Harris mulls more Gulf investment

Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast, paid his first visit to Dubai at CABSAT 2008. Digital Studio caught up with him for a quick tete-a-tete on Harris' business in the Middle East and its future plans for the region.
Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast.
Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast.

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Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast, paid his first visit to Dubai at CABSAT 2008. Digital Studio caught up with him for a quick tête-à-tête on Harris' business in the Middle East and its future plans for the region.

You have never come to this part of the world before. Why now?

The Middle East has become a very important market for us over the last couple of years. We've identified four places in the world outside of North America where we see huge growth in a long time and that is India, China, Brazil and the Middle East.

"I … foresee us doing some software development in the region… there is enough … talent [here], and we would like to tap into it to create workflows that will suit the needs of our customers here."

These regions used to represent only 8% of our business but now we see a 40% growth in these territories.

How have you strengthened your presence in this market?

Our philosophy has always been to put the people in the geography if the geography can support it, and decentralise our operations as much as possible. This is what we have done with this market, where we have now put in a lot of resources.

We already have about 10 people here at present. We realised that this region required Arabic-speaking engineers and local support. We have made every effort to put in support people and direct sales people here to address this region's requirements.

Also, we have 28 partners in the Middle East and have a very diversified business here. We are starting to see more business come out of Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

Our most recent effort has been to open a new Service Distribution Centre in Dubai. By making spare parts available locally to our contract customers, we have ensured that we are able to address their needs faster.

What is next on the agenda for the Middle East?

I would foresee us doing some software development in the region. We do software development currently in the UK and Budapest. The software always starts out being specific to a region and then it becomes mature enough to warrant a global footprint.

We need to do this because each region has very specific needs. However, if a customer in Kuwait decides he wants a change in workflow, it may not be the most important thing on the agenda for corporate in South California.

But there is enough software talent in this region, and we would like to tap into it to create workflows that will suit the needs of our customers here. But at some point, that software would have become significant enough for a global rollout. We do this all the time.

Is Harris planning anymore acquisitions in the coming year?

I don't think so. We are in an internal integration phase now. Harris is the product of 20 or 30 acquisitions over a 10-year period. We don't want to have a bunch of loosely acquired products. We want them well integrated and we are working towards ensuring this now.

In fact, we invested US $3 million on an integration Centre in Toronto to check all our systems before they get deployed.

We had our first customer come into the Centre around February to see how his systems would work together before he got them done at his own facility.

We plan to have more such initiatives across the world to enable customers to have a better understanding of how their systems work together.

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