In search of identity. Conversations with distributors about distribution

In search of identity. Conversations with distributors about distribution


Marina Nikitina | 02/12/2021

In search of identity. Conversations with distributors about distribution


Marina Nikitina, Coordinator of the Distribution and Import Council of APKIT

The information technology market is highly dynamic, and when there are new changes in technologies or business models, a discussion immediately arises about how these changes will affect
for IT distribution. The emergence of the PC, the massive distribution of the Internet, Internet commerce, cloud technologies – all these phenomena, according to some experts, should have destroyed distribution as
business more than once. But she is alive and, contrary to the predictions of skeptics, she feels quite well even in our difficult pandemic times. At the same time, in the context of constantly changing technologies and
business environment for more than 90 years, distribution has maintained its place in the global IT market, remaining a bridge between vendors and the channel that both sides need.

The topic of the next discussion about distribution was, you won’t believe … distribution. In general, the topic of the search for identity, whatever this identity concerns – politics, nationality or gender, can
safely attributed to the mainstream. So we got to distribution. Recently, the opinion of the largest international IT distributors and their partners (both vendors and
solution providers) that the very name “distribution” no longer corresponds to reality. In particular, at the recent GTDC (Global IT Distribution Council) virtual summit held in
the end of 2020, the participants discussed this topic repeatedly. Opinions have been expressed that It is time for the IT industry to stop using the term “distribution” as the notion of the value of distribution that
many see only the logistics component of this business, it is outdated

Yes, basic distribution functions are still important and partners need them, but today these are only a small part of the services provided by distributors. And for this reason, the industry must change
the name for this business. And Tech Data already believes that they have become aggregator of solutions, and this is not a warehouse with bank services, which was considered to be a distributor for
many years. It is possible that soon enough we will see how the term “distribution” will be replaced by a variety of terms.

It is obvious that it is the global players who set the trends in the development of the segment – they are looked at in Russia as well, analyzed their strategy and tactics, and adopted the best practices. Therefore, all the more
I wonder what is happening with distribution in our country.

Russian IT distribution for almost 30 years… Business volumes have grown many times over this period. In the mid-90s (and then almost all of our currently operating
distributors), the company’s turnover of $ 1 billion seemed unattainable NO-KOG-YES… Today, several companies have already crossed this bar and several more are approaching it. How about this
have the companies themselves changed and has the essence of the business itself changed? What are the drivers of the distribution business now? Can we also talk about evolution, that is, a fundamental qualitative
changing the essence of distribution and its new values? And distribution is a fundamentally new business that needs a different name, or is it still the same – warehouse + bank? How does the number affect
distribution business? Why haven’t international distributors come to Russia?

In search of answers to these questions, I turned to the largest players in the Russian IT distribution, who shared their vision of the situation. My interlocutor was Maxim Sorokin, who in the 90s
founded a distribution company, which became one of the market leaders, as well as younger (both in age and in management experience) heads of distribution companies Dmitry Vinogradov, Yuri
Native and Grigory Sverdlikov. It is sincerely a pity that, for obvious reasons, it was not possible to gather everyone at the same table – there was not enough heated debate. But thanks to the now familiar to all means of remote
work can be communicated at a distance. These conversations were of different lengths (some had more time to communicate, some had less), but I did not bring them to a common denominator, since
I am sure that everything said will be interesting.

First conversation. ABOUT singledigit-business, the icing on the cake and business drivers


Maxim Sorokin, Chairman of the Board of Directors OCS Distribution

Key competencies

The key competencies of a distributor are to maintain a demanded warehouse, deliver an order on time, at a normal price, with normal financial conditions. To implement these competencies,
the distributor must have a set of mandatory services, and this list may change depending on the current situation: something is added (for example, for our market this hedging),
something loses its relevance. But the main technological cycle remains unchanged: bought, sold, delivered at the right time and on agreed terms. Perhaps with the exception of accents. And if
now someone is trying to come up with new names for this process, looking for new words, then this, from my point of view, is PR
… It is very characteristic that this topic is raised by representatives of a public company,
that is, a company that is listed on the stock exchange (Nasdaq). What do investors pay for? Including for “beauty”. The market loves these things and reacts positively to them. But you need to watch out for non-verbal
reactions. We constantly monitor the activities of global players, see what they say and what they do. And we see perfectly well that distributors receive the main income from the wrong innovative
services that actively promote, but on their basic functionality

But at the same time we must not forget that there is a competitive struggle. If a distributor does not fulfill or does not professionally fulfill his key competencies, then he is simply not needed by anyone. And more
companies left the market before our very eyes because of this. First of all, in moments of crises, the fall of the national currency. And between those who know everything and know how, there is competition for market share, for
leadership. And here the very marketing or service stories come to the fore, for example, about solution aggregators. But they must be relevant, must be in demand,
correspond to the realities of the market. And each company tries to create its own history – this is where the competition begins, here the leader is determined, but it is among those who have professionally mastered
basic distributor functionality
… Let this story be just the cherry on the cake, but a very important cherry or even a whole watermelon. You need to constantly monitor what competitors are doing here and behind
abroad, try on yourself, to today’s market. You have to try different options. But ultimately, in this competitive struggle, the winner is the one who chose the right (that is, the demanded)
services, did it first and did the best. If a distributor was able to find some piece that the market needs, but which competitors do not have, then here he is a champion, and this is the best thing he can do,
because it will help him gain the loyalty and trust of many partners.

With all that, we must never forget that it is the key competencies that require constant improvement, tuning, and changes. And we invest in this a large amount of effort, money and mind, so that here too
we were in the lead. Moreover, experience shows that sometimes there comes a time when these key competencies, which in ordinary life no one notices, but takes for granted,
become the most important. Example: in 2020, when the pandemic and the balance of trade between the United States and China significantly changed the standard logistics schemes, namely ability to work with
international transport companies gave competitive advantages

In any distribution company, the overwhelming number of employees performs exactly the basic functions, and only a small group is engaged in the search and development of those very cake cherries. But to
to remain leaders, you need to take care of both of these sides of the business. Of course, almost every distributor has additional services on which he can earn enough
serious money. For example, OCS has a professional technical service that we provide to some of the largest vendors, dealers and customers. By the way, right now, in a pandemic, this
our service turned out to be in great demand. In 2020, there was a period when it was almost impossible for the vendor’s service specialists to carry out their functions in other cities due to quarantine, and
we, through the efforts of our regional business units, helped them close this problem.

In addition to the quality of services, an important component of a distributor’s success is their cost. The ability to manage this cost is also a key factor. the success of a distributor who
huge turnovers of business all the time have to think about pretty pennies when it comes to costs. Distributor intelligence – in the art of balancing and cost optimization, whereby
in some situations you can earn more, and in others you can give a better price offer to your partner.

Several years ago, at one of the GTDC events, which was attended by the heads of all the world’s largest distributors, the question was asked, why don’t they go to Russia… The answer was
something like this: in Russia local distributors with large volumes of business and very professional, but we do not know their market, we have a single digit business (that is, a business where
margin is significantly less than 10%), and we can not risk… Now politics has been added to this – the complexity of relations between Russia and the United States, which prevents the American “disti” from entering our market. About
for the same reason, Russian distributors, as a rule, cannot successfully enter the markets of other countries – we also have a single digit business. The cost of a mistake is comparable to the cost of life.

About digital business

First, about the terminology: today an IT company is not the one that works in the IT market, but the one that thinks and works in the digital field. German Gref and Oleg Tinkov proved to the entire business community,
what it is impossible to become a leader without digitalization… For most industries, abandoning digitalization is a withdrawal from the market, and quite quickly due to the dynamics of today’s world,
especially after the acceleration that came in 2020 “thanks to” the pandemic. Everyone who thinks about the future of business goes to numbers.

