Our journey into the SADC region has been interesting to say the least, as we’ve faced many challenges common to all developing markets but also unique to each individual market.
One of the common themes in the SADC region is the lack of product and channel knowledge, freely shared in these markets. I am, however, very pleased to say Tarsus has made excellent progress in growing our presence and knowledge share to our channel partner landscape and their customer base in SADC.
One of the factors contributing to this growth in presence is the introduction of the Tarsus online portal that has helped to share knowledge to our channel partners and to streamline our South African and SADC digital capabilities. Although the e-commerce capability is not yet available outside of South Africa, our platform already offers the possibility to view stock available and pricing from Tarsus, as well as offer channel partners the ability to track orders via the web and perform certain administrative self-help activities.
Our portal is a fantastic entry point into the region, but ultimately, our goal is to reach the African channel in a more meaningful way through digital platforms. An important part of our strategy to grow the channel is to make use of digital platforms to share the knowledge and insights necessary to encourage our African partners to make sure they procure legitimate products supplied through the official channel partners appointed by our vendors.
Right now, there’s a significant problem in Africa with some traders and even channel partners procuring grey market products from unauthorised channels and selling them into their local markets. They do this primarily for monetary reasons: grey market products are often much cheaper than those from legitimate channels, and can be sold at a far higher mark-up to unsuspecting customers.
The grey market products in most cases do not carry the official manufacturer’s warranty and are often mixed with counterfeit products to drive the costs down. The counterfeit products are not identical to their legitimate counterparts, often lacking in the quality and reliability departments and hardly carry any after sales support.
Governments as Target
In our experience, African governments are particular targets of this kind of activity, as they are not as aware of the dangers of counterfeit and grey market products as they should be. Some resellers willingly take advantage of their ignorance by mixing some of those grey products in with shipments of legitimately-procured ones, and are paid the inflated price of a shipment of genuine products. For them, it’s a financial win.
The problem is that grey-market products are not backed by vendors’ warranties or guarantees. The same is the case for counterfeit products with the additional risks that these products are also more likely to fail due to inferior build quality. Customers only find this out when they attempt to report product issues to the relevant vendors, only to be told their product isn’t covered by the vendor’s usual warranty and thus can’t be serviced or repaired.
The same applies to customers in less-populated areas, who are most likely not as aware as they should be about genuine IT products, and who are likely to fall victim to resellers and retailers stocking dodgy grey-market items.
Not getting what they thought they paid for is not only incredibly frustrating to the end user, but it damages vendors’ reputations even though it’s not technically their fault.
It’s thus something we, as Tarsus, would like to help avoid altogether. We know that resellers within the SADC region know all about these grey products, so our intent is to inform both the channel and end-users in the region as to the dangers of not following the proper procurement procedures for IT products.
Educate the market
Our strategy is one of information sharing and education: we aim to bring an awareness to the SADC region as to the value proposition of ensuring procured products are legitimate. Our plan is to highlight the value propositions of the various vendors those channels work with in terms of warranties, support, reliability, quality as well as the dangers of buying grey products.
One of the many points we aim to emphasise is that customers can request a list of the serial numbers of the products to be delivered, so they can verify those items are legitimate by running them past the relevant vendors before taking delivery.
We’re also currently shifting focus from physical events to digital initiatives to educate the African market. We believe this is a more effective long-term strategy that will result in wider uptake of our products and services within the SADC region.
Ultimately, we want the channel partners, the customer of our partners and the consumer at large to be well informed and educated about the difference between officially distributed product, grey market and counterfeit. And that’s a win for everyone.
Johannes Groenewald is the General Manager of the Tarsus Technology Group for the SADC Region.