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Q & A Farouk Hemraj, CEO of DISTREE Events


 European reseller has an exclusive Q&A: with Farouk Hemraj, CEO of DISTREE EMEA

DISTREE EMEA is not your traditional trade show. The business-focused ICT & CE channel event is where distribution deals and retail contracts are signed, sealed and delivered.




DISTREE Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) event, which takes place in Monaco from 19-22nd February. Now in its 11th year, DISTREE EMEA gathers together 1000-plus senior executives from ICT and consumer electronics (CE) vendors, distributors, retailers and e-tailers in one place at the same time. DISTREE CEO Farouk Hemaj explains why the region’s fastest growing consumer channel event is a ‘must attend’ diary date for the region’s channel VIPs.

Q: DISTREE EMEA is often referred to as ‘not a traditional trade show’. What does this mean?

Farouk Hemraj (FH): It means that attending DISTREE EMEA is a very different experience from attending an event like CeBIT, CES or GITEX. You can go to these events and look at the vendor stands, wander around and maybe exchange some business cards with a few people. Now that’s all well and good, but we set out to create an event that was more structured and more focused to deliver tangible business benefits. DISTREE EMEA is focused on the quality of its attendees, not just the quantity. It is a 100 per cent business-focused environment.

If you’re looking for ‘booth babes’, free giveaways and stands featuring Formula 1 cars, DISTREE EMEA is not for you. But, if you’re a vendor looking to manage, review, develop or launch volume routes-to-market in EMEA, then DISTREE EMEA should be in your diary. We make sure that senior executives from vendors sit face-to-face with senior executives from both existing and potential channel partners for real business discussions. Hundreds of channel agreements are signed and new business ventures formed as a result of meetings that take place at DISTREE EMEA each year.

Q: How do you think the EMEA channel will develop in 2013? What changes can we expect?

FH: The pace of product innovation will continue to intensify and some established brands will face new challengers in their product categories. I think that is becoming clear in terms of the vendor landscape. There’s no denying the impact that smartphones and tablets are having on the hardware landscape and this feeds through into the accessories market.
In terms of the retail channel, mature markets in Western Europe look like they are moving towards an end-game in terms of defining a multichannel landscape. In the UK, the demise of Comet, Jessops and now it seems HMV as well, shows the importance of understanding market trends and reacting accordingly - and in good time. That’s Western Europe though. In Russia, the Middle East and Africa, the prospects for the retail channel remain bright in 2013.
For distributors the challenge remains to avoid complacency and always look for new ways to add value or deliver an improved service. We see the broadline giants pushing for increased efficiency and economies of scale, but at the same time we still see the emergence of smaller, nimbler specialist distributors that have a flexibility that cannot be matched by the channel giants. We’re always amazed by the number of new distributors we identify across EMEA each year.

Q: What vendors attend DISTREE EMEA? What advantages are there for them?

FH: It would be quicker to say what vendors don’t attend DISTREE EMEA. The way the event is structured means that it appeals to all vendors from the very largest A-brand vendors with established channels through to new start-ups at the very beginning of building out their routes-to-market. Microsoft is Platinum Sponsor of this year’s conference and that says a great deal for the value that major vendors can derive from the event. With Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 and Window Phone starting to resonate in consumer channels, there is growing interest from retailers and distributors regarding Microsoft’s future plans.

If you are producing a volume ICT or CE product that can be sold through the region’s distribution or retail channel, you need to meet the most influential partners. DISTREE EMEA gives you this access.

We also have a number of start-ups from the USA, Asia-Pacific and Europe bringing innovative products to market for the first time. Distributors and retailers alike get to identify the potential ‘next big thing’ in consumer tech early in its lifecycle and secure the channel contracts that put them in prime position to fulfill a growing consumer demand.

No vendor should ever get complacent about the health of their channel and it is vital that they understand the competitive landscape around them. With so many senior executives from vendors and channel partners in one place at one time, there is always an air of honesty at DISTREE EMEA as people network and exchange real views on real issues in the market. It’s not something you always get at other channel events.

