Viper plans further expansion, seeks government support
At a time when personal computers, commonly referred to as PCs, face existential threat because of the ever growing demand for smartphones, Viper Technology – one of Pakistan’s oldest computer brands – is eying nation-wide expansion, especially by increasing its footprint in the education sector.
Viper is the only Pakistani brand dealing in desktop computers, laptops, and tablets that has survived the beating from ‘higher taxes’ and influx of used computers that flooded the country over the past decade, Viper Chief Executive Officer Khushnood Aftab toldPakistan Today in a recent interview at his Karachi office.
Fast forward to 2016, the company has become one of the top selling PC brands in the country – courtesy its business strategy: identifying local needs and customising its products to meet those needs.
Now a established name, Viper has been expanding its footprint, especially in business-to-business (B2B) segment with its clientele comprising leading textile firms, leather goods manufacturers, banks, telecommunication companies, media organisations, education sector and government departments.
Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to International Data Corporation, a global research, analysis and advisory firm specialising in information communications technology. This translates a year-on-year decline of 10.6 per cent compared to the same quarter of 2014.
While PC sales have slowed down globally, Viper is eying expansion particularly by tapping into the education sector.
The company has started penetrating in to the education sector through private schools, Aftab said adding two renowned schools in Karachi were using their products, which meet world-class standards. “Viper is in negotiations with other government universities and colleges too,” he said.
Explaining, the CEO said Viper trained their teachers who now feel comfortable using latest computer systems for teaching, and reject obsolete systems like teaching through blackboard – a big help in driving growth of PC business.
The company started assembling desktop computers in 1996 at MA Jinnah Road, Karachi. Back then, there were many Pakistani companies which assembled PCs locally including Inbox, Optimum Technology and others. However, most of these businesses did not survive. Viper, on the other hand, expanded its business and now has three sales offices in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and support offices across the country.
The company imports computer parts and accessories from Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and other countries and assembles different high-quality products in Pakistan. These include PCs (desktop computers), heavy-duty computer servers, laptops, computer notebooks, and two-in-one computers which can be converted to tablets. It has also introduced touch screen computers in the country with internal built-in battery that has a backup, which lasts for four hours.
Viper was one of the first channel partners of Santa Clara, California-based chip-making giant Intel, which provides it with processors and other accessories to assemble PCs locally. They are the largest buyer of Intel chips and processors in Pakistan.
“We have been providing services to a number of national and multinational companies in Pakistan for the last 15 years,” Aftab said adding these companies remain satisfied with Viper’s services. “We make sure we assemble our PCs as per local needs.”
While the company’s journey has been exciting, it did not come without challenges. As it plans to expand its operations, the company seeks support from the government.
“The federal and provincial governments should at least support local brands in government offices, education centers and other places,” Aftab said referring to purchase of PCs by the government.
The CEO also complained the government was not giving them anything against taxes they pay.
The federal government imposed different kinds of taxes and duties – ranging from 33 to 40 per cent – on imports of accessories, Aftab said. This is in addition to income tax, but “we get nothing against those taxes”.
Pakistan is a huge market for PCs but local brands have not been able to tap even 1% of it, Aftab said. If the government can provide a level playing field, local brands will have a fair chance to compete against international brands, he said.