Finding a niche in the Netherlands

For three days every year, the Netherlands becomes the European centre for AV integration when ISE takes over the Amsterdam RAI exhibition centre. Anna Mitchell sets out to explore how the country’s AV industry fares for the other 362 days.

The Netherlands isn’t making headlines in Europe. It’s not suffering like Spain, Greece or Portugal. It’s not as powerful Germany but its economy is arguably faring better than France or the UK. Even in the near-daily struggle between the interests of eurozone members it’s rarely heard as an antagonistic or dictatorial voice.

This "middle-of-the-road" position is probably a fair reflection of its AV industry. It’s taken knocks during the financial crisis but is still in relatively good health. Rather predictably its having to deal with and adapt to diminishing margins on equipment and increasing convergence of AV and ICT technologies and industries.

"The market is changing rapidly," notes Marco Bruines, general manager of sales and marketing at Inter Visual Systems. "Consultants and integrators must keep up with the convergence of IT and AV solutions which can be hard to follow."

Inter Visual Systems started life a distributor in the Netherlands 43 years ago but in 1998 decided to focus purely as a systems integrator. In 14 years it doubled its staff and now employs 70 people.

"We keep up with this trend buy hiring people with the right expertise," continues Bruines. "Nearly half of our technical staff have an IT background and we invest in training, visit the right seminars and the right exhibitions. Our consultants are talking to customers in IT departments more and more so this is crucial."

MK2, another Netherlands based integrator, is responding to the conditions in a similar way. "We’re increasingly a service based company," says John van den Brand, the company’s sales manager.

"ICT and AV are converging and the ICT market works differently. We have been adapting to that for the last few years and will continue to do so next year. We are taking on IT expertise and are looking to increase our consultancy services.

"Customers are willing to pay for our AV/ICT knowledge so this is where we have to make money and not on profit margins. We are constantly looking for other services to deliver to customers such as maintenance services and remote services. This is where we want to expand."

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