Mr. Ghassan Azzi is the senior manager, sales, Africa business, at Western Digital, a leading global data storage brand that empowers people to create, manage, experience and preserve digital content on a range of devices. In this interview, Azzi speaks on the company’s plan to transform data storage business in Nigeria through its latest devices.
Western Digital Corporation (WDC) is a storage company and it is leading in the storage industry. We are almost number one in the world today on the storage side. With technology evolution, storage is becoming a necessity for organisations. With the new development, organisations do not need to purchase storage devices from stores each time they are in need.
Organisations should be thinking of how best to install the latest data storage devices around their premises because the demand for storage is on the increase, which has been propelled by technology evolution. The demand for data is huge, which calls for increased demand for storage of data and other essentials, and we have the latest storage devices to address the increasing demand for data and storage facilities. We have our storage devices in USB, SD, Micro SD, and hard drive and these devices are readily available.
We operate globally everywhere; our market share is big; publicly, we say more than 50 per cent of the world data is stored on one of our portal.
Business in Nigeria
I can say that the business has been good for us in Nigeria. Over the last five years that we started to invest in the country, we have been growing little by little. When we came here, we had no business. Our products were here but they were coming from everywhere. So, when we came here, we put up a team to grow the business.
We started here with the SanDisk brand due to the size of the market. And here we are talking about the integration of the mobile phone; every phone needs a microSD, plus everybody needs USB. So, when we started five years ago, we started with SanDisk. Now, we launch WD as a company to serve the Nigerian market from a microSD up to enterprise business. We want to grow more, we are covering Lagos as well as in the Norths and South.
For our objective, I cannot give a timeline. However, our objective in18 months is to have a legal entity in Nigeria where we would have our own office and team to further grow the business. Now, we at the stage of developing the other sector of the business, so SanDisk as a brand has been well established in the market, almost number one premium brand in Nigeria today.
When we brought WD, we started with external hard drive; now, second step is to go into the internal drive (here, we are talking about surveillance), which is for security, a growing industry in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
For whatever you’re doing with CCTV camera, you need a hard drive that can capture every second/moment of what is happening on your territory.
Third focus for us on the internal side is the SSDs. We don’t see a shift from SSDs to the hard drive but that is the future and the next one is enterprise.
We are doing enterprise business now in Nigeria but to establish it as a solid foundation we are looking at next year, to really go into the enterprise business proper. This aspect of business involve government, banking, corporate organisations and this this is where we come with our big solutions. This is our plans for Nigeria.
Importance of storage facilities to organisations
Importance of storage facilities cannot be over-emphasised, because of its critical role in organisational growth. Data is key to any organisation, and the effective storage of the data will give organisations the full assurance that their data is secured. Data must be stored as backup and ready for retrieval at any point in time. Any organisation without effective data storage devices is still far from the realities of digital transformation business, and there is a need to store every data for business continuity and for future reference. Data is about information and information is key to organisations, which means that proper storage of information is also key to organisational growth. So it gives an organisation peace of mind when they know that their data and information are in a safe place where no one can tamper with them.
Attraction to Nigeria
Honestly, Nigeria comes second after South Africa today on the development side and we can see that from the demand. Our decision to penetrate the Nigerian market was informed by our desire to transform data storage business in Nigeria. We have demands coming from corporate, we also have demands coming from the customers and it is shifting as well on the capacities. Today, we see demand on 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, even with also 1TB microSD in Nigeria and that’s a big launch as no other brands can boast of that. Same we can see on the hard drive, the 1TB is the highest in demand on hard drive.
We have different types of solutions but it all revolves around storage. We have the JBOD, just a bunch of drives, where we can extend their capacities or the JBOF which is just a bunch of flash. So, one is with SSDs, one is with internal hard drives. We have our own servers that come with the full solutions for archiving. They say usually that 70 to 75 per cent of the data centre cost is storage. So, we really play a big part in the growth of the data centre businesses or into the corporate life, because imagine if you don’t have a solid storage, what will happen to these corporations, if it crashes and there is no good back up you have lost everything. Just imagine how much a telecommunication consume everyday on their archiving system. If they don’t have that solid infrastructure, if they put something that is not solid and they collapse, actually the whole company will collapse.
