Mindstec CEO offers insight into InAVation Award’s Distributor of the Year

Anna Mitchell talks with Syed Abdul Wahab – CEO of the InAVation Awards Distributor of the Year, Mindstec - about selling solutions, driving technology uptake and never avoiding a challenge.

Mindstec Distribution was founded in 2006 in Dubai by CEO Syed Abdul Wahab. With more than a decade of experience in the AV industry already, Wahab believed he knew what the perfect distribution model for the industry was. He also believed that, at that time, no company was fulfilling that model in the markets he worked in. 

“Many organisations in India and the Middle East were integrators and distributors,” he says. “I wanted to set up a pure distribution network and not act as a competitor to the dealer channel.”

Time seems to suggest that Wahab was right.

Mindstec grew from 2 to approximately 240 people in 12 years and now has offices in Dubai, India, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa and Brazil. 

“We’ve expanded but the business model remains the same,” he notes. In addition to sticking purely to distribution, Wahab has instilled a “solutions focus” within Mindstec. 
“We don’t sell on features or specifications, we sell on benefits.”

“We have an in-house design and technical team creating solutions with the brands and products we distribute,” he elaborates. 

Because Mindstec carries complimentary products, its technical team is able to plan fully integrated systems and, when looking at new brands to carry, one of the first considerations is how they’ll fit into the company’s existing portfolio. 

Understanding and accommodating local cultures and approaches has also been a central part of  Mindstec’s success. Wahab says: “The way people use meeting rooms in the UK may not be the same as in Africa or parts of Asia. 

The products and the brands may be common but the people are different and so the products may be used in different ways. We have to understand this because we don’t sell on features or specifications, we sell on benefits.”

Knowing what users want to do doesn’t just mean reacting to what they say they want. 
Wahab believes that part of Mindstec’s role is to encourage adoption of new technologies by outlining and demonstrating tangible benefits. 

“When, in the early ‘90s, interactive whiteboards came out no one had heard of the technology, no one wanted to use it,” he offers by way of example. “I had to give the first one away before people would start using them.”

This approach is particularly important in some of the emerging markets that Mindstec serves. “We also offer a lot of training, hold a lot of seminars, talk about how technologies have positively impacted users or made meetings more efficient,” Wahab explains.

When planning new offices, Wahab isn’t looking for countries necessarily booming with business and he doesn’t set his sights on taking market share from other companies that appear to be having success in a particular region. He’s more interested in the gaps:  what product lines aren’t available in a particular market or what technologies aren’t used at all. 

“There is no use in going into the same market people are already sitting in,” he continues. “What’s the use in competing if we can’t add any value?”

What this often means is Mindstec is going in to countries where business is, by common opinion, deemed difficult. Doesn’t this make life hard?

“I love a challenge,” laughs Wahab. “We enter markets many distributors wouldn’t even think of going into. Each country has its own challenges;  whether  that  is  tricky  customs regulations, technology challenges, difficulty in getting foreign revenue out of the country. You have to take each one as it comes. Some countries we establish business very quickly and some take a little longer.”

Latin America is currently in Mindstec’s sights and Wahab is keen to build on the Brazil office with presence in Colombia and Mexico.

“We enter markets many distributors wouldn’t even think of going into.”
In most countries Mindstec has training, demonstration and experience centres and this, says Wahab, is partly in response to the growing importance of the end user as a decision maker. 

“We’ll demonstrate technology to the end users, show them how it works and once they say yes, we offer them a list of recommended resellers they can buy from,” he adds.

Wahab says the rise of interactive technologies and products to support collaboration has been huge for the industry and puts the trend down to companies like Apple. 

“I remember giving demonstrations of touchscreens when people didn’t feel comfortable touching  a  display,” he recalls. 

“Technology companies like Apple have made that interaction feel natural by getting products into homes and classrooms.”

Looking forward Wahab believes the convergence between AV and IT will play an increasingly important role and believes Mindstec is ready to benefit. Most of the products it carries are completely IP based already and the company is positioned to offer IT support to AV suppliers that need it and AV expertise to IT companies taking on technologies and systems more traditionally aligned with the AV industry. 

All of the distributors that were shortlisted for Distributor of the Year demonstrated how they supported dealers with system design expertise, training and demonstration centres. But, one thing that stood out about Mindstec was the company was doing all that but in markets where it had never been done before. Talk with Wahab and it becomes apparent where that drive and vision has come from.