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INTERVIEW: Farouk Hemraj, CEO at DISTREE Events

by Stuart Wilson, Thursday 17 January 2013

DISTREE EMEA is definitely not a traditional trade show. The business-focused ICT & CE channel event is where distribution deals and retail contracts are signed, sealed and delivered. Farouk Hemraj, CEO and Co-Founder at DISTREE Events, provides an update on this year’s DISTREE Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) event, which takes place in Monaco from 19-22nd February.

Taking place for the 11th year in a row, DISTREE EMEA gathers together 1000-plus senior executives from ICT and consumer electronics (CE) vendors, distributors, retailers and e-tailers in one place at one time. Discover what makes the region’s fastest growing consumer channel event a ‘must attend’ diary date for the region’s channel VIPs.

Channel EMEA (CE): 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. We invite the region’s most influential volume distributors, retailers and e-tailers to Monaco to attend DISTREE EMEA where they participate in pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings with hundreds of participating vendors. It is a 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 will be a priceless experience. We have an exhibition hall, we have booths, we have private meeting rooms, and we make sure that we get senior executives from vendors sitting 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. It is the most efficient event for both vendors and channel partners operating in the EMEA region.

CE: 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 DISTREE EMEA 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.

There are hundreds of brands participating at DISTREE EMEA. 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 attend the event where you can meet the most influential partners. We have a number of start-ups from the USA, Asia-Pacific and Europe bringing innovative products to market for the first time. For distributors and retailers, DISTREE EMEA is an opportunity to identify the ‘next big thing’ 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. For established vendors, DISTREE EMEA is a place to review business with existing partners as well as assessing the option of adding new ones. 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 is something you don’t always get at other channel events. There is real value in attending an independent business-focused channel event.

Changing channels

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

FH: The delegate base changes constantly and that is something we dedicate a great deal of resources to. The quality of the event depends on getting the right people from the right channel partners to attend and this is something we have perfected over the last decade. 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.

We have also increased the number of spaces allocated to retailers and e-tailers in 2013. More and more vendors are looking 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.

We know the sales figures of participating distributors and retailers. DISTREE EMEA gives vendors access to channels pushing more than US$25 billion of product to consumers across the region per annum. That is a huge opportunity for them to target. We want to help vendors access this opportunity in 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 – we put them face-to-face with the right people at DISTREE EMEA.

We also see new product categories emerging each year and that 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.

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

FH: It is vitally important and again it is something that defines DISTREE EMEA as very different from a traditional trade show. As an independent organiser, we are able to invite speakers from multiple research houses, channel consultancies and analyst firms, giving delegates access to a wide range of opinions and viewpoints. We are not trying to sell delegates various services offered by DISTREE Events, we’re giving them access to the freshest research and market data.

This year’s DISTREE EMEA conference programme involves contributions from GfK, CONTEXT, Forrester, Kiki Lab, Moor Insights, Regent and VIA to name but a few. We’re bringing in regional channel experts from Africa and Russia for vendors with a specific interest in these growth markets. We will be debuting the hottest kit through the ‘Fresh: A First Look at New Technology’ session hosted by the Sightline Group’s Fred Brown. Participating vendors will also present their latest products to delegates in the ‘60 Seconds to Convince’ awards programme.

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. We also have multiple vendors presenting their channel plans and product roadmap for the next 12 months. For the vendors this is a great opportunity to reach out beyond the companies currently delivering sales for them and appeal to potential new partners as well. Plus there is a new feature in the DISTREE EMEA 2013 programme – we’re introducing a series of summits during the event for specific delegate groups.

Focused summits

CE: 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 in EMEA, it is very 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.

Channel sales and price tracking specialist CONTEXT will host two summits at DISTREE EMEA: the Emerging Markets Distributor Summit and the European Distributor Summit. In addition there will be a Retailer & E-tailer Summit looking at specific issues such as omni-channel strategies and the impact of showrooming, plus a VIP Summit focused on high-level channel issues and market trends in 2013.

