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Infrastructure Critical To Digitalisation, Say Western Digital VP

The world is moving towards digitalisation and connectivity to enhance seamless business transaction. The Vice President of Sales, Europe, Middle East, Africa and India (EMEAI), Western Digital, Nigel Edwards, says infrastructure is critical for the country to achieve digitization.

The next phase in technology is digitization, how would a country like Nigeria achieve this?

Your infrastructure in many cases is ahead or parallel with the rest of the world. What we need to do as a company is make sure we continue to deliver products that are affordable, that open up these markets, to enable the consumers, companies and corporations embrace the new technologies. That is absolutely our goal as we want our products and technologies to be available to everybody. Locally, our job as well is to communicate more, we need to help through our distribution network to educate communities about what’s available and what’s possible today.

One of our slogans is: “The possibilities of what we can do with data today is endless”. We want to make sure we continue to educate and grow the market here, and I think if we do that it will naturally digitize itself. The day to day usage of people on their mobile devices is much greater than what we see going on in many developed European countries. The market is here in Nigeria today, in the United Kingdom (UK), France, and Germany, more people are moving now to the mobile phone as their main device, but still many use their laptop or home computer as their main device.

But Nigeria on many fronts will be more advanced and more mobile than those developed countries. We just need to make sure we continue to develop great products as much as possible, that’s what we’re trying to provide to all our customers worldwide.

You’ve been in this market for more than a year now, how has it been?

From a SanDisk perspective we’ve been here nearly three years, but really we decided to put more of a business strategy and really target the market about a year and a half ago.

What are your strategies for the market?

We have a three staged approach to targeting the market. First of all, coming to the market to understand how it works and then trying to understand how products are distributed and sold across the market. We can then start to think about; okay which partners do we believe locally would be good for us to engage with? Initially, we start with quite a small sub-set of our products and then once we see that is working and we are building momentum, then we expand the range and coverage. We have taken that approach across North Africa, as we’ve expanded across that area as well, and that works very well for us. We did that a lot earlier last year with the SanDisk brands and we are now just about to launch the WD brands aggressively across Nigeria as well, and we will use the same approach for the external HDD products, Passports, etc.

So far what has been the market response to your products?

Really fantastic, I would say even above expectation. The Nigerian market is clearly very educated and have a high understanding of the technologies. Everyone is living their lives by their mobile phones, so data and storage are initially for everybody as there is never enough. We have been able, with our products and range of products, to really tap into that requirement for people to just transact their daily lives to enable them function. We have seen pretty dramatic growth of our business across the region, for the dual drives, androids and ixpand products for the iPhone devices and we’re hoping we can do exactly the same with the WD brand as well.

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Can you shed more light on the SanDisk WD relationship?

SanDisk was the inventor of flash and the Western Digital Corporation bought the SanDisk Corporation nearly four years ago now. They bought them for nearly $18 billion, but the SanDisk brand was always very well known in the consumer retail space, when Western Digital acquired them the view was rather than kill the brand, we should continue to leverage the brand, so we decided to keep the SanDisk name and still drive it through our consumer business and that’s why you still see the SanDisk brand under the Western Digital corporate umbrella.

It is said that data is the new oil, how secure are your products?

Yes, I would say we are a data technology company as we don’t want to be just seen as a storage only company, we offer a lot more than just storage. Companies have realized how critical their security is for their data and therefore, across most of our products, we offer various levels of security, encryption and more. Across our range of products they are available, it just depends on which particular product you are buying, it is critically important for our customers, partners and communities around the globe to be assured that our products have security features built in.

What are the unique selling points?

We make all of our products ourselves. There are many others that are seen as flash companies, but actually they are buying raw from either us, Toshiba or probably Samsung. However, they are not actually developing, creating or controlling their own technology they’re buying from someone else.

The great thing with Western Digital is that across our whole portfolio whether it’s flash or hard drives, our platforms or systems, everything is built, developed and manufactured by us. I think that is our first unique selling point and second, that those products work slightly differently than they would in a generic design. For example, in our platform products, if we build J-bods there’s certain technology in that J-bod that is specially attuned to work with our hard disk drive products, so the hard disk drives perform better because the design of the box is geared around the way our hard drives perform and therefore if you were to put a competitor’s product into the box it wouldn’t perform the same way. So, the focus now is developing the complete solution, not just the chip but the complete product and that I think is unique of Western Digital.

How do you intend to launch your products into the local market?

As you can see we have a vast range of storage products. When we first targeted the Nigerian market, we focused heavily on the consumer space with the SanDisk brand, now we will start to expand that into the WD line so it very much depends on the product. At the moment, our core focus is to develop and continue to develop the consumer based products, using the distribution network the local team have started to establish and my hope is that down the line, when the local team is more established, there will be opportunity and as we sign new distribution partners, some of them may be specialist distributors in different areas. They might be specialists in security, CCTV, servers and data centers.

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We have products that cover all of those areas so I’m hoping over the coming years we will start to encroach on some of those other business areas not just the consumer space.

What is the importance of storage to organisations and businesses?

Data is the new oil and the amount of data being created is exponential. Whichever way you look at it, that has to be stored somewhere and over the last 10 years, companies have realized doing something with that data is critical, not just storing it, that data has a worth, and it has a value. It is critically important that we make our products available, so that people can store their data easily, that they know it is secure, that they know the quality is there so when they want to mine something three to five years down the road they’ll be able to access their data without any problem.

I actually think that we as a corporation have a huge responsibility to the world, to the customers with our portfolio today, I think the world is really waking up to just how important data is. I think we’re only at the forefront of this, today only 10 per cent of all data created is used. But we know that is growing dramatically, that means people need to store more and more, it’s fantastic for the industry and Western Digital in particular, our focus is to make sure we can provide to our partners, customers and distributors the best technology, the highest quality products that enable other businesses to do everything they need to do around storage that’s our core goal.

Do you have products tailored for small businesses?

All of our products can be used across any size of business. Our worldwide business is absolutely fragmented across all of those businesses anyway, depending where you sit. I guarantee we will have a solution of some sort for whatever business you’re in. We do want to look at targeting some specific areas like small and medium businesses in Nigeria.

Are your products affordable?

We might not be the absolute cheapest product on the market, but we will always be competitive and I believe if you can demonstrate great support and quality in a product, people will pay the extra few cents knowing they’re getting a genuine product that has the highest quality in the industry. But we have to be competitive, there’s no way around it, we can’t charge $10 for something when everyone else is paying $5.

Is it short, medium or long term plan to open an office in Nigeria?

I would say it’s a long term goal that we would like to achieve as we’re still very much in the early days of setting up our distribution network in the region. The team has made tremendous progress in a couple of years, we would want to continue to expand that team locally and our distribution network. I think if we are successful with that, as I believe we will be, then the natural progression is for us to look at whether we want local representation in an office.

Source: The Nation

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