That is only the retail side of the business. When we go enterprise, there is no counterfeit. I mean, I’m sorry to say this, you can’t be naive to put a counterfeit on data centre; it will crash tomorrow, it will not take the load. But when you talk about the retail product,it is possible, but we do a lot of campaigs, one of them is “buy the original” campaign, we train all our reseller so when the customer comes in we make sure they buy the right SanDisk. Same for the hard drive, we are doing look for the hologram, we start putting on our hard drive holograms to identify it from the fake or that are refurbished, and we try to increase the awareness and education of the consumers because the consumers don’t know what they’re buying. They go for a hard drive, someone is making more money on that because it is refurbished, it is priced up and the customer doesn’t know. The customer takes a hard drive, goes home and three months later it crashes, all the information gone. That’s on the hard drive, on the flash you buy a microSD that is fake, has a bad memory, you put it on your laptop, Oreo phone, it can damage both your phone and laptop, so people do not know this and as we are doing a lot of programme around that to create the awareness.
Zettabyte of storage capacity
Zettabyte is not the issue today. What we look as a company is how we can serve our customers, what is your need? Is it a terabyte, petabyte or zettabyte, first? What are applications are you using, then I can offer you the right thing for what you want. Yes, we can reach the zettabyte but do you need it today? I don’t think so. But definitely you will need a zettabyte depending on what is your size, so to address this; yes we can serve you based on your needs from what type of application you have whether it data something, a mobile or archiving system or whatever it is, so this is what we do: we make sure that we give our consumers a peace of mind that when they buy our products that make sure it is with them for life.
Yes, all our products come with warranty but “warranty” here is a tricky question because it depends on the product and the length of the warranty.
Some products can be one, five years warranty and we have the high value products, 25 years of warranty, like our extreme cards and some of them is a life time warranty.
There are artificial intelligence and there are internet of things, this is where the world is moving and maybe in 10 or 15 years auto-motives. Today, a car consume a 100GB per sec automotive car, it means it connects everywhere with satellites, with the roads to check if there is a pedestrian, signal light, all sensors reading and writing how fast is the memory, how good is the connector to absorb the data, read/write and transfer the information. In the past we used to be a floppy disk then went to optimal disk, then a USB, it is all about how we transitioned into that storage industry. It is all adapting to the new way of our lifestyle.
There is the portable SSD, external SSD, this is one of our newest products, the 1TB microSD as well, those we launched in Nigeria. This is preparing for the future, we are launching the internal SSDs but the market is not yet there but if you put your foot now, when the market is there you are already there and people know about you. So, all our new technologies are coming to the Nigerian market and believe me, it is prominent market.
On online business, this is something that we are really investing in around the world; looking at Amazon, Amazon is our number one e-tailer in the world, really huge and we this business going into that direction.
Here, we have started working with Jumia, it is based on them and us. If they are strong in Nigeria and we can invest together and grow and if they are not well established then we have to wait further. So, the question is how is e-tail or online business strong in Nigeria, whether Jumia, Konga, we are ready for them because we see this as a direction as well, so if they are really established and have a good network to deliver product on time, to be everywhere and have that infrastructure, we are ready to go and invest because this is our vision as well.
Firstly, most of our products come with an encrypted password on the hard drive and even the flash, so whether you lose them or USB, they cannot steal your data, not without the password. So, consumers have to read what they are buying because this is important.
For our business, the festive season is our retail product, no one is really going to go and buy internal hard drive as a present. So, we are doing a lot of promotions on our high end microSD 128GB and above, on our USBs, on our hard drive, on our portable SSDs, we are ready having some good promotions for the consumers to get to use our products on this festive season.
It is tough to get the market share, we don’t have JFK, we don’t have those companies that really give us those data but I tell you, we want to hold the number one position and I can tell you now that there is no other brand from our competition that is investing in the market. Actually we have a team of 12 in the countries, no one from any other storage and we are talking about A-brand, B-brand whatever you want have a team.
No one is investing in marketing, no one is investing in developing the channels, developing the consumers, educating the consumers, no one is investing with the resellers, no one is going to do seminars and training and raise awareness to the people, no one is doing this. So to answer your question, we want to really take that market, all of these things to the people.