WD is a leader in storage, success Khwaja Saifuddin, Senior Sales Dir., MEA & South Asia hopes can be replicated in E. Africa
You operate in numerous markets in the region. Do you have a different approach for Africa or are you going in with your tried and tested strategy
WD builds strong, mutually beneficial relationships with partners in every region it operates in to address the market, and we are employing the same strategy in Africa. This strategy is one that has proven itself time and again, so there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel in this case. To boost our presence in Africa we last year appointed Mitsumi Distribution to be a focused partner (in addition to our existing distribution partners). We also have staff on the ground in the region that monitor the market and interact with partners on a day-to-day basis. We will continue to focus on expanding our channel breadth and therefore our reach in Africa, so that we can take full advantage of the business opportunity Africa presents.
Discuss the value that you hope to take to Africa in light of increased competition from major vendors in the continent
The African market is one that has been traditionally underserved while the demand for IT products such as our range of storage products and solutions is healthy, and on an upward growth trajectory. It’s therefore the right time to put additional emphasis on business in the region as sustainable long term business is a definite possibility. Presently WD is focusing its attention on the North, Central, East and West African markets which includes countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda etc. These markets have a healthy demand for IT products and solutions and, as they have been underserved markets in the past, they present a great opportunity for long term business. WD has a wide range of products that target the consumer, SMB and enterprise segments. In North Africa we’ve had success shifting products in each of these segments, whereas in the West and Central African region, we’ve been focusing on our component products i.e. internal drives such as our WD Blue, Green, Red and Black products. With the Eastern region we’ve been pushing our range of branded products, which includes the My Passport, My Book and WD Sentinel small business storage server.
Despite enhanced efforts from authorities in Africa, the continent still faces a large counterfeit and gray market. How do you hope to overcome this challenge?
One of the biggest challenges with African markets is the availability of products that are gray or parallel imports. As these products have entered these markets illegally they are not covered by our usual support systems and customer care. This presents a real problem because customers are, in most cases, completely unaware that they are buying gray or parallel products, so if something goes wrong and they need support, they will have a tough time which in turn harms their perception of the brand. To tackle this issue we have been focusing on educating channel players on the dangers of selling gray or parallel import products and the benefits of going through the right channels. As part of this we are enrolling channel players into our myWD Partner Program, which offers benefits such as product training, special offers on products, cash incentives and much more. Simultaneously we are also focusing on improving our channel breadth and reach as it will help us to better address these markets with products that are of interest to customers.
Are there popular product lines among your portfolio across the board or is each market different?
Each country in Africa has unique demands and requirements; in countries in the East for example we’ve seen strong demand for our branded products, which includes external hard drives such as the WD My Passport and WD My Book. Moving to countries in the central region we’ve experienced strong demand for our internal hard drives which includes the WD Blue, Green, Red and Black drives.
Discuss your current resale and distribution channels in the region
WD has a network of partners in Africa ranging from distributors to resellers to retailers. As part of our focus on Africa we have been working on growing our channel breadth and reach by adding new partners. We follow this up by supporting them with in-depth product and concept training, which enables them to effectively address the market. If a partner is unable to attend our on-ground training sessions or wants to train new staff, they also have the option of undergoing online training via our WD University training tool (www.wduniversity.com). The myWD partner program also offers product training as a benefit and partners also have the option of interacting directly with WD staff via phone or e-mail. While we presently have a healthy number of partners that enables us to address the North, Central, East and West African markets, we are always on the lookout for additional partners with who we can build long term mutually beneficial relationships.
What are you looking forward to in terms of growth moving forward?
WD’s outlook on Africa in 2013 is positive and we look forward to capitalizing on the opportunities the market presents. The market has demonstrated a healthy appetite for IT products in recent times and is projected to grow further in the future. The market, in its current state, does have a few challenges that need to be overcome but we believe the end result will be well worth the effort.