Eyes on the 'Prise

We chat to Centerprise CEO John Rainger
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Centerprise was set up 27 years ago by engineer Rafi Razzak, and the firm started its corporate life selling printer paper around the UK. The current operation couldn’t be much further removed from those humble beginnings – the company is now one of the largest IT suppliers in the UK, with interests ranging from component and peripheral distribution to retail, to top level Government contracts at the NHS and the Ministry of Defence.

The firm is now headquartered in Chineham, Basingstoke, with a production and warehouse facility based in Caerphilly, Wales, and other sites around West London. Chief executive officer John Rainger says that right from its early days, the firm was well placed to ride the wave of popular demand for PCs in the eighties.

“Originally CI (Centerprise International) was set up as a reseller of IT peripherals. CI fast developed its core competency, which is the ability to clearly understand and define customer requirements, to design and deliver solutions against their requirements.

“Through the various stages of its development CI supported the explosion in PC sales by building mass volumes for household names such as Dixons and the John Lewis partnership under our own label, as well as reselling other brands.

With the turn of the century, CI’s focus turned firmly to developing the services side of the business and this progressed very well against the company’s strategic plan. During CI’s almost entire history it has maintained a very strong distribution presence."

As well as its core distribution business, Centerprise has a strong public sector operation. While very different types of customer, one key area the firm is moving into across the board is information security.

“We continue to serve many areas within the public sector with heavy involvement within defence, education and local authority,” comments Rainger. “With private sector clients we offer a full range of solutions to meet the customer needs. This can be as simple as a computer component or peripheral, or at the other end of the extreme we build bespoke systems, offering full maintenance and support to multi-million pound contracts. One of our key focuses for the future will be to exploit our expertise and knowledge in the provision of information security-related services, supporting business continuity and high availability data care.”

The economic recession hit most businesses in some way or another, and it could be argued that the bigger the corporation, the harder it is to nimbly manouvre through such hard times. However, Centerprise says one of its mission statements is to remain adaptable enough to weather such storms – a strategy that is says has paid off over the last couple of years.

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

“It is true to say that the dire economic conditions have taken their toll on many in the industry. CI has bucked this trend, and we have seen the group growing strongly in both revenue and profitability in the last two years. This has been achieved through the prevailing entrepreneurial spirit that drives CI and its ability to react quickly to new conditions. Key competencies to CI include our agility and ability to deliver high quality and cost-effective solutions on time,” Rainger claims.

While already of a significant size, the firm is looking to expand its higher value parts of the business, and continue its long-term approach to customer relationships.

“The next year will be the second year of the three-year plan that we are currently working through. It is our intension to grow the higher value parts of our portfolio and to maintain our tight grip on running costs. We see CI as offering a ‘cradle-to-grave’ service to our clients by providing hardware, software and services, protecting their data, managing and supporting them during operation, offering business continuity when necessary and refurbishment or disposal at end of life. We will be taking steps to position the company accordingly and executing against that vision.”

For the longer term future, Centerprise plans to become more service-led over the next five years – an area it sees as increasingly key to the market.

DELIVERING SOLUTIONS

“We will have transformed CI from a product-led business model to a services-led organisation, using the hardware element as a facilitator and not the centrepiece of our offerings. We will round out our capability at each point of the vision, by organic growth or acquisition, so that we can provide the solutions and services that clients want, in the way that they would like to consume them – be that on their premises or in a hosted environment,” comments Rainger

“Understanding customer needs, and delivering a solution that satisfies that need, has been and will continue to be the best business model to pursue and it is our intention to be at the forefront of this.”

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