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Skills and capital: How Axiz supports the rise of the channel SME


Johannesburg, 18 Oct 2021
Read time 4min 30sec

You may have heard of the long tail. Rather than sell one product to many, you offer nuanced choices to different customers. The long tail model is particularly potent in digital economies – it's the source of success behind the likes of Amazon, Alibaba, Google and Facebook. Even though it has been studied since the 1940s, the long tail came into its own as digital economies took centre stage.

Technology SMEs can benefit greatly from the long tail. They are more flexible, more specialised and always hungry for business. They build and blend solutions for the many individual digital strategies that companies want to realise. The challenge is providing SMEs with access to that long tail of customers.

How do we create that opportunity?

SMEs are crucial for economic growth. From large companies to economics experts, from parastatals to the Presidency, many celebrate SMEs and want the market to use them more. That spirit resonates at the highest levels of the technology market. Supply chains are doing their best to send business to SME providers. Large enterprises and state entities support programmes that expect, for example, 30% of business to go to small providers.

But while intentions are good, the momentum gets lost in the details.

Vendor programmes are not designed to accommodate SMEs. Such programmes scale their opportunities based on a partner's skills pool and revenue, creating a chicken/egg problem. If you don't invest in skills and make enough sales, you cannot qualify for vendor tiers that help you deliver to large customers.

Additionally, the capital lending requirements from financial institutions often exclude smaller companies. The processes and procedures used by banks and other traditional lenders don't align with how today's technology SMEs operate.

A highly capable SME lands a big contract but has to walk away because it couldn't provide the skills, revenue or capital bona fides to vendors and lenders. To be fair, many vendors and enterprises run programmes to help SMEs with skilling and access. But they operate in isolation and only make a difference for a handful of SMEs.

I'm not blaming vendors or banks, but something has to give to excite the SME market and make it a fixture in the big leagues. How do we draw all these strings together?

I believe Axiz has the answer.

Axiz has been on an expansion journey for several years. We are a leading distributor, a business we intend to keep growing. But the market expects more than technology procurement. Services, including cloud and business capabilities, define the channel's future. We've been transforming Axiz to be a leader in those areas as well.

Yet we don't want to eat our customers' lunch. So we asked: how can we be a part of the channel's future and retain our current status while supporting our customers – many of whom are SMEs – to evolve as well?

We work closely with vendors and other partners to help develop their SME resources. If I can drop a name, we're collaborating closely with Micro Focus (an enthusiastic advocate for local technology skills development) to enable our SME customers with skills and access. We work to capacitate SMEs with access to service and product development. If other enabling parties struggle to be more flexible, then Axiz takes on that responsibility.

Axiz additionally helps SME customers access capital and business services. This is an elaborate approach extending from internal processes and strategies. Suffice to say, we are creating market access and support for channel SMEs that removes many of the traditional walls they encounter.

Why Axiz? As an established distributor, we hold a central role in the market, and we also have a responsibility to evolve our business. Digital transformation is not something anyone can (or should) avoid. We set out to address three issues at once: the need to expand our business model, the enablement challenges giving our vendor partners headaches, and the odds our SME customers face. We designed a model where everyone can win.

Axiz provides a way for South African SMEs to find their long tail markets. We have embraced the direction the market wants to explore, and we're positioning ourselves as an aggregator of market opportunities for all our customers, big and small.

At Axiz, we've made it our business to support the SME market through support, consultation, development and financing. These come together through a central proprietary platform that creates flexibility and choice for all our customers and their markets. Now, SMEs can take on big projects and build long-term relationships with major enterprises. Now, SMEs can enjoy rich vendor partnerships. And now, the South African technology channel can create those long tails that have made Amazon, Google and Alibaba household names. 

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