Thursday, July 31, 2008

Evangelizing Business Graphics in Asia-Pacific

On a five nation Asia-Pacific swing in July I met with resellers of SmartDraw’s visual communications software. I found a receptive message to “thinking straight”, “working smarter”, “better presentations”, “raising the level of education” and “making money” at each destination. At this stage in SmartDraw’s development the company doesn’t have an overseas office [yet]. So, we’re working with partners, distributors and resellers to get the message out. Highlights:

ChinaCogito Solutions of Hong Kong & Beijing was founded 10 years ago by Jimmy Wong. His youth will give him the energy required to introduce a growing brand to Hong Kong and the explosive China market. Because his company is relatively small, he can provide focus. Cogito distributes SmartDraw through Jardine’s , PCCW, Microware and other channels. (Excitement for the Olympics was building, the Peeking Duck is still delicious and watching the noodle makers spin and weave noodles by hand is hypnotizing.)

Singapore – SmartDraw has been represented for years in Singapore by Infoland, who’s Marketing Director Mee-Leng Poon has introduced SmartDraw to schools. Interestingly, she’s found that SmartDraw can be used as an authoring tool for kids to make fun presentations. For the business market, we began working recently with Efektif, who has already succeeded in introducing SmartDraw to the United Overseas Bank (UOB). Efektif has been a value added reseller of various business graphics solutions for years, such as project scheduling software, and mind map solutions. (We had time after our meetings to sample the famous pepper crab.)

Malaysia – Our distributor Nadi-Ayu Technologies observed a problem in Malaysia’s schools: Many teachers had computers, but weren’t using them. Nadi-Ayu wondered what would happen if teachers had better software? So, they did an experiment with a group of instructors giving them SmartDraw. Their conclusion: teachers with SmartDraw used their computers more. The Ministry of Education agreed with these findings, and awarded Nadi-Ayu different projects to supply more than 30,000 licenses of SmartDraw to instructors and computer labs. During a 5-day visit we met several government ministries in Putrajaya, the new capital area of Malaysia, and also universities. (Awaking each morning to the calls of prayers from a nearby mosque, we had one free moment to sample a Durian, the fruit that scared participants on the TV show “Fear Factor” with its sensuous bouquet.)

Australia – My arrival coincided with the Pope’s visit to Sydney. Dodging the PopeMobile and the PopeBoat I visited SoftwareTime located in a quaint area of Sydney. Software Time has a strong education focus, and manager Chris Marlow expressed interest reselling SmartDraw if we could get the margins right (I assured him we could). Next there was a meeting with Aquion – a distributor, with strong ties to resellers like Insight. Insight is a large reseller to corporate customers – but we need “order makers” not “order takers.” Fitting the “order maker” profile is a reseller called MindSystems of Melbourne, an experienced marketer of business graphics software, who sees an excellent fit with SmartDraw in combination with its other productivity software offerings. Melbourne is also the home of City Software, a traditional software seller who has been offering SmartDraw for a couple of years already, and whose SmartDraw sales have been expanding in line with our world-wide growth. I was impressed with the offices and strategy of Edsoft, which has an education focus. (One of the main features of the office is a glass meeting room with an artistic rendering of the company’s roadmap in vibrant colors on the clear wall. The company is located near a former artist colony – and the influence is apparent.) However, because Edsoft has requested exclusive rights to be the sole reseller for SmartDraw, it is not likely we will be doing business with them at this time. (MindSystems located not far from a vineyard, so after lunch which included Australia’s great oysters, we were able to grab a taste of Melbourne.)

New Zealand: Cold, rainy, at the height of winter ….Met with James Taylor of Metro Business Software, a long-time business partner whose SmartDraw sales have been rising the past two years. I also met with Patrick Baker of Mindlogik, who is in the business of consulting, training and “business mapping”. Patrick sees SmartDraw fitting in beautifully with the consulting services he and his partners offer to New Zealand companies. (James suggested we have lunch on scenic Waiheke Island, just a short ferry ride from Auckland. NZ is not just about “All Blacks” and whites: try the red wine!)

Conclusion: I'm bullish on the growth prospects of "business graphics" and visual communications in Asia-Pacific and throughout the world.

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