Intervju: Predrag Aćimov, Ingram Micro

Mr. Acimov, can you present your educational and business background to our readers? How long have you been working for Ingram Micro and in what roles?

I am currently holding the post of manager for security systems with a focus on CCTV and the field of telematics, i.e. on the branch that combines telecommunications and IT solutions. I am in charge of organization and specialized management of all activities in order to provide support and cooperation and overcome project challenges that our partners face in the security system market. I have been with Ingram Micro for less than a year and I am responsible for the entire territory of the countries belonging to the SEE region, more precisely non-EU countries. I am a graduate engineer in the field of technical sciences and my career in the security industry has lasted for almost 15 years now. Prior to Ingram Micro, I worked in security and technical protection roles, first in the state and then in the private sector with one of the leading system integrators in the Balkan region. Previous experience in the market as well as direct cooperation with dozens of manufacturers in the market recommended me for receiving the call from Ingram Micro and joining their successful team.

Ingram Micro is one of the world’s largest wholesalers and providers of ICT products and services. The numbers are really impressive. What’s the state of Ingram Micro’s revenues at a global level, how many countries do you do business in, with how many manufacturers, how many resellers, buyers and logistics centers do you have, etc.?

Ingram Micro is the largest distributor in the field of IT and security solutions in the world. The company was founded in 1979 and the figures themselves are rather impressive considering that in the previous year, the globally generated revenue amounted to more than 50 billion dollars with the help of more than 36,000 employees. The company operates in over 160 countries, and cooperates with almost all major manufacturers of equipment and services in the field of IT and security solutions, i.e. with more than 2,000 of them. At the same time, the number of partners is constantly growing and has now reached over a quarter of a million. There are almost 200 global logistics centers with a total storage space of about 2,000,000 m².

What are the main benefits you would point out as the reason why so many companies use your distribution channels?

Ingram Micro actively helps partners to fully achieve their market goals and maximize the value of the technologies they produce, sell or use. With a huge global structure and focus on the cloud, our technology lifecycle and solutions and global training we provide, Ingram Micro enables business partners to operate efficiently and successfully in their markets. It is evident that no company provides such a wide and deep range of technologies and services for timely supply to its business partners around the world, which has granted us both global and local leadership position and recognition among all important market players.

On its path to success Ingram Micro has acquired more than 40 companies worldwide. What are the most important acquisitions, primarily in Europe, and when did you start doing business in the Adriatic region? Do you have offices in the regional countries?

You are right. Ingram Micro has acquired a total of 44 companies, including 9 of them in the last 5 years, mostly in the field of distribution (57%) and information technology (19%) and this trend is ongoing. Globally, the largest acquisition is Brightpoint, which is worth just shy of half a billion dollars. When we talk about Europe, the most important acquisitions certainly relate to Eurequat and Intertrade, two leading distributors in the field of DC / POS (Data Capture/Point-Of-Sale). I would also like to add the latest acquisition of the European company Ictivity which operates in the field of ICT. As Ingram Micro we have been doing business in the region from mid-2016 by taking over operations throughout Eastern Europe from the Russian company RRC which is also one of the largest IT distributors with over 20 years of business in the IT market in our region and beyond. Ingram Micro has offices and employees in all SE countries with a division covering EU and non-EU countries.

In December last year, Platinum Equity announced its intention to buy Ingram Micro for approximately $ 7.2 billion. The transaction should be completed in the first half of 2021. What benefits will it bring to your clients and customers? What do you expect from this acquisition and how will it affect your business?

As you may have noticed, our excellent performance and growing lead over competitors did not go unnoticed. I am pleased to share with you the fact that Ingram Micro will partner with the Los Angeles-based global investment fund Platinum Equity, while launching the next chapter of our hugely successful success story. We believe that Platinum Equity is the right partner to accelerate our innovation and industry leadership while providing a great place to work for employees as we continue to nurture an environment that inspires each individual to participate and succeed in an engaging, inclusive and stimulating workplace. Platinum Equity is a global investment company specializing in mergers, acquisitions and operations. The company has about $ 23 billion in assets under management and is backed by many of the world’s largest and most prominent institutional investors, including various pension, private and state funds, university endowments, charities and financial institutions. Platinum Equity knows our industry well and has extensive experience in working with technology and logistics companies to maximize potential. We fit in perfectly with Platinum Equity for the reason that they are looking for industry leaders with clear and sustainable differentiation. There will be no interruptions in our business due to this transaction – Ingram Micro will work normally. In fact, we expect our partners and customers to welcome the new ownership as they will be direct beneficiaries of the additional flexibility and resources that will continue to extend our range of services and solutions. This transaction will accelerate our growth and provide access to additional resources. Our brand, strategy, purpose of existence, values and principles are well aligned with the fund’s plans. Ingram Micro will continue to operate as a separate and independent company which performs set operations according to planned strategies. Our mission remains the same as before and it is about providing an exceptional experience that our customers and suppliers rely on a daily basis by using all the benefits which they are accustomed to. In other words, we continue to do what we have done and what has been proven to work!

