Current market conditions, influenced significantly by the volatile socio-economic climate, have resulted in a marked increase in smaller independent service providers within the rapidly expanding networking space.
This is according to Paul Luff, country manager of SMC Networks, who says one of the main spin-offs to what is a very tight economy is the fact that many people, especially those who have become retrenched or find themselves unemployed, are turning to their own devises in attempts to emerge unscathed or – better yet – generate successful ICT services business.
"They may have been part of a larger enterprise or service provider outfit that was forced to consolidate and reorganize its structure. Some of these companies have multiple divisions and opt to rather close a portion of these business silos down to avoid financial/ capital loss in hard times," he says.
"Individuals regroup and decide to invest their skill sets into a support/service operation that, in many cases, has limited exposure to product availability, distribution or knowledge of emerging industry trends and technical diversity.
"We are now witnessing a flourish of service providers within the small-to-medium segment of the market. In truth this a mixed blessing – it could have some long-term benefits in the form of competition, the establishment of alliances and partnerships to bolster and strengthen the market and transfer of skills sets to develop knowledge capital."
However, he cautions that many of these start-ups rarely get to see the light of day, mainly because they are in over their heads with what they offer and what they suspect the market requires.
"In a number of instances the new arrival to the market sells its service and support offering based on the premise that 'no job is too big or too small'," says Luff.
"It simply does not work like that and often customers are left with more issues, more technology-related problems and more confusion over network infrastructure than was the case before they engaged with the service provider.
"The great equalizer in the broader networking solutions and infrastructure integration market is deliverables and the required resources to back up support."
Without fundamental skills sets, product knowledge, training on the latest product/solutions, general market expertise and technical back-up, there is really very little a small independent service provider can do outside the scope of its core ability, Luff adds.
"At the same time, though, it is true that there is opportunity for these operators to strike up a partnership or alliance with players of similar size in the market. This can have immediate potential gain for both parties – for example, the exchange of skills sets, product/s and knowledge,
"Expertise and skills sets are broadened, and this can only mean benefit for the consumer or end user due to the fact that product portfolios are expanded and there is more choice and more chance of reliable support."