Prospects for the Middle East’s biggest IT market, Saudi Arabia, keep getting better. Good news then for players in that market like distributor Metra Computers.
The combination of a low computer installed base and huge market potential, Saudi Arabia portends a potentially lucrative and sustainable IT market for years to come.
This is according to Mohamed Amer, MD, at Metra Computer, one of the leading IT distributors in the Middle East. In addition, the refresh rate in Saudi is better than in many other countries in the region with people constantly changing their PCs and getting the latest technology faster than other places. “There’s still a lot of growth at the horizontal level with first time users with keen to acquire PCs,” Amer added.
Like elsewhere, notebooks have had to concede some market share to tablets in KSA especially for entertainment purposes with the market for PCs either flat in some markets or slightly declining. However, as Amer observes, the notebook retains its eminence for content creation, workloads and businesses. “Having said that, the Saudi market has been hit by a significant drop in computer sales in the last couple of years with about 30% cumulative drop in sales for the last two years,” Amer contends. “Therefore, everyone is resigned to lower figures this year but with expectations of a more stable and sustainable growth over the long term.”
Luckily for Metra, the distributor’s comprehensive product portfolio means the company can offset any slide in the notebook business. “The notebook business remains our bread and butter but on top of that, we also have IPGs, supplies and as well as a components business. Overall, we can look forward to balanced growth in 2014 compared to last year and the year before,” Amer says.
Metra’s tablet strategy in KSA has hit full stride in the last 4-5 months beginning with a couple of Wi-Fi and 3G models. “Our tablets business is now picking up speed and with more demand coming from the market. Our vendor partners have thrown a lot of muscle behind tablets and not just on the ODM side and MNCs like Dell and HP, but also on the CPU level with our partner Intel focused on this segment,” Amer said. The company today distributes Dell, HP and Apple tablets.
Metra expects to see an uptake in the notebook business across the region due to what Amer describes as changes in the distribution landscape. “Additionally, we are also tapping into this tablet opportunity which should cover any shortfall in the notebook business,” Amer says.
Amer observes that tablets are volume-driven and with Metra launching more models, the better for business and better reach to different segments. “The tablet business is coming up and we expect in a few quarters we will have bigger portfolio and by targeting different segments at different price points, this business can only grow.”
The Enterprise tablet market is just emerging and Metra has the Venue Pro tablets from Dell as well as professional tablets from Asus and HP. “The numbers for tablets in the enterprise are still small, but we are seeing growth in certain sectors like education and the healthcare sectors as well as in Point of Sale the need for high computing power meets a device that can be mobile.”
In the components business, Metra is an authorised Intel distributor in the EMEA Plus programme for Middle East and Africa, selling Intel CPUs, motherboards and SSDs. The components market, Amer says, is still a significant in countries such as Egypt and other North African countries with a sizable gaming community and market where people want their own customized machines.
Looking forward, Metra’s expansion plans combine both organic as well as acquisitions as the recent purchase of distributor Empa shows. “We are exploring all opportunities that will help strengthen Metra’s business and brand as a lead distributor in Middle East and Africa,” Amer says, adding, “In terms of acquisitions, once we find a company aligned with our business and values, we will definitely be looking at acquiring such a company, like we did with Empa,” Amer concludes.