30 years of good service

PCR talks to Ingram Micro's UK director of value business Cathi Low
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PCR talks to Ingram Micro's UK director of value business Cathi Low

After 30 years in the business, Ingram Micro is now the world's largest technology distributor. The company is ranked highly in the Fortune 500 listings and retains over 14,000 employees across the globe with a turnover of more than $35 billion last year.

Having been named Distributor of the Year by Juniper Networks and posting solid results for the first quarter of 2009 despite the financial downturn, the steady growth of the last 30 years looks set to continue.

Where was Ingram Micro set up and by whom?
The Company's earliest incarnation was started in 1979, a California corporation named Micro D Inc. Micro D was founded in July 1979 by husband and wife Geza Czige and Lorraine Mecca, who were both school teachers.

Today, Ingram Micro is the world's largest technology distributor and a leading technology sales, marketing and logistics company. As a vital link in the technology value chain, Ingram Micro creates sales and profitability opportunities for vendors and resellers through unique marketing programs, outsourced logistics services, technical support, financial services and product aggregation and distribution.

What was the business' main focus back then?
ngram's initial focus was reselling IT equipment and remains today the best way to get technology from the people who make it to the people who use it.

How did it change over the years?

Ingram continued to expand its product portfolio, competencies and global reach, becoming the leading distributor today in four of the five continents. The economies of scale we enjoy enabled us to focus on reducing the cost of doing business for our partners and increasing value.

What would you say were the key milestones in its evolution?
Since its beginnings in 1979, Ingram Micro has connected technology solution providers with vendors worldwide, identifying markets and technologies that shape the IT industry. Today, Ingram Micro remains at the forefront of the global technology marketplace, bringing the latest products and services to market and finding new ways to bring value to our customers.

The company offers a broad array of solutions and services to nearly 160,000 resellers by distributing and marketing hundreds of thousands of IT products worldwide from nearly 1,400 suppliers.

Through Ingram Micro Logistics, the company provides customizable services for order management and fulfilment, contract manufacturing, contract warehousing, product procurement, product pack out and cartonisation, reverse logistics, transportation management, customer care, credit and collection management services, and other value chain services. Ingram Micro serves customers in more than 150 countries and is the only global broad-based distributor with operations in Asia.

How has the wider market changed in that time?
Our industry today is hardly recognizable! 30 years ago Microsoft recorded its first $1 million revenue year and Visicalc and Wordstar were both released 1979, when software was manufactured to order. HP introduced the HP-85 Personal Computer, which had just 16kb of RAM and a five inch CRT but cost a little over $3000, and Apple had sold the same number of Macintosh II's in their history as they sell in a day today! In addition to this, the first ever Computer Dealers Exposition – COMDEX – was held in Las Vegas in 1979.

Also that year, Ingram Micro revenues chalked up just $3.5 million, compared to $38 billion last year.

Technology today dominates business in a way that wasn't possible back in the seventies. As the pace of development and convergence continues, technology is a prerequisite and differentiator in business. So the focus on excellence, supply chain and getting it right first time is an increasingly important point.

With close vendor relationships, we can ensure we are always offering cutting edge technology and enabling our resellers to be first to market by offering, for example, 99 per cent same day order shipping, with 99.6 per cent accuracy.

Do you think it's harder or easier for the average PC retailer/reseller now compared to when you started?
The current market is exceptionally challenging, so yes, things are harder. Every reseller has to confront today's tough trading environment.

Ingram Micro works hard with vendors to ensure its resellers are kept up to date with regular training and events, are offered the very best promotions and pricing, and especially for retailers offering point of sales product on consumer electronics.

You're now the biggest worldwide IT distributor, what would you attribute the success to?

Our success comes from a being a business that has strong values based behaviour. Our values are teamwork, respect, accountability, integrity and innovation and combined with our customer-centric approach and strong partnerships with vendor and reseller partners, we continue to offer our associates and shareholders world-class financial and business strength.

What advice would you give to retailers currently struggling with the current economic climate?
We would of course advise retailers to ensure they partner with Ingram Micro and take advantage of our reseller proposition and enabling programmes. We offer a specific Credit Builder programme, facilitate zero per cent finance on specific vendors and continually improve our ability to help retailers and resellers alike take costs out of their own business by outsourcing logistical elements such as direct shipments and configuration.

Ingram focuses on adding value to resellers with elements such as web-store hosting; our latest development is our Agency Ingram Micro marketing portal. This is a website where our resellers can get access to channel marketing tools and materials and send reseller branded messages and promotions to their own customer base to help generate interest and demand.

In short, even in the tough climate, Ingram Micro is continuing to support businesses to ensure they can manage the downturn and help them prepare for the future.


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