Interview: Matthew Deayton, Vega Global
The integrator Vega Global is opening new offices in Asia and Europe to service its client’s growing demands for AV. Matthew Deayton outlines the company’s expansion strategy to Paul Milligan.
The news that Hong Kong-based systems integrator Vega Global was expanding in APAC and EMEA with the opening of two offices in Thailand and Bulgaria was announced during a strategy meeting featuring its country managers and senior leaders to plan for the next few years. At the meeting Vega’s managing director, Laurie Chow said, “As we steer towards further expansion, our team strives to rise above all the challenges and to stay agile in the face of changes.”
I spoke to the company global business development director, Matthew Deayton, to find out why it had chosen those locations, what the Vega philosophy for expansion was, and how it was reacting to a globalised AV market. Firstly, why choose Thailand as a new location to set up shop? “The economic outlook there is settling down and becoming a lot more stable. The primary reason was the number of enquiries we were getting from our client base,” says Deayton. The Vega philosophy, instigated by Chow, is to set up a footprint based on its client’s needs. “If you look at where we are a strongest and where the multi-national banks are strongest, there is a fairly strong correlation between the two,” explains Deayton.
Is it fair to say there is a Vega model that is rolled out when it comes to expansion? “We always want to make our teams autonomous, our offices in the Crawley (UK), Mumbai, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore etc all have pre-sales engineers, project delivery, operations and accounts teams. They can do the whole operation without too much intervention from head office. We are not dictatorial from Hong Kong. We allow the branch officers to grow, but it has to be delivered along a global framework for consistency, so the global account managers can coordinate on standards for each client.”
Working across APAC and EMEA means Vega must provide a consistent standard of delivery but also be aware of different markets too. “APAC is a lot more fragmented than Europe and the US from a small player perspective, so we are always competing against 2-3 man shops,” says Deayton. “They will always beat us on price for the smaller local jobs but where we can add a difference is for multi-nationals where there are barriers to entry on to their procurement lists i.e. you have to have a degree of financial stability, you have to have a track record and engineering capabilities, so that is our sweetspot because we have all that stuff in place, and we have a track record of delivering in APAC and now in Europe too.”
Opening an office in Bulgaria was another example of Vega directly meeting a global client’s needs for AV in that country, but it also gives the integrator a base in Europe outside of its current one in the UK. “Brexit has prompted us to get banking facilities in place in Europe. There are other places in Europe we will branch out to in time, as we are now doing 40% of our European business outside of the UK,” says Deayton.
So where is next for Vega? “Europe is definitely somewhere we will continue to look at and expand in to. There is still plenty of opportunities for us to focus on our model of working with multi-nationals in Europe. We are not planning anything yet in the Middle East or Africa, and that’s because we just haven’t had the enquiries from clients to work there.” Does America not entice Vega? “We have a strategic appliance with AVI-SPL, and on the occasions when work in the U.S. does pop up we tend to partner work pass it over to them. From a business development perspective there is much more volume coming out of the US into APAC than the other way around. That may change, as China continues to grow, it could be mainland Chinese companies moving in to the U.S. but at this stage its going in that direction.”
The AV market is now a global one, and the manufacturers, distributors and integrators who can adapt quickly to this will succeed and prosper, hence the Vega strategy meeting. “The global Fortune 500 companies we focus on tend to want to have a single or sometimes two vendor relationship across the spectrum. These are companies that have a dedicated IT team, with a multimedia team sitting below it that focuses heavily on AV,” says Deayton. Language skills can be a key differential when offering global support says Deayton. “On our side we must deal with the communication challenges between working from Indonesia to Japan to Korea, with different languages and different cultures, but we have global account managers who can bridge that communication gap. We recruit our staff to have bi-lingual (English and the native language) capabilities, in technical and conversational language, so they can talk to local contractors who may not speak any English, and then back to the client in English, because they tend to be American or European-based.”
Standardisation of AV equipment has benefits both for the client and the integrator, but so far it has proved difficult for a variety of reasons. Is Vega getting requests to standardise whenever possible on AV? “There is a big drive for it, particularly from clients who have users who are very mobile and move from country to country,” says Deayton. “Clients want to walk in a huddle space in Mumbai and for it to be the same as it is in Shanghai. Generally, the bigger clients will have their own global standards set by head office. What we can do is localised that global standard. There are radio frequency restrictions and electrical certifications that need to be signed off in Japan, Korea, India, China etc. There are some U.S. vendors who may not have gone through the right certification for those countries, which becomes an issue when you try and install them as part of the global standard. There might an alternative that is locally available that will still do the job, so we can bring that knowledge to the client’s attention, and we can explain to them bringing in the original kit may be slow and expensive to install, and all alternative will work just as well, and is fully supported locally.”
There are other factors at play when administering a consistency of AV supply admits Deayton, “There are cultural issues on a superficial level you have to be aware of too that can affect standardisation, for example you will never see Samsung screens in Japan, you will have to install Sharp etc.”
Like many integrators, a significant chunk of Vega’s business comes from corporate clients, and while that side of its business is doing well, it is going through a seismic cultural change too. “Because the price point of a lot of AV equipment has plummeted in recent years, a simple Zoom or Skype for Business room doesn’t need expensive Cisco or Polycom equipment to run it anymore, you don’t need a giant stack in your server room or expensive cameras. It means the same amount of dollars are being spent but it means a larger section of the floor is becoming video and collaboration-enabled. Touchscreens and sharing capabilities have really exploded, so we now have more endpoints to manage and look after than before.”
The move to an increasingly IT-dominated AV world is being felt across the globe says Deayton, “We are an IP-based business, so we are seeing the transition (of AV) from the corporate real estate teams to the IT teams. The IT guys have been doing this for so long they see the value in a single vendor for large volumes across multiple locations.”
Even though IT is becoming dominant, there is still great demand for specialist AV skills concludes Deayton, “IT is starting to realise that AV is not just another IP address, there are subtleties in setting audio systems, and calibrating video conferencing systems and digital walls, there is more of an art form to it. It’s much more complex than ones and zeroes, there is an aesthetic to what we do that isn’t always inherently fixable just by programming. You have to have an eye and an ear for it.”