The IBM PC Company picked a good time for Ranjit Limaye to take over as general manager for Australia. Limaye now presides over an organisation that has inched to a market share within 1 per cent of arch rival Compaq, according to IDC.
"We're sitting on a 7.6 per cent market share and Compaq is on 8.6 per cent," said Limaye in his first media interview since taking the top job on July 1. Bronwyn Guthrie, his predecessor, is now in IBM's service company.
From an attitude widely seen as indifferent by the IT channel about 18 months ago, IBM PC Company rated very highly in the recent survey by Inform, IT Channel Trends.
Among hardware vendors, the Inform survey showed IBM rated in the top three for brand advertising and joint selling among hardware manufacturers.
"We're very clear and committed in our business," said Limaye.
"In Q1 of 1996 we launched a uniform channel strategy that looked at the segments our resellers served and built a program to match their business model and what terms and conditions would make sense for all of us.
"Our business partners feel we understand them."
Wealth of experience
Limaye should have a good idea how IBM's resellers see the company. At one stage he took a break from his career with IBM and became just that - a reseller for IBM personal computers. He still has a brother working in the IT channel in Sydney.
He rejoined IBM and has had several senior positions with the IBM PC Company. His previous position was brands and marketing manager for South Asia - an area that covered the area from India to New Zealand.
"Our success comes from confidence in the company, a strong product line and, after that, strong acceptance in the brand backed with warranty and an engineering force.
Limaye believes the days of the generic PC vendors - the so-called clone makers - could be numbered.
"Look at the IDC figures," he said. "The percentage of business being done by the top tier vendors is increasing and with improved manufacturing and logistics, the price gap [between brands and non-brands] is narrowing."
Limaye is taking IBM's PC business in several interesting directions over the next few months.
First will be an all-out assault on the market for small and medium enterprises (SME). To help the channel in this market, IBM PC Company is planning a major advertising campaign.
Next, the company will deliver more value in its products, not just in hardware terms but in software and services.
Finally, the company will put more effort into its manufacturing plant in Wangaratta, Vic, that supplies the local and South-East Asian market.
The effort will concentrate on keeping manufacturing costs down by reducing parts inventory and implementing more just-in-time manufacturing.
But the biggest goodie for the reseller channel will see IBM extending its arms to embrace those companies that buy products from its major distributors.
"We want to support those resellers better," said Limaye. "Just because they don't buy from us direct doesn't mean we shouldn't be talking to them."
He is also planning to spend almost a third of his time each month out in the IT channel - talking to distributors, resellers, system integrators and even, yes, end users.