Former distribution powerhouse, Hallmark Computer International, has been acquired by an investor with large-scale plans to rebuild the business.
Ashok Alexander has purchased the company from founder and director, Edward Ho. Coming from a background in retail IT and systems integration, he said he was attracted to the growing market opportunities the frontier Darwin-based distributor offered.
“Coming from Sydney, which is a very competitive and stagnant market, I see a lot of fresh opportunities to grow with a market like Darwin,” Alexander said. “Hallmark has a major competitive advantage here in that it is one of the largest, and it’s hard to set-up a business of this size in a place as small as Darwin.”
Hallmark was once a major national distributor under the guidance of founder, Edward Ho. With 95 staff, the distributor first ran into trouble in 2004, causing it to reduce its headcount by some 30 staff over a period of nine months.
A poorly executed merger with now defunct distributor, Omega, further worsened the company’s position, causing it to retreat from a national presence to a single office in Darwin managed by nine staff.
Despite its rollercoaster history, Alexander was confident in the strength of the brand and its ability to expand into new market opportunities.
“We’ll be trying to add product lines to our offering – specifically around networking and servers,” he said. “The market here is slightly behind in those areas.”
As the distributor moves into those markets, it will look to regrow staff numbers, Alexander added. However, he was not interested in rebuilding a national presence at this stage.
“For now, the first step for us is to have a greater presence in the Northern Territory,” he said. “Down the line it may become possible to move into different areas.”
Ho will remain with the company for one year to assist with a smooth transition before retiring.