Company Reports - Comztek  


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Leading communication systems distributor

Written by Jennifer Denby & Produced by Oliver Bishop

Although Comztek officially launched in September 1999, the company’s history actually dates back to 1995 when it began life as Comzlink, a subsidiary of Centera, which was owned by Siltek and Q Data.
Leading communication systems distributor
Although Comztek officially launched in September 1999, the company’s history actually dates back to 1995 when it began life as Comzlink, a subsidiary of Centera, which was owned by Siltek and Q Data.

Initially a network-focused distributor, the company was started to address the gap in the market that the system integrators could not fill. As Q Data got more involved in distribution through various acquisitions, these, along with some existing subsidiaries like Comzlink, evolved into Q Data Distribution.

Around April 1999, a decision had to be made as to whether Q Data Distribution was going to be the logistical arm of the group or whether it was going to become a true distributor. Then, in September 1999, Leen van der Bijl, former CEO of Q Data, and Paul Conradie, former Financial Director of Centera, got together with David Kan from Mustek, and bought out Q Data Distribution to form Comztek.

Today, Comztek operates in 26 countries, with its head office in Johannesburg, and regional offices in KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape Province, Namibia, Zambia and an East African office based in Kenya.

We speak with Paul Conradie, now Managing Director of Comztek, who tells us a little about his original goals and objectives when the firm began: “We started the company on what we knew, which was networking hardware products, to address the gap in the market at the time. But it was soon clear that we needed to grow. We saw that we had to move into the software side of networking.”

Growth has been a key objective of the company since then, Conradie explains. “As a value added distributor, our goal has and always will be to provide the best skills, support and backup stock to resellers.”

In 2001, Comztek acquired LanDesign, which gave the company critical mass and introduced Comztek to software for the first time. The liquidation of Siltek Distribution Dynamics in 2002 also had a great influence on Comztek’s critical mass, as many more SA resellers turned to Comztek for assistance.

Another milestone in Comztek’s history was the acquisition of Siltek’s retail arm in late 2002, Conradie points out. “Retail was not part of Comztek’s main focus, but it was a good add-on to the company and today makes up a significant part of the business.”

The total package
Driving Comztek’s success is its partnerships with blue chip vendors, supported by skilled, vendor-certified sales staff, product managers, technical specialists, new business development initiatives, as well as its loyalty incentive programme, Comztek Appreciation Programme (CAP).

Comztek has consolidated its logistics operations into a 7500m² facility in order to boost its customer service levels and enable it to accommodate anticipated growth. The size of the facility has enabled Comztek to bring all its satellite operations, including its retail and Africa services, under one roof, thereby enhancing operating efficiencies, improving turnaround times and providing exceptional product availability.

Comztek’s Technical Service Support (TSS) maintains a fully functional, automated 24-hour service centre with full backup stock and test laboratory facilities available to all of its resellers through Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

“We pretty much have a total solutions package to offer customers – from the software side all the way through to infrastructure to high-end, mission-critical networks, and the components that go with it,” Conradie attests.

The business recently refocused its operations into six business units, namely Consumer Electronics, Data Centre, Networks, Security & Storage, Software Infrastructure and Voice & Video. With this focus, Comztek places products across the various technology areas instead of limiting them to specific business units.

“Instead of having a brand in one specific area, it is split into the business units where it fits. It’s a more pragmatic view of the market to look at the brands and see where they fit in with the continuity of service,” he explains.

Key strengths
As the market constantly changes, and technology becomes more commoditised, there are times when companies must refocus, Conradie stresses. “We rely on our core pillars – the networking business group, software, security and consumer electronics – but our strength lies in our ability to adapt and refocus as the market evolves.

“It’s also becoming more and more important to have the skills on board which can be used by resellers to deploy solutions incorporating both hardware and software. A lot of our customers welcome the fact that we’ve got these skills and embrace them. They use them to help themselves. To understand what’s on offer in terms of technology and what is the best fit for the customer is a skill,” he adds.

The firm has also developed backup stock and has R12 million worth of spares, which are available to resellers on a 24/7 basis, allowing them to provide a guaranteed swap out service to their customers. “These are the kind of offerings we have as a specialised distributor. Coupled with our strong business strategies and ethics, we have managed to maintain a 50 percent growth in business on an annual basis,” he adds.

Strengthening the company further, Comztek owns 51 percent of R&D company Netshield. Conradie tells us more about this and the associated benefits: “Netshield constantly revises and updates its product designs, ensuring that the latest trends and industry technologies are embedded and implemented into its entire product range. The wealth of the company lies in the Intellectual Property Rights of its designs, services and reserves, and this ensures that Comztek has the best products to offer its customers.”

Future strategy
Looking towards the business’ future ambitions, Conradie says: “Our aim is to strengthen our South African business, and grow the rest of our African business to be as big as our South African within the next three to five years.” In the last three years, Comztek has grown business in the African region by 100 percent year on year, and frequently assesses the market and its opportunities based on this success.

“Earlier this year we appointed three account managers and six channel managers to strengthen the rest of Africa business unit. The appointments are an important part of Comztek’s expansion programme into the African continent and highlights Comztek’s continued support of its vendors and resellers in the region.

“In addition, we’ve built the company on a balance of hardware and software offerings, and that balance is something we are still watching today. We have a lot of strong brands within Comztek and we want to maintain that. Comztek continuously adds additional vendors to its portfolio, such as Avaya earlier this year, and we are always on the lookout for others.”

Concluding, Conradie summarises what he believes is the key to the company’s success: “The business unit approach has and continues to work well, as it allows the company to see how specific market segments are performing and it has also worked well in increasing the company’s overall revenues.

“We are a systems integrator who happens to be in distribution, and in this capacity, will keep on utilising products as a basis to offer more scarce resources to resellers and add value in terms of skills, support and backup stock. We will continue to strengthen our partnerships with both our vendors and our resellers.”
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