Another thing is that everyone has their own understanding of numbers. For me, one of the most illustrative examples is Severstal, where a large number of smart and intensively implemented information systems of various
destination. And this is an example of a digital company whose main product is metal. We also invest large resources in digital, because this is the future. But, as in any business, it is not so important here
spend a lot of money, how much to do it as smartly as possible. Digitalization began a long time ago, it’s just that the world is only now beginning to realize what it is and why. And, unlike the search for the “right”
names for distribution are not PR, but real processes that change business.

For me, a digital distributor is a company in which in three clicks you can do everything that a partner needs… Moreover, the number of clicks can become a competitive advantage. I.e
figure is about business speed, about changing thinking, about convenience, it does not matter who takes which path in this process. And this is only half the question. The second is what I said before:
it is fundamentally important for a distributor to work all the time to reduce the costs of all his business processes, and the figure provides such opportunities. And if thanks to the number you were able to save, reduce
your costs, then this is also the path to leadership, these are your competitive advantages. As known, in our world, not the big ones eat the little ones, but the fast ones eat the slow ones… And digit is an opportunity
give additional acceleration to the business.

About drivers

What are the drivers of our business? First of all, there must be an internal engine. This is the most difficult thing – to maintain it in yourself, when everything is in order with the business. Us, our development for a long time
run not by vendors, as it was in the 90s
… Yes, you need to listen to them, but the main drivers are yourself and your competitors. The further, the more we ourselves determine the direction of movement.
Obviously, a distributor should always aim to gain a greater market share in each vendor’s business, but also it is important to be able to stop here, because dominance will not always be in
… And of course, we are driven by competition. We have strong competitors, and they must be respected. They, too, always come up with something, and you have to answer these challenges.

Of course, there are also global trends that we follow and that serve as fuel for our internal engine. Although it is very difficult to generate something all the time. If the engine goes missing, it leads
to leave the market. And we know a lot of examples, companies that, even with strong people and money, could not stay in business just because the engine disappeared. And everything else is no longer the same

Well, withThe most important thing that has happened in recent years with the IT market is the transition from the state of “developing” to the state of “developed”. And developed is one that has gone through several periods
stagnations (yes, not crises, namely stagnations) and where the difference between the sales volumes of competitors begins to be not percentages, but times. And even though this transition has not yet been finally completed, but
the process is already close to the end. This is just my point of view.

Second conversation. On the physics of the process, the impact of communication methods on distribution and digitalization


Dmitry Vinogradov, General Director MERLION

About identity

In my opinion, in distribution, in fact, nothing has changed. But there is such a thing as marketing, which obliges you to invent something all the time. At the same time, to say that nothing at all
changing is wrong, especially in the context of current realities. First of all, we see how communication between people is changing, new ways of it appear – all this, of course, has an impact
on sales opportunities creates a certain amount of variability. For the most part, this concerns the so-called last mile – how the consumer gains knowledge about the product, how he gets himself
product. As for the distribution supply chain itself, here I see no dramatic changes. – this is evidenced by the numbers broadcast by the largest companies: the number of partners,
market shares, volumes.

Of course, there are always separate stories of the heyday and sunset of companies. There is a physics of the process – the goods are produced in one place of the globe, and consumed in another, and get from one point
in the other, it must at a certain speed in combination with a certain rational cost. This is exactly what distributors do. The demand for this service is constant and unlikely to change. Distributor
will continue to play its role at least until some incredible diversification happens and the place of production and consumption changes.

Of course, the distributor must take into account new trends in communications, the emergence of new sales channels in the field ecommerce, different marketplaces, cloud services
All distributors try to track trends and find new market opportunities, and those who do not take these trends into account are forced to leave the market. These are the same clouds, for example, this is, in fact, the same
the same traditional distribution: you buy from the manufacturer and distribute it between partners or consumers, providing them with the necessary service related either to the price or to the terms of purchase.

If we talk about vendors, then you can still observe two opposite trends: someone gravitates towards increasing direct sales and begins to delve into creating their own
Internet resources or brand shops, while someone, on the contrary, is engaged in channel enlargement, reducing the number of their own direct contacts with consumers
… This is an ongoing process with the introduction of large
the number of innovations that are more related to communications and ways of interaction between the distributor and the supplier of goods, the distributor and the consumer, but the threat of disappearance
there is no concept of distribution itself. In the near future, I see no reason to change the essence of distribution.

