot of cutting-edge solutions which might be an overkill, and some will fall short of the real requirements.

IT and AV were subject to the modernisation and infrastructure development trend which in turn has opened new doors and allowed for an increased number of small and medium businesses to operate in different fields, including IT and AV infrastructure solutions providers which definitely need to cater to new and increasing needs.

What kind of AV and integrated technologies do SMEs invest in?

Business success now is not as simple as it was 15 years ago.

A business strategy these days absolutely has - among other factors - to be backed by a solid and clear Technical/ IT vision, and this shows in the increasing numbers of CIOs/ CTOs participating in direction and strategy planning for their businesses, and although one might automatically think about infrastructure when we mention information/technical chiefs, this is very far from accurate.

The developments in the technical and IT departments are becoming a part of the company's identity and then a determinant for fields of potential expansion and growth.

Growing outsourcing trends and accepting it as the norm for implementing solutions and managed services, a lot of focus from the side of organisations is going into bringing, training and maintaining the technical talent which has the ability to direct both the need and the offering as well as the implementation of these solutions.

These investment also covers the much needed IT and A/V tools to have the solid, scalable and modern infrastructure, starting from advanced presentation and conference room equipment, conferencing and communications tools (incorporating AV solutions to the system), more advanced and decentralised AV architectures (both for internal as well as customer-accessed sites), all the way to digital signage incorporating the new guidelines for delivering messages to an exceedingly busier consumer, this is one of very important fields of new marketing, which can add value to the organisation and can potentially turn its display solution into a cash-generating investment (advertising).

These are some of the fields that Samsung, as a display-solutions leader, is trying to develop.

Do you feel that SMEs in this region are up to date with the options available? Do SMEs in this region effectively employ AV & integrated technology solutions in their organisation? Please provide specific market figures?

There is certainly much advancement done in this field, and we are able to see major demand for certain solutions from the market, but this is just the beginning. We believe that there is more to come, and the demand is yet to shift and advance to numerous new segments and uses.

There will be increased functionalities and requirement/ spending. The figures are still not very accurate but there is an obvious trend which we can sense from the market.

SMEs in general are knowledgeable about the cutting-edge display solutions available, and our region always has good presence in global IT exhibitions, but there is a long way before these solutions become the norm and a standard across the segments.

This should happen also in parallel when the modernization and technology driven trend, becomes more rooted in our business culture.

How do you as a vendor work with your channel partners to ensure that your prospective and existing clients choose the right solution for their organisation?

This is a very important question and is at the heart of our approach to the markets. Our business group is called Large Format Display (LFD) Solutions. The name solutions is to point specifically at that.

The display product doesn't have to be just a peripheral anymore, but rather a terminal which can connect to a network, and offer advanced control and versatility to the user, maybe even have its own control and access to the main server from which it can cooperate for more information sharing.

As the product becomes more advanced, and the business becomes a solution business, the role of the channel partner gains a much bigger importance compared to the traditional case of just supply.This is why we ensure that there is cultivation of fully equipped, highly professional and technologically aware channel which can truly represent us in the market space, and in the interaction with the client, whose complete satisfaction is the ultimate goal.

We are very careful at selecting our channels to the markets, and once that step is achieved we focus on completely aligning our objectives and directions with theirs in this field.

We provide strong technical support to our channels, and ensure continuous communications and full update on advancements, trends, and approaches.

Globally, we have a very strong R&D team who are able to design the superior products, and a very strong strategy and marketing team which links the channels with the solutions and the technology. We are currently working on transferring this experience to the Middle East market.

Many SME set-ups in the Middle East region fall under the "50 or less" employee category. Thus, many cannot have a dedicated system at their disposal. In such a scenario, how do you propose your solutions to such companies?

We were initially not focused on the "50 or less" category. The worldwide trend of outsourcing and outsourced services will probably make the approach to this market easier.

There are many companies/integrators who purchase the display system nowadays and are able to lease it at certain occasions.

They are able to manage events in which displays are used without the need to invest in the complete system.

It is becoming more important specifically for smaller companies to have the right technical talent who has the ability to direct and supervise the effective use of IT/AV systems whether locally implemented or outsourced.

How can an SME setting up its business in the Middle East, go about selecting the right AV solutions?

It is surely very important to align the display solution - as part of the overall information infrastructure - with the longer term needs of the company.

There are a lot of cutting-edge solutions which might be an overkill, and some will fall short of the real requirements.

The selection of the appropriate AV display system should happen through a systematic approach by the right technical staff, and according to clear understanding of the needs of the company and the consultation of professional integrators/advisors.

One example is the use of the consumer-oriented TV systems in professional situations which causes substantial losses to organisations [not necessarily financial].

There should be enough knowledge about the full range of solutions offered by the leading vendors in this field. This can help in reducing longer-term losses and out-date of existing systems.

Here it is important to mention the role of the professional A/V channel in guiding customers to the right solutions to their needs, and having the required range in their portfolio offering.

This channel will have more knowledge about the available products and can help the clients move away from simply using TVs in places where a real professional system is needed.

It is critically important to look at a trusted vendor, with the right references because with the increase of the invested capital in the solution, and the complexity of products needed, the tolerance for failure or low-grade solutions diminishes.

Any other insights or developments at your organisation you would like to add?

Samsung Gulf established its Large Format Display division this year, in response to the market demand, the opportunities and in light of the developments happening globally in this field.

The LFD Division has a mission of presenting top of the line professional displays and display solutions (sizes from 32'' up to 82'' in both LCD and Plasma) to cover public display, corporate display and the digital signage sectors.

Samsung created this division because of the need to address a market which is separate from both the Monitor and the TV market.

Professional/corporate customers have needs which are very different from the consumer trends which dictate the development in the TV field. There are clear distinctions between monitor, TV, and LFD.

The separation between them enables each business unit to focus more on delivering the exact product to its exact target customer, which is exactly what we are doing. This also affected our product portfolio, where we are heading towards a more segmented and customised solution business.

There will be a bigger role for the client in designing his own solution, in order to best match his exact needs, and eventually this enables Samsung to be closer to its professional customer base.

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