There are five major areas in which your company offers products and solutions: global training, cloud, consumer electronics, technology solutions, and IoT. Can you tell us what each of these fields covers and list the most important brands you distribute?

Our commitment to a common set of principles unites us and leads to better decisions, enabling us to focus on the success of our business partners and associates. They are distinguished by results, integrity, innovation, talent and human potential, responsibility and courage. We support our partners with a range of products and services that solution providers can use to increase efficiency and gain a competitive advantage in the market by meeting their customers’ needs for quality, competitive and secure solutions. We are the right choice to look for specialized solutions in the following categories:

– Security – network security, technical security systems, security management, secure content and rights management, management and access control;
– Cloud services – IaaS – Infrastructure-as-a-Service, AZURE migration;
– Data Center infrastructure – servers, storage, power supply systems, software;
– Networking – switches, routers, wireless, modems, media converters, management software, IP telephony, VoIP, IP video monitoring, FTTH / FTTB, video surveillance;
– DC POS – mobile computers, barcode scanners, RFID, barcode printers.

What can resellers and installers expect from you in terms of pre-sales and after-sales support, education, eBusiness tools, logistics services, marketing, certification and technical support?

It is a well-known fact that Ingram Micro is a VAD (Value-Added Distributor) that not only provides the sales of products and services but rather helps partners to realize the full potential of advanced technologies. Thanks to the global infrastructure and focus on cloud technologies, logistics and advanced technological solutions, we ensure that our partners receive the appropriate tools and support for successful business. Today, there is no other company in the world that provides such a wide and comprehensive range of technical and logistics services. What also sets us apart is that we provide our clients with a wide range of end-to-end services and solutions as well as support in all phases of the business cycle with a focus on joint project development, selection of appropriate technologies, process financing assistance and constant technical support in all phases, and in the course of development, implementation and maintenance. The greatest value is the technical knowledge and many years of experience of employees working in sales and technical sector. We are one of the few companies in our market that employs engineers in the field of technical sciences that are closely related to the subject technologies in almost all business functions. Ingram Micro d.o.o. Belgrade has an authorized Training Center for training relating to the companies such as IBM, Oracle, Veeam, Kaspersky, Veritas, Check Point and others. We offer a wide range of training courses for salespeople and engineers as well as the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills relevant to the latest technologies from the best experts in the IT industry and their global partners. Also, as an authorized Pearson Vue test center Ingram Micro d.o.o. Belgrade offers the possibility of taking a large number of exams to obtain certificates from many well-known software and hardware companies such as Oracle, IBM, CISCO, VMware, Veeam, CompTIA, Linux Professional Institute, Software Certifications, etc.

When we talk about the security industry or CCTV, which brands do you work with and which of their products and services do you offer?

At the global level, Ingram Micro has achieved long-term cooperation with CCTV vendors from the premium segment when it comes to the quality of security solutions, and the region which is within my competence is certainly no exception here. These are well-known providers of products and services, such as Axis Communications and Milestone Systems, and their end-to-end solutions. Ingram Micro has established strong relationships with these vendors which have yielded outstanding results that have, in particular, fully justified their quality over the past six years in which Canon Corporation has acquired both companies. There is a noticeable rapid growth in the field of integrative solutions, both independently and in the field of mutual cooperation, which justifies the leading position and innovative role in the market. As I think that your readers are aware of the strength, quality and capabilities of both vendors, I will briefly say that Axis Communications is a leader in the global IP CCTV market and that it offers network video solutions for professional installations and creates products and solutions based on innovative and open technical platforms. Axis Communications has achieved a leading position in the market in the category of video encoders and thus strengthened the company’s position in the video surveillance market. Milestone Systems is a global leader in the open source IP video management software platform (VMS) industry. Our partners choose Milestone VMS because of the proven technology and open platform architecture that provides flexible hardware selection and independent integration. Milestone Systems assists customers to enable video integration into their business processes, helping them manage risks, protect their employees and assets, and reduce costs. Ingram Micro cooperates with these vendors on open access and mutual planning of activities, strategies and development of quality project opportunities throughout the region. Having in mind that I have had the opportunity to cooperate with them for many years, I can responsibly say that they represent the best that the users can get in terms of IP security systems in the market and their combination of project and security solutions achieves exponential benefits during long-term operation.

During the pandemic, did you have difficulty delivering security products on time and, if so, how did you overcome it?

One of the first things I noticed when I came to the company was the strength of the logistics business and the organization within Ingram Micro. I can freely say that it is the simplest complex or the most complex simply organized system that I have had the opportunity to encounter. The emergence of a pandemic and the evident crisis that has befallen us has not had a significant impact on our business in terms of delivery of products and services. A large number of central and local warehouses, warehouse management, long-term cooperation with internal and external logistics service providers, planning, ordering and inventory tracking systems, and precisely planned and implemented reallocation of existing stocks in line with the needs, in a unit of time has demonstrated the strength of the company in a very short period of time. Timely delivery, logistical and financial support, as well as the equipment stock itself allowed for uninterrupted work with partners on the undergoing projects and the development of future ones, and, more importantly, the safety and peace of mind stemming from awareness that the contracted work will be completed on time. It is also the fact that many system integrators, among other things, turned to our solutions for that reason. During the work at the time of the pandemic, it happened on several occasions that certain specific products from the CCTV segment in the whole of Europe were found in stock only at Ingram Micro, considering, also, other brands that are represented in our region. As the basis of our successful work is found in the satisfaction of partners and customers with all that Ingram Micro has to offer, I believe that we have fully justified what was expected of us, among other things. The partners were able to continue working with us without hindrance and get what they are used to just as they have been able to do in the conditions before the crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus.

