Established as one of East Africa’s top distributors, Despec’s COO Faisal Jamal discusses how the company looks to build on the success of the region’s burgeoning ICT industry in 2014to spur its own vision
Discuss Despec’s East Africa’s outlook for 2014
We believe the East African market still offers great opportunity for growth in 2014. With the market stabilizing after a difficult 2013 in Kenya, we are very optimistic that 2014 will be the perfect spring board the years ahead.
Having moved in to our Regional Warehouse in Dar-es-Salaam, and migrated to a new ERP in late 2013, we believe we have the right foundations for future growth. Our priority will be to ensure that we have more ‘feet on the street’ across the region with Burundi, DRC and Mozambique being on our radar. In addition we are investing heavily in appropriate employee training that will give our staff the skills and the knowledge to support our customers.
Discuss any additions to Despec’s portfolio in 2013 and any new brands/solutions you hope to bring in 2014
2013 was a great year for our Product Portfolio development, with new distribution agreements in place for East Africa with Acer, SanDisk, Pantum, Trust and Targus on board. This enhances our current assortment and gives us an entry point into the PC channel which we did not have the assortment in the past. We hope this ensure that for all our customers we remain the ‘one stop shop.’
Looking forward to 2014, we are really looking at adding brands in both the mobility and value spaces. Given the strength of our network, we believe that we can add a lot of benefits for brands in these categories and we are looking forward to announcing a few partnerships in the coming months.
Discuss your Africa’s expansion strategy for 2014 and beyond
Our priority for now is to consolidate the business in Eastern Africa. With our new regional hub in place, we are focusing on ensuring that all countries neighboring Tanzania are covered efficiently. Furthermore in countries where we are already established such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda our focus will be to continue to develop the channel and in particular the consumer retail space where we see much opportunity. Beyond Eastern Africa, there are plans in place to start exploring opportunities in Western Africa in 2015.
Discuss some challenges in the East African market and how Despec has managed to rise above them
One of the biggest challenges in the region, especially on consumables and accessories, is the widespread counterfeit market. No matter what price points we sell at, we are not able to compete. Here, there is a long term strategy already in place, working with the brands to carry out training for the various Customs Authorities to help them identify the counterfeit at the point of entry.
In addition, if we are not fighting Counterfeits we are fighting Grey Products which is a massive challenge. Here again we are working closely with the vendors to ensure that pricing for Africa is different to the rest of the world and more importantly suited for the local market.
What are some of the trends affecting the distribution model in East Africa Currently?
On the positive side the economic opportunities across EA are changing the landscape. With huge amounts of natural resources across the region, it is driving all sectors to improve at a faster pace to support the development of these industries. What is important is that the ultimate customers in the mining or oil and gas industries are expecting the same quality of service as they would in other developed countries. This provides a huge opportunity for companies to come into the market and match these expectations. At the same time though, the changing legal structure and the limited quality of skilled labor make it difficult to support all these opportunities.
What is also interesting to see is the increasing number of distribution companies looking to explore East Africa for both Middle East and South Africa. The increasing competition will ensure that the channel receives the best in class in customer service.
As one of Africa’s most prominent distributors, what is Despec’s role in shaping technology in East Africa in 2014 and beyond?
Our first priority as a business is to ensure that we have stock available on the ground, and at the most cost effective price points. This is the first step to ensure that the technology is available in East Africa. In addition my supporting the channel with local credit, marketing and training, we end up providing the region with the right tools to ensure that technology is readily available.