Kathy Gibson reporting from Amsterdam – Acer, along with most other IT companies, is looking to Africa to fuel substantial growth in the future.

Jakob Olsen, vice-president: commercial division at Acer EMEA, believes a phased and disciplined approach to the continent, coupled with a strictly indirect go-to-market strategy, will help the company achieve success in Africa.

Acer already sells its products only through partners –the 100% indirect model is a point of pride for the company – and it will address the burgeoning African markets through careful partnering, Olsen says.
Importantly, the new commercial strategy that the company is unveiling this week will be driven through a simplified partner programme.

“We have an increasing focus on partners,” Olsen tells IT-Online. “And we are trying not to simply recite slogans, but ensure that we have the programmes to back them up.”

Acer is supporting partners across the region in three areas: with a complete product range that spans from servers and storage right down to handheld smartphones and includes notebooks, ultrabooks, tablets and desktops; monthly special offers that help resellers to understand what’s available and make it easy for them to recommend Acer products; and a Back2Business run-rate portal to assist with repeat orders.

“We make it easy for resellers to do business with Acer, and we allow them to make money,” Olsen says. “But, importantly, we build trust with our partners: we don’t do business without our resellers; and we don’t punish them.
“Our channel strategy is built in simplicity and trust.”

Acer is currently relatively weak in Africa, although it has a particularly strong presence in South Africa and is also well represented in the Middle East. The rest of the continent is a huge market opportunity, and one that Acer will be addressing with its new commercial product line-up.

However, Olsen stresses that the company will always partner with local resellers and distributors to address each new African market.

“The challenge is to get the right distribution for Africa, and to offer it at the right time,” he says, pointing out that African customers are not prepared to wait for products. Our supply chain and our resellers are going to be absolutely key in the African market,” Olsen says. “We think we can offer tremendous value with the proper partners.”

The Acer supply chain, which it has built up and refined in the consumer space over the years, should give it a competitive edge in the emerging markets of Africa.

“Our supply chain is highly efficient,” says Olsen. “We need to engage with partners in Africa, with smaller local resellers being absolutely key to our strategy.”

The move into Africa is happening now, he adds. Acer is actively engaging with local partners and putting people on the ground within key African markets.

“It’s important to understand the local markets and their culture,” says Olsen. “That’s why we are engaging local people with local contacts; and talking to local distributors.”

The South African operation has been in the headlines lately, with IT and Acer veteran David Drummond set to take over as country manager next week (1 October). Olsen says the organisation is pleased to have secured Drummond for the position.

In addition, he says the existing commercial team under the leadership of Damien Durrant is one of the strongest in the EMEA region. The South African education team is also doing particularly well, Olsen adds.

“We definitely want to take the things we do well in South Africa and duplicate them in the rest of Africa.”

Olsen cautions, however, that the expansion into Africa won’t happen quickly or rashly. “It will probably take a couple of years to get to where we are going – it is not going to be tomorrow.

“We are serious about profitable growth and will get there even if it takes a bit longer than we’d like. But we are here to stay.”