Channel to drive growth in Saudi

Saudi Arabia has the region’s largest IT market, valued at approximately $4.6 billion. The Kingdom is continuing to accelerate its economic diversification efforts with its Vision 2030 plan and the National Transformation Program (NTP). Such efforts suggest a paradigm shift from a public sector-driven economy to one driven by the private sector as the main engine for economic growth and job creation.

Out of the total global IT spending in 2018, projected at $4.8 trillion by market intelligence firm IDC, the Saudi market accounts for approximately $12 billion of the global share, reflecting the investment and development goals of the Kingdom.

Hamza Naqshbandi, Country Manager, IDC-Saudi Arabia

Hamza Naqshbandi, Country Manager of IDC-Saudi Arabia, further explains that the Saudi IT market is going through a recovery phase, driven by the expansionary budget, stable oil prices and cross-industry digital transformation (DX) initiatives. “We expect the IT market to rebound and showcase year-on-year growth of 4.3% in 2018. As digital initiatives within the Saudi public sector gather momentum, Saudi organizations will continue to leverage 3rd platform technologies (cloud, mobility, big data, social) to drive efficiency and optimize costs.”

Xerox has been active in the Saudi Arabia market for more than thirty years with physical presence in Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar, and a well-rounded partner network for the rest of the country. Xerox MEA has classified KSA as a first-tier market where it continues to invest in local partners, engage with local organizations and ensure that the company has excellent representation and coverage.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the major markets for Xerox, representing significant growth opportunity. We are continually investing in growing our network here through active recruitment of partners,” adds Pui Chi Li, Head of Marketing – MEA at Xerox.

Pui Chi Li, Head of Marketing – MEA, Xerox

According to Naqshbandi, third platform solutions like cloud, mobility, big data analytics and social technologies are experiencing significant demand as Saudi enterprises look to transform themselves digitally. The public sector remains the largest spender on IT, followed closely by the telecommunications and banking & financial services.

For Veeam, the journey in Saudi Arabia started in 2013 by hiring dedicated local team in sales, pre-sales and channel.

“It is of utmost importance for us to invest in this country. We have invested a lot of efforts to develop business here and the results have been stunning despite the economic slowdown,” says Rawad Zaki, Territory Manager – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon & Palestine at Veeam Software.

Businesses, agencies and organizations across Saudi Arabia are broadening their adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure, as per Shihab Mujahed, Regional Sales Director at Pivot3. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20 percent of business-critical applications currently deployed on three-tier IT infrastructure will transition to hyperconverged infrastructure.

Shihab Mujahed, Regional Sales Director, Pivot3

“We have a broad ecosystem of Technology Alliance Partnerships making us a great fit for the Saudi market. In addition we have the right solutions that not only provide the underlying technology to build smart and safe cities throughout the Kingdom but are optimal for multiple IT workloads,” states Mujahed.

In its efforts to diversify the country’s economy, Saudi is also focusing on strengthening its cyber security capabilities. Last year Saudi Arabia established the National Authority for Cyber Security to boost cyber security of the state and protect its vital interests, national security and sensitive infrastructure. Several government departments in the country have already geared up and started working in that direction.

Cyber-crime is increasing throughout the world due to the lack of market understanding of the risks in building cyber capabilities in-house. In light of the recent cyber-attacks, the appetite for cyber security training in the Kingdom is continually increasing.

Ned Baltagi, Managing Director – MEA, SANS

Without proper training and the technical know-how to protect companies, organizations in KSA remain susceptible to cyber-attacks. “Most organizations worldwide have continued to invest all of their security resources in technology, ignoring the fact that people are the weakest link into any organization. The tide is beginning to turn, however. More and more Saudi organizations are now beginning to invest in and secure their people as well. Training should be a core part of every organization’s cyber security model within the Kingdom,” stresses Ned Baltagi, Managing Director – MEA at SANS.

While it is important for partners to develop capabilities in technologies that correspond to latest market trends, they also need to invest in developing their professional services capabilities since this will be a major source of revenue for the channel in years to come.

Ilyas Mohammed, Director Saudi Operations, SPECTRAMI

Saudi has presented SPECTRAMI with lucrative business avenues where the company has managed to grow in the past four years. SPECTRAMI’s Director of Saudi Operations, Ilyas Mohammed highlights that the channel has played a significant role in the company’s success. He further emphasizes that it is also very important for the channel to evolve with technology and this means investing in upgrading its knowledge and skills to stay in sync with the technical and market trends.

“We have continuously engaged with our partners to enable them with the required knowledge and skills through training and certification programs. In addition to this, we have a dedicated technical and sales team in Saudi for close engagement with partners. We also empower our partners with sales and technical training that we offer either directly or in tandem with our vendor,” explains Mohammed.

When it comes to investment allocations for its channel partner network growth, Xerox also gives top priority to training and provides its partners with regular and comprehensive training programs.

ESET is in the process of expanding its local team of engineers to assist partners in optimizing end customer needs and offer appropriate deployments and configurations.

Dimitris Raekos, General Manager at ESET Middle East

Channel partners need to be ready to transform their hardware or software-oriented business to services, says Dimitris Raekos, General Manager at ESET Middle East. “We expect organizations in the Kingdom to outsource many of their projects and rely more on managed service providers and cloud services. This will require appointing skillful engineers in addition to working with vendors that are able to offer the right tools,” he adds.

In order to enable its partners to grow in KSA, Pivot3 has upgraded its Partner Relationship Management Platform with a user-friendly interface and by adding functionalities like training and certification modules. The company has also implemented the GaggleAMP social media sharing platform to provide its KSA partners with a sales and marketing advantage. “We also conduct regular awareness sessions on partners premises and execute customer events, round tables, and joint events,” explains Mujahed.

Rawad Zaki, Territory Manager – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon & Palestine, Veeam Software

Partner enablement comes through sales & presales enablement in addition to account mapping and co-funded marketing activities, says Zaki. “We train distributors and partners so that they can effectively sell, implement and support Veeam products. We do this with a mixture of online and classroom based training, along with certification exams.”

SPECTRAMI has witnessed reasonable growth in KSA and while it is yet to close its financial cycle, Mohammed is confident that the distributor will close year better than last year. “To ensure that we continue to grow with the same momentum, we are investing into additional resources and plan to expand our team in Saudi Arabia.”

Veeam has shown double-digit growth in Saudi Arabia in the last 3 years and expects this to continue in 2018 “Our main goal for 2018 is to expand more in the enterprise sector keeping an eye on the sustainable growth and the huge revenue stream we are generating from the SMB and COM sectors. In order to increase revenues and expand more in the Saudi market, we are closely working with our strategic alliances like HPE, CISCO and Netapp through number of joint-events and day to day follow ups between our teams,” states Zaki.

Saudi market is expected to be one of the most promising markets in the Middle East and will continue to invest in e-government and Smart City initiatives, as part of its economic diversification goals. With many government-sponsored programs in place for business development, the Saudi market is expected to be a very lucrative market. In line with the goals of the National Transformation Program and Saudi Vision 2030, digital transformation may prove to be one of the key drivers for growth of Saudi Arabia’s ICT ecosystem.

Also, a number of companies are prioritizing the channel for growth in Saudi Arabia and expect sustainable growth across a number of sectors, including education, government, healthcare, transportation and SME sectors. However, in order to effectively tap into these opportunities, channel players in Saudi Arabia need to gear up for digital transformation and chalk out right approach to enable digital innovation.