Dealer Scancom was among the first to join Orange’s new ‘principal’ partner programme. Less well-know than some of its peers in the Orange club, it has carved a niche as a BlackBerry specialist. Paul Withers reports
A few eyebrows may have been raised when Leicester-based BlackBerry specialist Scancom was named as one of four dealers to become a ‘principal partner’ in July as part of Orange’s revamped federated partner programme.
Even those above the eyes of director Chen Kotecha himself almost made the move too.
In April it was announced Orange was to split the programme into three tiers and put new B2B connector targets in place to drive better revenue and loyalty. The arrangement was also intended to bring in new business from non-traditional fixed line and IT reseller channels.
Orange has organised accredited dealers and distributors as ‘principal’ partners, ‘specialist’ partners and ‘approved’ partners, according to the business they deliver. Principal partners are required to put 90 per cent of sales through Orange, and work directly with it, and Scancom was chosen as one, along with Phonebox Communications, Voice Mobile and The Phone Shop (Midlands) of the early entrants to the elite tier.
“All three of the other dealers are very big players and have been around in the industry a good 10 years longer than me, but I probably have more grey hairs than them,” jokes Kotecha. “It is a fantastic achievement.”
Its new status brings Scancom a range of additional products and support services. For example, it is now authorised to sell Orange’s Managed Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, allowing customers to share private data across multiple sites. It should also get priority stock allocation, and certain superior sales and marketing support.
But Kotecha makes clear Scancom has been building to this for a decade already.
Scancom was established by Kotecha’s brother Kal in 1996, with Chen joining a short while later. In 2000 the company went direct with Orange, a move Kotecha talks of as a “milestone” and as “pivotal” for the company’s development.
“We suddenly had a very close relationship with Orange, and a more sizeable toolkit to work with. We were dealing suddenly with people who could make decisions on the spot, rather than having to go through third parties for approval. It kicked our relationship with Orange up to new heights,” he explains.
“As the relationship developed, we focused on a particular area that worked for both of us; a way to be essential for it.”
For Scancom, BlackBerry handsets and mobile email became its core focus. “That is our main driver; the networks know that of us. We can talk about other stuff , but essentially it is all BlackBerry as far as we are concerned.”
Three years on and Scancom was appointed ‘federated business partner’, another milestone for Kotecha and the company. It marked the start of strong recognition from Orange for the job Scancom was doing with BlackBerry, itself of major and increasing importance to the business market.
“In the early days, this market was about volume. And to be a network dealer partner, you had to provide the volume and the client support. We satisfied those criteria.”
The point is the volume requirement is less considerable, or less urgent at least, and the service aspect has become multi-faceted for dealers in this new climate. Scancom argues it provides its operator partners with relative volume in a rare niche, and guarantees high service levels too.
Scancom also has a direct relationship with Vodafone, whereby it connects a very small number of customers through Vodafone Partner Services (Yes Telecom). It is, says Kotecha, a very “open and transparent” relationship for all parties engaged with the dealership.
And despite it effectively playing second fiddle to the Orange arrangement, Scancom is viewed by Vodafone seriously enough to have been made a ‘BlackBerry business partner’ at the back end of last year. But it is for incremental business around the fringes. Kotecha wants to talk up Scancom’s good relationship with Orange.
“Orange recognises we are dedicated to it, that we’re serving the right customer base for it and that we are looking after those customers properly. We don’t churn customers and we aim to put the best-quality business possible onto its network,” he says.
Kotecha does not wish to adulterate the purity of its focus by working with other operator brands particularly, although the addition of T-Mobile to its roster would appear likely following the merger of those two network operations in the UK.
Basically, however, Kotecha has that single Orange outlook. “If I try to be a jack-of-all-networks, I’m less valuable to any of them in particular. If I focus on Orange only, then I am considered a ‘partner’ and not just another ‘dealer’,” he says.
“Yes, we might lose business here and there by restricting our network offer, but there is much more to gain from such a close relationship. These are the hard business lessons I’ve learnt. Your level of focus and ability to service clients deteriorates if you spread yourself too thinly. And that is costly in this new channel environment.”
Full article in Mobile News issue 473 (September 27, 2010).
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