On 1 March a new distributor opened its doors. Data Storage Distribution (DSD) is addressing a gap it sees in the market for a dedicated storage distributor.
In an uncertain economic climate, and a market where consolidation is playing out, DSD believes it can thrive by offering a specialised product set and top-drawer service.
Founder and MD Kalvin Subbadu certainly knows his way around the storage market; he’s a familiar face in the storage market and will be driving DSD from the front.
Commenting on where the idea for a dedicated storage distributor in South Africa came about, he says there is a very clear gap in the market.
“The fact is, there is no dedicated storage distributor that talks to all storage products and solutions.
“Typically, when a customer needs storage today, they go to a broad-based distributor. The problem is that these big distributors carry everything and so storage gets diluted in an environment where PCs or notebooks take precedence.
“Within the broad-based distributors, a customer that wants to buy five USBs is not given the same priority as a customer buying five notebooks – the service they receive is typically compromised because the distributor’s priority is not storage.
“So storage is usually one of the overlooked product sets when customers are looking for solutions. And they are also lower in priority when it comes to delivery.
“We realised that what the market needs is a distributor that is focused solely on storage, where it is not an add-on but the solution itself.”
Subbadu has been in the storage industry for upwards of 10 years, so he has a good understanding of what the customer pain points are, and what resellers are looking for.
Too often, the reseller’s journey to getting the right storage solutions can be cumbersome. “It can be tough for customers to find the right technology at the right price, and to get the right advice from a trustworthy distributor.
“At DSD, it is our core business: we will advise you, recommend solutions, and give you best-in-class product. With us, the storage customer is always our number one priority – even if they are ordering just a single USB.”
Meanwhile, storage is a growing market around the world. “Data is exploding and the need for storage has never been greater – indeed, the average consumption per person has increased exponentially over the years,” Subbadu says.
“People have a dire need for more and more reliable storage solutions. So more products and solutions need to be available to the reseller.”
DSD will focus on providing end-to-end solutions, Subbadu adds. “When a customer comes in, he knows that he will have the best of class advice, the most technologically-advanced products and the latest solutions.”
DSD’s go-to-market strategy will be via the channel and retail. “We will tap into the small and medium enterprise (SME) market and government,” Subbadu says.
“We will have a strategy for each vertical in the market.”
The channel will be key to the distributor’s success, he adds. “The channel is a huge part of the business, and we believe resellers will appreciate the focus we are able to give them that they have not enjoyed up until now.”
SME resellers are often sidelined within big distributors, Subbadu adds. “Especially with a niche solution like storage, it’s easy for distributors to focus on the 20% of the customers that bring in 80% of the business.
“But what happens to the other 80% of customers? We think our success will come from addressing the entire stack of customers.”
Subbadu talks about addressing customer breadth and depth. “In this way, we can maximise both the number of customers, and how much work we do with them.
DSD will operate nationally, with its headquarters in Kyalami.
“We will be managing customers, retailers and organisations around the country,” Subbadu explains.
The distributor opened its doors with a core team consisting of Subbadu and sales manager Eugene van der Walt, together with a full sales team, marketing, support and administration. Supply chain, warehousing and deliveries are taken care of by a specialist logistics company.
DSD has a clear vision and mission. “We intend to become a sizable player that will be a recognisable force in the storage industry,” Subbadu says.
“We aim to be a destination distributor, operating independently and not piggy-backing on any broad-based distributors for our survival.
“We offer a solid value proposition to our customers, and will be firmly in control from the first call to delivering the solution, and providing after-sales service.”
He adds that DSD planning and strategising has been in the works for two years, and no stone has been left unturned prior to its launch. “We know what the market needs and where we have to be.
“It is going to be a fantastic journey. We are excited about the fact that we can address a market that is not well addressed today.”
And, because it’s starting from scratch, DSD can avoid legacy problems. “We are inventing ourselves, so we can be whatever we want to be. We can identify the opportunities and go after them. Right now, we can see a market that is desperate for the products, solutions and services that we can offer.
“And, once we get going, customers will see the advantages that come from dealing with a specialist storage distributor.”
The product line-up
DSD has opened its doors with an impressive line-up of storage vendors, with HikVision storage, SanDisk, WD and Samsung on offer. “And we are currently signing up more vendors,” Subbadu says.
The initial focus, and the foundation of the business, is device storage. “This is where we are going to prove to the market that we are the experts.”
Over time, the distributor will add other hardware, software and cloud storage solutions. “Once customers have learned to trust in our skills and services, we can open up our offerings,” according to Subbadu.
