Zaidoun Arbad, the COO of StarLink, speaks about 2021 opportunities
How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
This year was extraordinary – full of learnings and challenges. Especially in the wake of the new norm, it was imperative for us to adapt quickly and re-invent the way we operated. This, to a great extent, has been positive as many of these new experiences are likely to become the standard moving forward helping us become agile and achieve operational efficiency.
What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
Undeniably, the challenges have also generated new opportunities. We have seen a paradigm shift in customers’ mindset and investment strategies where cloud adoption and remote connectivity solutions have taken precedence. We are also excited about the incremental services opportunities with virtual training and remote services becoming widely accepted by enterprises.
Did you face any challenges in 2020?
Organizations who re-engineered their business strategies and proactively adapted their business continuity plans were the least impacted and the first to recover. At StarLink, as always, we acted quickly and engaged all our efforts in acclimatizing to the new norm with limited adversities. At the outset, enterprises were deferring major IT investment decisions due to the emerging situation and there were other expected delays in payments as well as deliveries of ongoing projects which had a chain effect on everything related.
What were your key achievements in 2020?
With the sudden onset of the pandemic and restrictions, guaranteeing our employees’ safety while ensuring business continuity was paramount which we achieved instantaneously. As a trusted advisor to customers, partners, and vendors, we collectively extended our support to their business continuity requirements and met the demands in business continuity solutions in various markets.
Our marketing team did a fantastic job in bringing innovative ideas and multi-vendor events into fruition which helped in continuous customer and partner engagement. We saw great response to our virtual events despite the influx of digital events and activities in the region which is a true testimony to our customer and channel trust.
With proactive planning and diligent execution, we remained in double digit growth territory with healthy cash flow, and despite the challenges, we have been successful in onboarding new solutions on to our portfolio, this year.
What promises does 2021 bring along?
We are optimistic that the slow spread of the pandemic will instill more confidence in the markets due to which we anticipate a rapid recovery in the various economies. This obviously will have a positive impact on our business, and we are prepared to meet the challenges and demands 2021 will bring along.
Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening?
We see that the GCC markets will continue to lead with growth and innovation. Also, we have seen tremendous progress in Egypt, Turkey, and Africa who will contribute more to our overall growth in the coming years.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
Digital Transformation, flexible working, and connectivity will be atop the agenda for most organizations. We will see more IoT devices and a surge in the number of users connecting to the internet. This will bring huge opportunities when it comes to cloud adoption and flexible networking solutions. Furthermore, cybersecurity and cloud solutions can no longer be treated as silo technologies which open further opportunities for an integrated solutions approach which has been StarLink’s strategy
The dependency on applications will increase and hence DevOps and application performance solutions will be a priority however these trends will increase the attack surface for malicious actors and hence the focus will be on protecting these devices and users without impacting their performance and user experience.
What will be your key focus areas for 2021?
Our theme and strategy for 2021 are “StarLink Connect”. Customers, partners, and vendors will see more connection and engagement from our teams in the coming year. Our investment in business intelligence and automation solutions will benefit all our stakeholders in designing concrete sales strategies based on the data we possess and the latest industry trends.
In turn, we foresee an increase in market share in the various markets we operate in. Also, with new technologies on our portfolio and a robust service offering, we anticipate accelerated growth in Emerging Markets as well.
What milestones have you set for 2021?
We are currently on track with our 5-year plan for StarLink which consists of various milestones and will continue to work towards achieving them in the coming years. The immediate ones to forward to in 2021 are:
- Doubling our sales team to maximize market coverage especially in the white space area
- Focus more on the commercial business
- Build the Services Competency Center in Egypt
- Enhance our portfolio with new vendors in the business intelligence and automation space
What would you like to do differently in 2021, when compared with 2020?
In 2021, we would love to ‘Connect’ with our customers, partners and vendors face to face through physical meetings and events which we sorely missed in 2020.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2021?
StarLink has a strong foothold in the Middle East region and has ongoing investment plans to increase our market reach extending to emerging markets. Furthermore, with the objective of delivering best of breed solutions and services to our customers, our roadmap for 2021 has some very niche solutions that will be added to our portfolio.