About new service drivers

What is the reason for the appearance of new services at the distributor? Both partners and vendors can act as customers here. All of this is due to the opportunities that arise from new
means and forms of communication between people and new technologies. This also applies to the depth of information, and ways to bring this information to the end consumer, and new technologies in advertising and
promotion. There are active partners constantly demanding innovations, for example, the same marketplaces that are not interested in buying a product, but want to be given it for storage… there is
вендоры, заинтересованные в сервисе, например, по созданию онлайн- или офлайн-брендшопов, и дистрибьютор им нужен в качестве поставщика решений для сети авторизованных фирменных магазинов, которые
не являются собственностью вендора, а выступают региональными партнерами.

О цифровой компании

Наша компания активно движется в эту сторону. На самом деле цифра – это просто изменение способа коммуникаций уже внутри компании с целью повышения эффективности ее работы… Вот есть
компании, внутри которых обмен информацией происходит с помощью каких-то физических носителей – бумаги, отчетов в Excel. А ведь можно все то же самое делать, используя современные приложения,
системы электронного документооборота. Или какие-то внутренние процессы – переписку и обмен информацией между коллегами – превращать в более эффективные, реализуемые в цифровом виде. Пример –
работа с внутренней отчетностью. Excel уходит в прошлое, появляются новые инструменты, в том числе предиктивная аналитика для тех, кто работает с большим массивом данных… Это то, о чем
раньше, в силу отсутствия оптимальных по быстродействию систем, люди даже не задумывались.

На наш взгляд, цифровая компания – это не та, которая взаимодействует через цифру только с внешним миром, а та, которая реализует цифровые коммуникации внутри своей структуры. При этом повышается
не только эффективность самой компании, но и, что главное, скорость всех процессов и сервисов, которые она предлагает партнерам.

Если говорить о готовности всего канала к цифровому взаимодействию с дистрибьютором, то, на мой взгляд, здесь еще предстоит много работы… Например, тот же электронный документооборот с
некоторыми крупными вендорами нам пока реализовать не удалось, потому что соответствующего решения внутри себя они еще не приняли (в крупных компаниях решения принимаются долго). Такая же история и
с крупными партнерами, которые все решения о переходе на ЭДО принимают с большой задержкой. При этом компании среднего уровня оказались более заинтересованными в этом вопросе – возможно, все дело в
серьезной конкуренции, которая заставляет их быть проактивными в использовании новых технологий.

Выходит, не все изменения поддерживаются и стимулируются крупнейшими вендорами или партнерами. К сожалению, цифровизация отнюдь не сокращает расходы, но сегодня без нее уже не обойтись. Если не
следовать этому тренду, то в один прекрасный день можно остаться далеко позади. В цифру сейчас идут все, и бизнес испытывает значительный дефицит в специалистах в сфере цифровых технологий. Коллеги
по рынку знают, что такие специалисты стоят колоссальных денег – это одна из самых ощутимых статей затрат в любой компании, которая сегодня имеет дело с цифрой. Но это неизбежность нашего времени.
Надеюсь, что дальше будет легче.

О бизнес-модели

MERLION давно уже не является просто дистрибьютором. У нас много направлений бизнеса: дистрибуция, собственный ретейл, и даже не один – производство некоторых продуктов, которые мы сами же
дистрибутируем и, как производитель, поставляем в ретейл, OEM-производство для наших партнеров. И все это – давно принятая стратегия компании диверсификации в разные области, а не ответ на какие-то
веяния. Мы считаем, что выбранные нами направления бизнеса хорошо дополняют друг друга, и наши результаты говорят сами за себя. К каждому проекту мы относимся как к отдельной бизнес-единице, все
проекты существуют на конкурентной основе и развиваются на конкурентных, но честных началах. Мы не предоставляем преференций отдельным проектам в ущерб остальным.

Марина Никитина

MERLION | МерлионOCS DistributionДистрибуция

Журнал: Журнал IT-News, Подписка на журналы

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