After a two-year stint in India setting up Sahara Computers & Electronics Ltd, Atul Gupta has returned to South Africa to lead the next phase of Sahara Holdings' growth strategy in the African region.

Gupta says that the Indian operations are a 50/50 joint venture between Sahara in South Africa and India's Sahara Pariwar (no previous connection prior to the JV, by the way, and this company is the one that sponsors India's cricket team). He says that George van der Merwe is still heading up this operation; that it is in the process of completing a 30 000 square metre manufacturing facility; and that over the last 18 months has secured $300-million turnover in India.
Gupta is quick to point out that the timing of his return to the local Sahara operations has absolutely nothing to do with the imminent arrival of the world's biggest distributor on these shores on 1 June – Ingram Micro.
"We have already faced Ingram Micro in other markets like Dubai and Singapore and we have never been threatened by them," he says. "We have never had any conflict with them and I think Ingram's entry into South Africa will be good for the market.
"I think you will see the supply chain become a lot better, a lot more efficient, with the opening of their local operation."
The fact of the matter on his return, he says, is that he was deputised to India for two years to ensure the successful establishment of the JV and that this has come to fruition.
Since his departure two years ago, Gupta says there have been a number of interesting developments in the South African IT landscape.
"There have been new players emerging," he says. "There have been a lot of changes in the market that excite me and we're looking to take a leading position in the region."
He says that with the bedding down and success of operations in Botswana, Namibia, Kenya and Mozambique – where the company last week announced the establishment of assembly facilities – it was now time for Sahara to further spread its wings.
It is already involved in supplying some key projects in Ghana, for example.
"All our operations in neighbouring territories are doing well," Gupta says, "and we are working with a number of vendors in other countries in Africa with educational or government-assisted programmes. Through these programmes, we deal with a lot of those countries' local partners which helps us establish the Sahara presence."
Gupta says that he will also transfer many of the best practices he has learnt with the Indian operation into the South African market.
"I've spent the last two years learning a lot in India and China and I want to bring those best practices back home," he says. "These are all leading edge and with them we will concentrate on our South African expansion. They will give us a new edge with the launch of new products, services and solutions into the local market.
"There are going to be a lot of good things happening in terms of the Sahara brand over the next two quarters," Gupta adds.