He explains that cloud, for instance, comes in a variety of different iterations: public, private and personal. “Our initial offerings are in personal cloud, with solutions like network-attached storage (NAS). From there we will be able to offer private cloud, with public cloud the next phase of our offering.”
Meet the team
Kalvin Subbadu is the MD of Data Storage Distribution, focusing on all aspects of the company’s operation – sales, marketing, accounts, logistics, after-sales service and more.
He is no stranger to the IT distribution or storage environments, having been in the IT market for the best part of 23 years.
“I started off doing telesales,” he reminisces. “That involved picking up the phone and making cold calls, with the aim of speaking to 100 customers a week.
“It turns out that I was pretty good at that, and I was head-hunted to manage part of a brand in Africa. I did this for four or five years, staying in Dubai and managing Africa.
“My next position was with a vendor, managing their channel, which I did for five years.
“I was then head-hunted to WD, where I spent the last 10 years, becoming the South African country manager.”
It is this journey, working within just about every echelon of the channel, that makes Subbadu confident that he knows what DSD’s customers are looking for, and how to support them.
“I understand what it takes to do telesales, establish customer relationships, build brands – and succeed with a brand. I have done the full 360 degrees: not only have I been in the industry for 23 years, but I understand all the various pros and cons, opportunities and gaps – and how to leverage them.
“I have been in the storage industry for more than 10 years, managing the biggest brand and taking the brand to a market-leading position.
“I welcome the opportunity to use some of this knowledge in making DSD a success.”
Subbadu recognises that there is more to distribution than warehousing and logistics, important though these are.
“We aim to be a trustworthy and ethical distributor,” he says. “Our customers need to know that what they get is the best, and that they can trust our brands.
“Our value proposition is that when a customer calls for the latest, meanest, highest-tech storage products they can rely on us, trust our word, and get the best tech advice. We will ensure that he gets the best service and a fulfilling customer experience.
“We talk a lot about the customer journey because we believe it is important,” Subbadu adds. “We want to make sure it is a full 360-degree customer journey, with returning customers becoming partners with us on the DSD journey.”
Subbadu is under no illusions about the challenges he has set himself up for.
“In the short term, we are aiming to become known as trustworthy and ethical. In the long-term we want to be the storage partner of choice, offering an end-to-end storage solution. When a customer thinks about storage, we want them to think of DSD.
“But we know it’s not a quick fix, and isn’t going to happen in six months. It is a story we want to tell in the coming months and years, the story of storage and great service.”
Eugene van der Walt, the sales manager at DSD, is another name that’s known to anyone who’s been around the IT industry for any length of time.
He describes his role at the new distributor as implementing the sales strategy, supporting and inspiring the team. “My goal is to lead the team and become the leader in the storage market.”
Van der Walt describes himself as outspoken, energetic and adventurous. “I love people and love engaging. I thrive on creating relationships and long term partnerships.”
He is also a self-confessed techie, and can be pretty competitive when it comes to keeping up to date with the latest technology. Not surprisingly, this comes with a love gaming.
“At the same time, I am very family-orientated and love the outdoors as well.”
Van der Walt has grown up in the IT industry. “I have been in IT my entire working life, but only entered distribution in 2009 as a sales account manager.
“I soon seized the opportunity to upskill myself and moved into brand management, looking after clients and taking responsible for the brand’s direction and development. From there I started taking on multiple brands and soon began to focus on storage vendors, including a leading storage-as-a-service offering.”
Having laid down a solid foundation in storage technology, Van der Walt went on to become a national sales manager responsible for managing sales teams and building strategies on how to approach the market.
“I enjoyed that: I love working with people and encouraging people,” he says. “Sales is the best job in the world, especially if you have a strategy in place.”
With this background, Van der Walt is confident that storage is a growth opportunity. “Making the decision to join DSD was very easy. I just know that we have the right management and the right strategy, and we are set for so much growth going forward.”
Van der Walt aims to ensure that DSD delivers an experience that surpasses the current market standard. “We think there are gaps in the market, so we can deliver an experience that isn’t always found out there.
“People still want to deal with people, and we believe that by combining the right people and technology we can drive the right customer experience. We want to put all of these things into one package, making sure we back it up with solid industry knowledge and top products.
“By doing that we will become a trustworthy distributor, offering recommendations and advice that customers can rely on. When you deal with us, you will get the right answer. Indeed, we want to make this the new industry standard.”
In the short-term, Van der Walt wants DSD to be an industry leader in storage. “We aim to become a powerhouse for storage, and a trusted supplier; building respect and trust in the channel as the distributor that offers the best of the best.
“This means we have to ensure we know as much as possible about storage technology because this market intelligence is going to be very important in setting us apart.
“Long-term, we aim to be a full end-to-end storage provider, and the best in the market.”