These summits will also feature fresh new channel research presented exclusively at DISTREE EMEA. We are delighted to have partnered with CONTEXT who will be releasing results and analysis from their EMEA-wide ChannelWatch survey for the first time during the summits. This impressive piece of research is based on the opinions of thousands of second tier channel partners across the region.

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.

Channel awards

CE: You also have channel awards at DISTREE EMEA? What makes them stand out?

FH: The ‘EMEA Channel Academy: 2013 Awards’ will take place in conjunction with DISTREE EMEA. This is actually the fifth year we have hosted the awards and they remain unique in terms of their open and transparent voting processes – it is awards for the channel, voted for by the channel. There have been some changes this year, so let me try and explain briefly how it works.

There are 12 vendor awards by product category. In the run-up to the awards we invite distributors and retailers to nominate their preferred vendors based on the quality of channel engagement. The top five companies in each category receive an official nomination and the overall winners are decided during the Gala Dinner in Monaco on February 21st through a live electronic vote by all the channel partners attending DISTREE EMEA.

There are 10 distributor awards by region up for grabs. DISTREE Events polls approximately 100 vendors prior to the event asking them to name their preferred distributor in each region based on overall business performance – not just volume sold. What we’re doing differently this year is combining the results of the vendor poll with reseller and retailer feedback extracted from the CONTEXT ChannelWatch poll. It means that both vendors and second tier channel partners will have their say in picking the top distributor in each region, giving the awards even more validity.

As we put more focus on the retail channel we will launch some specific retailer awards with a VIP Jury picking the outstanding retailer of the year in three separate geographies across EMEA. There is also Channel Initiative and Retail Initiative of the year awards based on submissions packs from entering companies.

The Gala Dinner is an amazing occasion – you have to be there to experience it. The live electronic voting means great tension and people understand that these are channel awards that actually mean something because of the voting processes involved. It is not a case of giving an award to everyone who turns up or making sure each sponsor picks up a prize. That may sound a bit harsh but if you’ve been in the channel for any length of time and attended awards ceremonies, you will know exactly what I mean.

CE: 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 from 80-plus countries at DISTREE EMEA. 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. We can even arrange channel conferences for specific vendors within the main event framework.

For ICT and CE retail buyers, DISTREE EMEA is the event where they can source upcoming products and steal a march on their rivals. Retail agreements are signed at DISTREE EMEA, and if one retailer is not there a competitor will have no qualms about negotiating favourable terms for themselves. 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 and attending DISTREE EMEA is one way of gaining a competitive edge.

Distributors know what DISTREE EMEA is all about and many return year after year because of the myriad ways attendance benefits their business. Any distributor not yet participating that believes they would benefit from attending DISTREE EMEA is welcome to apply and we will assess their suitability. We’re bringing together more than 1000 of the most influential channel executives in the region for DISTREE EMEA 2013. I and the entire DISTREE Events team look forward to welcoming each and every one of them to Monaco next month.


Top distributors, retailers and e-tailers from across the EMEA region are invited to attend DISTREE EMEA 2013, the premier event for the regional ICT and CE channel, from February 19-22nd in Monaco.

DISTREE EMEA gathers hundreds of senior executives from EMEA’s Information Communications Technologies (ICT) & Consumer Electronics (CE) volume channel. DISTREE EMEA is a powerful business platform for vendors looking to manage, build or launch routes-to-market within EMEA. From A-brand vendors to start-ups, the DISTREE EMEA structure and reach offers business benefits and powerful return on investment.

During the course of the three-day event, delegates take part in thousands of pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings with hundreds of vendors. Each year, hundreds of new distribution agreements are struck across the region as a result of business relationships initiated at DISTREE EMEA.

DISTREE EMEA 2013 will also build on successful initiatives launched at last year’s sold out event including a regional awards ceremony. The ‘EMEA Channel Academy: 2013 Awards’ will include more than 20 categories for vendors and distributors from across the region.

For more information on attending DISTREE EMEA 2013 please contact quoting code DEMEA13


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March, 2020

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