With an uncertain year in Kenya behind, NITI’s VP Ponnin Selvan can look forward to a better future
With Q1 gone, discuss your performance in the first quarter and what that implies about the rest of the year
Q1 has been slow since we had the Kenya elections. Many people were afraid of a repeat of the chaos of the last election and a lot of consumers were sceptical to make any purchases, thus delaying the whole cycle. This had a ripple effect in the other East African countries where we operate. Having said that, we have managed to scrap through and reach our target. This will be left behind since most of the countries in East Africa will have left-over funds to spend before they go for their national budgets, hence we hope grow at 120% of our targeted figure. Q1 results only encourage us to work even harder to achieve the objectives set for the year and to serve our partners with greater commitment and dedication.
What trends and developments do you see in the current African IT distribution model?
IT distribution in Africa is still the traditional model but vendors are becoming more and more serious about African business and dedicating themselves to this market. This has seen an excitement created in the market for partners and consumers.
You continue to add brands into your portfolio. What is the overriding factor you use to decide to bring these brands into your fold?
We continue to add more brands to our portfolio. Our earlier business model complements our current business model, hence we have older contracts of differing nature which we need to honour for a period. After those contracts are over, however, we will be asking vendors to reconsider the contracts so that we can enter into different ones that suit our current model after which there will be a consolidation of all the brands. Exclusive distribution agreements are usually seen with high end and luxury products. Ours is a case of low-end products whose goal should be for products to saturate the market and move units quickly. Therefore, there is a need for at least two distributors per country or region depending on the size of the market.
With Africa’s economy growing, more players are being tempted to enter the continent’s distribution sector. How do you intend to counter this imminent competition?
Consolidation of distributors is a given for all countries and regions. In certain countries we have excess distributors than actual performing partners, leading to a case of supply over-meeting demand as well as over-distribution. In this case, the partners take advantage of the situation and twist the arm the distributors. The distributors are unable to make any money and eventually lose hope in the brand, invest less and defocus from the brand. Nonetheless, we are always thinking of new products and/or services we can bring to market. We find new ways to engage the partners and keep prospects interested. We have a good Tier-3 base of partners and breadth billing is the key to our success. Other distributors don’t want to take the risk, but we play all along that line because with higher risk comes higher returns.
You have a front row seat to observe Africa’s technology trends. How is Africa’s receptiveness to latest technology and gadgets?
New technologies like cloud computing and mobile computing and the latest gadgetry are all the rage in Africa right now. People in Africa are adaptive to new technologies and like to learn about anything new. Africa is very receptive to these new technologies, only spending power is not there. Emerging technology fields are fertile hunting grounds for new business opportunities, and corporate executives, investors, policymakers, and entrepreneurs across many industries look to these areas to drive growth.
What challenges are you facing particular to Africa and how do you overcome them?
Challenges are many and come in different forms and shapes including consumer awareness, consumer spending, pricing, etc. We do our best to overcome these challenges by partner education through channel events and programs meant to ease understanding. We also have a strong relationship with our partners and this helps in getting the m