Q: Does the delegate base change from year-to-year? What is new for 2013?

FH: The delegate base changes constantly. New specialist distributors emerge and existing distributors refocus their business. We have channel experts in each market and it is their knowledge that allows us to refine who we invite each year.

For 2013, we’ve also increased the number of spaces allocated to retailers and e-tailers. More and more vendors want to interact directly with retail buyers and many distributors are taking up a fulfillment or third party logistics role. The great thing about channel structures is that they are constantly changing and evolving. That’s why it never gets boring.

The EMEA channel market is worth more than USD$25BN. We want to help vendors access this huge sales opportunity the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. It doesn’t matter if their target growth market for 2013 is Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa or UK – DISTREE EMEA is the place that puts them face-to-face with the right people.

We also see new product categories emerging each year, which shows the spirit of innovation is alive and kicking in the ICT and CE space. Some of the health and fitness gadgets hitting the market are showing real traction and generating significant consumer interest. Touch screen technology continues to become ever more important and developments in the tablet, smartphone and accessories space remain as fast-paced as ever.

Q: How important is the conference programme to the overall DISTREE EMEA experience?

FH: It is vitally important. As an independent organiser, we are able to invite speakers from multiple research houses, channel consultancies and analyst firms, providing delegates with a wide range of opinions and viewpoints. We are not trying to sell delegates anything, instead we’re giving them access to the freshest research and market data.

This year’s DISTREE EMEA conference programme involves speakers from GfK, CONTEXT, Forrester, Kiki Lab, Moor Insights, Regent and VIA to name but a few. We’re also bringing in regional channel experts from Africa and Russia for vendors with a specific interest in these growth markets, plus an exclusive look of the hottest new kit with the ‘Fresh: A First Look at New Technology’ session., in which participating vendors will present their latest products to delegates in the ‘60 Seconds to Convince’ awards programme as well.

There is a mixture of keynotes, workshops, question and answer sessions and panel discussions during the event. Delegates can also request one-on-one meetings with event speakers if they have an interest in a specific topic and wish to have a private discussion. For vendors, this is a great opportunity to reach out beyond the companies currently delivering sales for them and appeal to potential new partners as wellPlus, we’re introducing a series of summits during the event for specific delegate groups.

Q: Why have you introduced summits for specific delegate groups at this year’s event?

FH: With such a diverse delegate base from so many different markets, it’s difficult to find content that appeals to and is of value to everyone. By organising summits we can drill down into specific channel issues that are relevant to each group.

In addition to the Emerging Markets Distributor Summit and the European Distributor Summit, there will also be a Retailer & E-tailer Summit that looks at specific issues such as omni-channel strategies and the impact of showrooming. We’ve also put together a VIP Summit that will focus on high-level channel issues and market trends in 2013.

These summits will also feature exclusive new channel research, based on a survey of the opinions of thousands of second tier channel partners across the region. The results and analysis of the CONTEXT ChannelWatch survey will offer an important insight into the current conditions of the EMEA channel market. .

Q: So, what’s your parting message to vendors or channel partners thinking about attending this year’s DISTREE EMEA?

FH: Don’t think about it, just do it. If you’re not there in person, you’re missing out. The efficiency of the event is what really stands out – so much can be achieved in just a few days. It is all about saving time and money for vendors, whatever stage of channel development they are at in EMEA. We typically have channel delegates attending from 80-plus countries - just imagine the time, cost and effort that would be involved in travelling across the region to meet all these people. We bring them all together in one place at one time and vendors can take full advantage of this.

For ICT and CE retail buyers, an event like DISTREE EMEA is where they can source upcoming products and steal a march on their rivals with exclusive agreements..Retailers can also network with their peers, meet with distributors and get up to speed on the latest trends in the market. Retail conditions are tough in Europe currently, therefore staying on top of the market is a must.

Thank you Farouk

–Farouk Hemraj, CEO and Co-Founder at DISTREE Events