Sharp has launched a new subsidiary and an Experience Centre in Johannesburg to service the greater Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Direct distribution from the OEM to southern Africa now means SADC countries will have access to a wider range of technology than was previously available through legacy distribution channels.
Sharp Middle East & Africa director Ravinder Kumar says the South African operation is a fully-owned subsidiary office of Sharp Middle East & Africa, which is the regional headquarters of Sharp of Japan.
“That said, we have our own warehousing, as well as our own staff, support and warranty management operations, which positions us as a trade hub for conducting business throughout Southern Africa.
“Essentially, this means we now have direct trading capacity in Southern Africa, supported by foreign direct investment, as opposed to the product only being available through third-party distributors,” adds Kumar.
Notably, the South African operation is a channel-only focused business. “As a manufacturer, we focus on selling our products into authorised resellers or channel dealers,” he says.
With the brand being brought directly into South Africa, Kumar says a much wider range of technology is available to consumers. “Consumers also benefit from enhanced availability and the fact that our product is directly supported by the manufacturer’s warrantee.”
The means the lead times to market have decreased substantially for all products from an availability and service support perspective.
Kumar adds that several direct and indirect jobs will be created following the launch of the new hub in South Africa. “Previously, South African distributors were serviced from the MEA headquarters in Dubai, UAE. We’ve employed a local team to drive absorption of our technology into the market and plan to expand on our team of South African employees soon.”
Sharp South Africa sales manager, Roald Vermaak explains: “The trade hub in South Africa increases our capacity to take on more channel dealers or resellers. While it is not directly related to our internal operations, we are also creating employment opportunities by giving South African IT and AV resellers access to a wider range of products. And some are now employing additional staff to focus on Sharp products.
“We have partnered with a local warehousing and logistics operation in Kempton Park. They will need to expand their operations to accommodate us, which could possibly see them tripling their current workforce. In addition, we have enlisted the services of South African professional services firms to ensure compliance. We make sure that the local subsidiary offers all the critical business functions including channel sales, after sales service, warranty management and credit management,” Vermaa adds.
The Johannesburg office will also be responsible for business development in neighbouring African states. “Sharp also wants to tap into the well-developed logistics infrastructure of South Africa to service the country’s neighbours,” he says.
Sharp products range from multifunction copiers, professional displays and interactive screens and calculators, to touch-based point of sale (POS) system and electronic cash registers.
“We are obviously well known for our calculator range. In the education and schooling market, we are highly focused on providing high-level technology at price points that are accessible to the lower and middle LSM segments. We do not want our mass retail products, which are aimed at education, to be out of reach of the average South African learner,” says Vermaak.