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SA's Kathea announces Huawei partnership

SA's Kathea announces Huawei partnership

As of 1 October, Southern Africa focused Visual Collaboration (VC) and Unified Communications (UC) enabler Kathea will adopt a multi-vendor approach and offer Huawei, PEXIP and HTEK brands to its channel. This represents a complete breakaway from its 20-year strategy involving the exclusive availability of Polycom (video & voice) and Jabra (voice – headsets).

Kathea has approximately 300 active video and voice resellers (those who purchase a significant amount of product on at least a half-yearly basis) in Southern Africa which makes up 90% of the company's revenue.

Richard Henn, CEO of Kathea, said while Polycom and Jabra cater for the enterprise market and attract the type of buyer concerned with interoperation and formal certification of major platforms, the company made a calculated decision to adapt its product line to meet the increasing needs of the mid-market segment.

This segment, says Henn, requires premium customer service, but also has functional needs including reasonable price points, and advice at the time of sale.

"I believe there is a bottled frustration amongst resellers (and customers) for a viable alternative to the big 3 VC brands in SA, that is backed by a skilled value added distributor with regional presence. Over the past few years, mumblings over the need for lowered spec products at more attractive price points – backed by Kathea's service and skills – has grown," he adds.

Polycom and Jabra don't cater for this market effectively Henn continues. "When they do it is one or two models right at the lower end of their product set. There is no breadth of product catering for this market and the price points are mostly non-competitive."

Kathea will launch three new partnerships to cover its product range: Polycom & Jabra focusing on premium UC video and voice, then Huawei, PEXIP and HTEK covering disruptive video and voice.

PEXIP offers a strong cloud play for VCaaS and private/ hybrid enterprise video cloud, while HTEK aims to be the world's number one open SIP handset competing with Yealink, Snom and Grandstream, said Henn.

He describes Huawei as "an ICT company on the move" and an end-to-end VC supplier with their profile in the Southern Africa market elevated as a result of mobile phones and WiFi routers.

"A major attraction for us to Huawei is that they are far greater than just a VC company with a big VC product line up. It's an enterprise ICT supplier. They sell much like Cisco: network and data centre first, now what applications can we put on that network – video and voice obviously. That's a major opportunity for Kathea and our partners, to be involved in a sale that's lead by the network and a UC decision," Henn continues.

Game-changer

Kathea's CEO believes that the move is a game-changer and acknowledges it carries with it a certain level of risk – but one he says is calculated.

"There is always risk. We have taken a calculated risk here. (The) risk to us is that we will not be the exclusive distributor to Polycom in SA anymore for the full stack of video and voice. Polycom have already announced that they have opened the channel to Westcon and Hardware.com. We believe our channel will be hugely excited about Kathea's backing of Huawei. It's a product that many of them have looked at in the past, but declined to pursue due to no strong distribution skills based in SA," says Henn.

"This is the result of three years of planning, investigation, testing and negotiations to ensure the right mix of product for Kathea going forward. This isn't just a 'let's get another product' exercise, it's 'let's get a new mix of products that fits the Southern African landscape' exercise. We have tested (both commercially and technically) over 10 vendors in this time. The mix needed to be right: good enough quality, with a wide enough range, at an appropriate price point (we don't want cheap and nasty). There were lots of commercially attractive options with poor product and vica versa," he continues.

Kathea will run training and information days, as well as road shows, over the next 6 months to inform and support its network.

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