HP Unveils New Strategy for SMEs in Asia

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week announced a strategy targeting the small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SME) market in Asia-Pacific. According to company officials, the regional initiative signifies, in part, the reinvention of the company as HP's Asia-Pacific operations are being given more autonomy to meet local customer needs.

A key component of the new SME initiative is the eSmart Alliance that HP formed with its partners and application developers to jointly provide IT products "in a box" for easy and affordable deployment and implementation, said Michael Hoffman, Asia-Pacific vice-president and general manager of HP's Business Customer Sales Organization.

Apart from offering applications in a one-stop-shop manner, the eSmart Alliance offers a single point of contact for support and services for SMEs, according to Chin Hon-cheng, general manager, small and medium-sized businesses, at HP Asia-Pacific's Business Customer Sales Organization. This eliminates the problem of finger-pointing when companies who are faced with problems in complex multivendor environments seek support from different vendors, he added.

The support and service call center will be operated by HP and customer calls will be directed to the vendors concerned after initial diagnosis, said Chin. Partners' support representatives will either work out of HP's call center or their own call centers, he added.

Current members of the eSmart Alliance include Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Novell Inc., Oracle Corp., Nokia Corp., The Media Shoppe, i1 Inc. and eSoft Inc., though more application developers, both local and international, are expected to join soon, Chin said.

Products that will be made available by the alliance later this month include applications for Web portals, Web-based messaging, office productivity tools, databases, Internet gateways and WAP servers.

The stumbling blocks for SMEs seeking to take advantage of information technology include a lack of IT knowledge, the high cost of IT products, a piecemeal approach to IT needs, and tight budgets, said Chin. Even so, the Internet makes the adoption of technology more important than ever, he added"The e-Smart Alliance is therefore providing a trusted platform with reputable vendors for SMEs to gain access to solutions and infrastructure without a big price tag," Chin said, adding that the alliance encompasses nearly all aspects of IT procurement and implementation, including hardware, software, finance, support and services.

According to Hoffman, HP's SME strategy is the first regional initiative undertaken by HP. This allows faster decision making by its Asia-Pacific division, which Hoffman described as a crown jewel within HP's global business.

Hoffman said the company has turned from being product-centric to customer-centric by restructuring its operations around serving customer needs.

"This seems a simple and logical thing to do. …But for 60 years, our focus had always stayed on making great products. HP is an engineering company, we had always put products and R&D first," he said. "However, in the Internet era, this might not be the way that people want."

Quoting International Data Corp. (IDC) figures that show IT spending in Asia-Pacific will grow 15 percent this year, Hoffman said HP's revenue growth in the Asia-Pacific region is at least double that figure, adding that the most recent quarterly results show overall revenue growth of 36 percent in Asia.

According to Puni Rajah, vice-president of consulting at IDC, IT spending in the region, excluding Japan, stands at US$31.7 billion, of which 63 percent comes from the SMEs. Acknowledging that SMEs will play a more important role in the digital economy, Rajah said their needs are different from their larger counterparts in the way that they require higher implementation speeds and turnkey, off-the-shelf products.

"IT solutions will have to be shrink-wrapped to meet different needs of this sector," she added.

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