Ingram now a true “lifetime partner”

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Distributor can now provide full “cradle to grave” management services to the market

Ingram Micro says it has now completed its transformation away from being a traditional distributor to a “lifetime partner” for vendors and customers across the planet.

This was the view of Ingram Executive VP and president, Europe, mobility Jac Currie and Executive VP and president, mobility and lifecycle services Shailendra Gupta during an exclusive interview with Mobile News in Barcelona.

The pair, both formerly of Brightpoint, acquired by Ingram in 2012 for $840 million, claim the company has moved on considerably in the past few years and is now able to provide full “cradle to grave” management services in the UK on hardware.

This has been heavily aided from last year’s acquisition of ANOVO, rumoured to have been around £80 million – a move which furthers its capabilities in offering forward (delivery) and reverse (return) logistics services.

“We have really transitioned ourself from a distribution company to a genuine lifetime partner for the devices,” said Gupta. “We can now work with the carriers and the OEMs to help them solve their business problems, to be more efficient, reduce costs and improve
customer satisfactions.

He continued: “When we acquired Brightpoint it had a significant services portfolio, but it was focused on only a couple of geographies. We replicated those competencies and the structure into many more areas to create a new market proposition. Our story now is very credible and we are finding really good partnerships from the carriers and the OEMs.”

Talk the talk
Currie, who originally joined Brightpoint in 1998 as regional MD, said it was crucial for the firm to adapt to the modern market – due to the shrinking margins in traditional ‘box shifting’ distribution, something Brightpoint in the UK was largely focused on.

The key, he says, was to find new ways to support the market, be it the retailers, network operators or in B2B. These included offering a host of services such as packaging and repackaging of returned products, data wiping and flashing, and even disposal of products on behalf of the customer.

This includes the acquisition of electronics recycler CloudBlue Technologies in 2013, which (prior to acquisition) served more than 1,000 customers. The company, founded in 2008, has a UK-based processing centre in West Sussex and offers asset disposition for IT equipment, such as computers and laptops which may contain sensitive data.

“If an IT vendor wants to get rid of a laptop, ensure that all data is wiped and receive certification that the hard drive is crushed in the correct way, that’s something we can do. We can do that either onsite or through back end capabilities to dispose those goods in an ethical way. All the social responsibilities they need, we take care of.

In the same year it also acquired leading European e-commerce provider Docdata for $175 million. Docdata, described by Ingram is one of the leading European providers of order fulfilment, returns logistics and online payment services, for major retailers, brands and promising start-ups handling between 125,000 and 250,000 orders on a daily basis. It has operations in Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom and contributes in excess of $150 million in annual services revenue to Ingram Micro.

Currie argues while many of its rivals, without naming names, have often discussed their positions on offering
“services”, Ingram has backed up its claims by spending hundreds of millions boosting its capabilities both organically and through distribution.

“Nearly all distribution firms talk about services because they have to,” said Currie. “The landscape of distribution is challenged from a margins perspective, so everyone is talking about it but for the past four years, we’ve actually gone out, taken a look at where we have some gaps and either built or acquired competencies. So when we talk about services, we can actually back that up with execution.

“Some of those plays are geographic, some are capabilities and the journey is still ongoing. Certainly from end to end, from factory to retail and back again, cradle to grave as I call it, we have the capabilities.”

Gupta added: “Each market is different. There is never a one-sizes-fits-all in terms of what we can offer. But you have to have that core foundation of capability.”

Return avoidance
Currie also lauded the services offered by ANOVO which is helping key retailers, manufacturers and carriers in the UK save millions by providing an in-house diagnostic check on products which have been returned.

According to Currie, 40 per cent of all handset returns are “no fault found”, meaning the cost of having it sent back to the manufacturer was unnecessary and essentially a waste of time and money on logistic fees.

Through ANOVO, Ingram offers its customers the ability to check handsets electronically themselves, through an extensive screening process. Details on partnerships were not able to be given, although Phones 4u was previously known to be a customer.

All problems are able to be identified immediately, determining whether or not it needs to be returned, repaired, replaced, or simply rectified through software updates.

Gupta said: “We have the ability now to screen those products and only send them back if they actually require servicing. That’s a service that’s very mature in the UK right now to pretty much all the key guys you can think of.”

According to Currie, this is a service they are now looking to offer into its other markets around the world.

“The challenge for us now is to package that up and export it into the other geographies we operate in,” he said. “You’re taking the knowledge base you gain from repairing products and making sure you use that knowledge. For example, someone comes in, you will know that a problem may be able to be fixed with an upgrade.

“Ordinarily what would happen is, a customer would take it to a shop, the shop would issue a loan phone, the phone would be sent to the repair centre, who then upgrades the software and sends it back. You’re avoiding all of that. It’s a problem faced by OEMs and manufacturer all over the planet. We want to work with them.”

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