Marketing and “R&D” – or “research and development” – represent the two most important areas of investment during an economic downturn, the head of an Israel-based IP-PBX manufacturer with U.S. offices in Phoenix told TMCnet in an interview this week.
According to Eran Gal, the chief executive officer of Xorcom, customers and channel partners now, more than ever, need support and a clear message of what companies offer.
“In addition, this is the time to make sure that when the economy booms again, we will be there with the best offering possible,” Gal said during an interview with TMC President Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) (printed in full below).
During their talk, Gal – whose company is exhibiting at ITEXPO West in September – also shared some insights into this down economy and how it’s changed Xorcom’s approach to customers. For Gal, the downturn serves as a reminder that, in the business world, products – in this case, homes – must have real value in order to yield long-term success.
“Shortcuts are the result of short term thinking and only lead to what we see today in the global economy,” he said.
Xorcom has seen some business partners affected more seriously than others, Gal said, yet there’s a consistent, growing acceptance of open source solutions, such as our -based products.
Gal’s full exchange with Tehrani follows.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?
Eran Gal (pictured left): As a company that has managed to keep on growing throughout this crisis, it is our desire to keep investing in the company in order to build a strong base for our continuous growth. The two most important investment areas, especially in times of market downturn, marketing and R&D. Now more than ever our customers and channel partners need our best support to understand what we offer and make the right choices. In addition, this is the time to make sure that when the economy booms again, we will be there with the best offering possible.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?
EG: These days the term “communications” means anything from routers to IP-PBX systems to cell phones. I think the latter is probably the fastest growing and the most competitive segment. What is most interesting to customers is what used to be just a buzz word but today is reality: unified messaging. Today the problem the customer is facing is having too much information and too many devices to synchronize. Managing various information sources and optimizing their usage is a significant challenge. Unfortunately, if not handled correctly, implementation of these cutting edge technologies can be costly and inefficient, not to mention frustrating.
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi (News - Alert), appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
EG: I believe WiFi will be very widespread. It has become a real commodity, while all the competition – mostly WiMAX and cellular – are either not widely spread or very expensive. In addition, the higher energy required for transmission of the alternatives affects both battery life and presents a possible health issue (which is a growing concern of the environmentally-conscious). WiFi network setup today is child's play. So even though the other technologies definitely have their place, I don't see them replacing WiFi any time soon. Integrated solutions, such as dual-mode phones that work as a SIP extension of the PBX when in WiFi range, are also becoming popular and we are seeing more and more of our customers extend the functionality of our PBXs in this way. As a matter of fact, this is the topic of our July Webinar. This is a very cost effective, easy-to-set-up solution which is supported out-of-the-box by us and by several of the cell phone vendors.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
EG: The U.S. market will be a great opportunity for us because of the current economy. Unlike the picture some pessimists have painted, business did not come to a complete stop. True, there is a serious slowdown, but for a company like ours we see more opportunities than obstacles in the current climate. We provide a solid offering at a competitive price. In the majority of cases, we can show significant savings for an organization’s communications costs. Today, enterprises are more concerned about ROI than with having a big brand name printed on the PBX chassis – which helps us reach customers that would not be accessible to us in a different climate.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?
EG: While one can argue about the financial steps the President is taking (and I am far from considering myself an expert in macro-economics) I think that for many people President Obama represents hope. Since economy and psychology are almost one and the same I think this is a very important positive factor which can't be overlooked.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
EG: I use a Nokia (News - Alert) E71. Generally speaking, Nokia has put together very decent system, although there is room for improvement on the applications side. One of the things I like about the Nokia E71 is that it doesn't compromise on the basics (being a good cell-phone).
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google (News - Alert) Android platform?
EG: iPhone has, again, taught us a valuable lesson about marketing. I think they have an amazing user interface for non-business users, and they definitely captured great market share with the previous model. However, I don't think it is a real hard-core business tool. The Palm Pre looks decent, although I don't have any personal experience with it. I do think that having a real hardware keyboard is a “must” for heavy-duty email applications; touch screen is not enough. As for Android – this is really interesting. Once again, the folks at Google are able to think out of the box and leverage their existing infrastructure to produce a very interesting concept. My guess is that Android needs time to mature, but in the long run it will capture significant market share.
RT: I understand you are exhibiting Sept. 1 to 3 at ITEXPO West in Los Angeles. What will you show there? Describe the companies or people who should come to your exhibit.
EG: Our products provide a method for gradual transition to VoIP, support Unified Communications, and feature various utilities for keeping PBX downtime to a minimum. Visitors will be able to see our TwinStar full and automatic redundancy capability for the entire PBX, which was awarded “Best of Show” in the on-site product launch category at the IT Expo East earlier this year. We invite system integrators with Asterisk experience to stop by, since we are always interested in expanding our channel with competent and motivated partners. Also, IT managers and decision makers in organizations who are interested in reducing communications costs and achieving quick ROI will find that our solutions “fit the bill.”
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?
EG: The key term here is “ROI.” Especially for businesses with a lot of long distance calls and/or multiple locations, where communication costs between branches can be driven down significantly, our equipment starts paying for itself immediately. We have many customers that have branch offices in two or more countries, who recouped their system investment within a matter of months. Our flexible and scalable solutions make moving to VoIP a ‘no-brainer’, since in a phased approach they integrate with conventional telephony systems and end-point equipment, and ultimately replace them, saving on maintenance and utilities fees, in addition to communications costs.
Learn more about Xorcom at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Visit Xorcom at booth #107 in the exhibit hall. Don’t wait. Register now!
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan