Intel director of regional sales and business development Asia-Pacific, Philip Cronin, reflects on Asia-Pacific challenges and opportunities.
Intel's Philip Cronin, is six months into his role and can say he has travelled more times than he has eaten breakfast.
Promoted to the position of director of regional sales and business development Asia-Pacific, he said he sees enormous business opportunities in the expansive area he now has to cover.
Asked where he will be based, he jokingly said, "Everywhere, but mostly in airplane seat 12K". "I have got to cover 18 countries. My role runs across our business from our multi-national groups through to our traditional channel business. It is also extending now into what we call branded groups, but is effectively the reseller/VAR community as that begins to materialise in the region."
"The bulk of my team is in Singapore, but I will spend the bulk of my time in Singapore, Sydney, Taipei [where I have a business unit]. The reality is the customers and partners are out in the marketplace in all of those 18 countries -- so there is no one centre of gravity."
Asked his biggest challenges in covering such a wide area, he said the time zone is the hardest to manage. "In true fashion, we've always had long days and extended hours in this business of ours, so there's nothing really new in that. Managing it is different when you're flying around from one place to another. Videoconferencing comes into play a lot. I like the intimacy of videoconferencing, which seems like an odd thing to say, but it is such a good tool."
Asked what led him to make the change, Cronin said he had been with Intel for 15 years, been involved in every element of the business from running channels to networking to servers to the partner group business, and then running the ANZ operation for seven years -- so he decided it was the right time to take on a new challenge.
"This is the right time to do it. We had a very strong succession plan in place. We've had a good focus on what I need to do in terms of our business in the Asia-Pacific region. And now that I've taken this on, my challenge is to take all of the good stuff that I learned over the years in the Australian business and transport it to the Asia-Pacific region.
"The fundamentals don't change. They may be defined as emerging markets as opposed to mature markets. But the fundamentals don't change -- you need good channels, strong relationships with distributors, and channel members from every level. You need good programs that deliver them value. And you need product."
Some of his current projects include launching the Ultrabook in Vietnam, working on software thanks to the McAfee acquisition, and making plans there, and focussing on promoting the corporate side of the Ultrabook. "We're now starting to see - particularly for the mature markets - Ultrabooks come into the commercial sector."
"We as a business are at the very point in time where there will be a rapid shift in technology over the next few years"
He said the Asia-Pacific market is offering up massive growth opportunities. "From an IT perspective, the opportunities are everywhere. It is crazy. As an example, statistics show India's growth will be 6.7 per cent. If you look at where economic development will happen you have the classic ones of India, Indonesia is next in terms of its complexity, but also its opportunity, Vietnam with 80 million people and growing every day. In the last month, we've seen changes in the environment in that Myanmar (formerly Burma) may well start to be an area of growth and opportunity. It is as complex and as interesting as that."
While varied and immersed with cultural differences, the channel in the Asia-Pacific region is similar to the Australian market, he explained.
"It is not too dissimilar. It is a similar age as well. Intel have had channel programs similar to the one here in all of those countries for many years. A lot of the learning that came out of the Australia model in the early days was applied to that area. So you build the right level of partner groups, you train and develop and reward with programs. You manage your distribution. You ensure that their inventory terms works for them.
"There are local complexities where you have in India, for instance, with its tax systems, you have a different go-to-market model. Some of the distributors don't go as far out as the other states, so you have another layer of sub-distributors to deal with. But in the main, it is a similar model in that you have your locally-made components making a PC or a branded system that goes typically through distribution.
"The bigger distributors in the region are Synnex and Ingram, and beyond them are the partner groups and beyond them are the system integration groups. And every manufacturer, every vendor, typically has a partner group."
Indeed, Cronin said he has his work cut out for him and outlined his top goals for the next few years.
"My first goal is to grow and to grow fast. We as a business are at the very point in time where there will be a rapid shift in technology over the next few years. My secondary emphasis is underlining the importance of ICT within each country. So the role IT has to play for education, broadband, economic development, and on small and medium business."
Eyeing hot trends, he said mobility is well and truly entrenched in our society.
"We are beyond the move to mobility now. Many markets are way over that tipping point -- even the emerging markets. Oddly enough, there's still a huge desktop business in the Asia-Pacific market. It is still quite large. But it is now in the context of a broader consumer market which has shifted in many cases to mobile type products. And within mobility, you have the move towards Ultrabook."
And while he is globe-trotting all over Asia, Cronin said he has managed to get his work/life balance in check.
"It's a never ending piece you have to work on. I learned that a lot time ago. Your family life has to be in the right space, and my children are now going to high school. My wife is very supportive and the fact she had a career in IT, always helps. I think my balance is where I need to remember what I need to be doing. The job is the job -- you have to be out of the country travelling around and doing things. It is a very rewarding and exciting job on many levels."
And while the first six months involved massive amounts of travel, he anticipates that will slow down once he gets more attuned to the needs of each region, and finds even more balance in his life.
"But the job is the job. The job description is -- have suitcase, will travel. That probably speaks more about the Irish in me: that willingness to travel places. I love the travel moment. I like cities and airports. My favourite trick is actually being in a city and running in a new city. It is a great way to find interesting things and different places -- and I love getting lost."