Which important projects in the region have you participated in when it comes to CCTV?

Bearing in mind that without the written consent of the end users and partners and regardless of the type and form of their ownership, Ingram Micro does not disclose details and data on specific projects in which it has participated, I can list some of the most significant market verticals in the region. I am in charge of i.e. in the non-EU territory. As a rule, it has been evident that for more demanding solutions, as well as in the situations in which it has been necessary to meet sensitive security needs, partners choose our solutions with which they can properly provide education and meet customer needs. This has proven to be a welcome recommendation and practice in various projects regardless of industry, business area, ownership structures, the size of the system itself and the sensitivity of the resources being secured, which I am personally particularly proud of. In the market of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, I can single out projects in the field of road infrastructure and financial institutions; In Albania there are projects in the energy sector; with partners in Northern Macedonia we participated in the implementation of projects in the field of shipping and transport while Serbia saw implementation in the construction sector and various commercial service industries. At the moment, there are several security and CCTV projects in the region in which we participate in the creation and implementation of innovative solutions by observing the global framework, which proves our strength and the strength of the vendors that we work with. By the end of the year, I expect results that will enable these solutions to be more widely used and applied in Europe and the rest of the world, and, at the same time, demonstrate that there is a fully professional approach to meeting the needs in the security field in our region, but what makes me especially happy is a strongly proactive action with regard to the emergence of various challenges and the creation of the solutions themselves. I am really proud of these and similar things as part of an industry that can contribute to changes on a broader scale through its development in our region.

Do you offer security solutions to combat COVID and what are those? Have you noticed an increased demand for these solutions?

Regarding solutions that include those intended for combating the Covid-19 virus, there was a significant demand at the very beginning of the pandemic when, I can freely say, partners were burdened and confused by different demands from users without them clearly stating their need to adapt the solution to business conditions and the activities they perform. Unlike most other vendors, Axis Communications and Milestone Systems had a different approach to this problem, which primarily referred to the improvement of existing products as well as to the cooperation with specialized software companies that created similar solutions long before the pandemic. The combination of know-how enabled the development and application of security solutions for this purpose, such as AI analytics, people-counting systems, and the use of thermal cameras in combination with elements of face recognition, access control and the like. All of this primarily had to do with the timely detection of Covid-19 symptoms in persons who would not be allowed access to certain protected areas, yet without violating their guaranteed human rights. To conclude, an advantage has been generated in the already existing integrative solutions developed by our CCTV vendors before the pandemic, while Ingram Micro’s partners know that by cooperating with our sales and technical teams they have the opportunity to respond to customer demands and challenges with a complete project solution in terms of the entire infrastructure (CCTV, network equipment, server and storage architecture, uninterruptible power supplies, security and virtualization software and many others).

Finally, the countries of the Adriatic region are going through the most difficult period in the past two decades. The security industry is also affected, although potentially less than others. When do you expect it to stabilize and return to its previous growth? Also, regardless of the pandemic, what is your assessment of the regional security market in terms of keeping pace with the technological trends, i.e. what should be worked on more on the path to even greater level of professionalization?

With the emergence of the pandemic in our region, I had the opportunity to observe a sort of general confusion in the market regarding how and in what way security systems should be used in the fight against the virus. I appreciate that the previous year, as well as this one, will be marked by a kind of hasty and emotionally guided procurement without a clearly defined goal of its use and adaptation to the given situation. The crisis and the unpredictability of the further developments understandably contributed to the increased concern for the personal and property security of each of us, which also reflected on many irrational procurements and implementations of the systems that did not lead to the expected results. Unlike most business associates with whom I communicate, I do not share the opinion that the crisis will provide a new chance and sales growth, at least not in the near foreseeable future. We are already witnessing regular prolongation and abandonment of planned projects due to uncertainty, rebalance of planned funds and budget cuts. When we talk about the Adriatic region, I can certainly say that there is undoubtedly room for improvement, especially in the field of network video surveillance and the opportunities it offers, especially in the area of integration with other systems. I expect to see significant investments in the development of smart cities with reservations and fear that their design will not be approached in detail and that no account will be taken of the interconnection of such cities and regions as the next step to be taken. As for the emerging trends in terms of technology, we are on the right track when it comes to the quality, expertise and professionalism of the leading system integrators in the region and I would use this occasion to tell them to think about basing their future growth on, among other things, investing in new staff, their education and professional training. We can see that the education systems of the regional countries do not take note of that, and that there are no indications that anything will change with regard to this issue. The foundation of professional solutions rests on the shoulders of professionals who do their work.

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