Follow The Leader: Sukant Mishra, Founder And Owner, Octagon International FZCO
Mishra launched Octagon in the UAE nearly 16 years ago with the core aim of providing technology-driven business solutions that cater to its clients' strategic objectives.
As the negative ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic was felt across the globe, it resulted in many novel shifts in the way traditional businesses run and operate. From the hastened move to e-commerce and online selling, to employees having to work from home, the business ecosystem witnessed a sudden, greater dependence on technology. In the midst of such a technological revolution, UAE-based information technology (IT) equipment company Octagon International FZCO experienced a period of increased demand and revenues. "Predominantly, the very method of doing business had changed completely," says Octagon's founder and owner Sukant Mishra. "The transformation of business models from one-on-one meetings with customers, to a completely digital way of communication created a new landscape for the IT industry altogether. The pandemic also opened up the industry to more competitiveness, by giving many smaller and new organizations the opportunity to compete in the open environment of a digital world."
Of course, Mishra is no stranger to how the IT industry works. With an entrepreneurial career that has spanned over 22 years in the fields of strategic business planning, organizational design development, and operational and financial turnaround, he is well-versed with the ins and outs of the sector he currently operates in. Mishra launched Octagon in the UAE nearly 16 years ago with the core aim of providing technology-driven business solutions that cater to its clients' strategic objectives. The firm essentially distributes IT equipment, including computers (from legacy equipment, to the latest models of basic consumer laptops), computer peripherals, as well as IT software. In doing so, Octagon offers industry-specific solutions to its clients, through services such as networking, security systems, high-end storage and cloud options, as well as asset recovery and disposition.
Describing itself as a "channel alternative," Octagon operates as an independent entity and isn't bound to the original equipment manufacturers, which ensures that the firm's pricing isn't influenced by external factors. Among the many brands Octagon works with are world-renowned ones such as Cisco, Dell, Huawei, HP, and Samsung. "Our core business is IT hardware distribution, and the jump in global demand for computing products has helped the company greatly in ramping up revenues," explains Mishra. "The impact of the pandemic created this huge demand for IT products, and thus created an unprecedented opportunity. So, we were fortunate to be on the right side of the COVID-19 crisis's impact, and have seen exceptional growth in line with industry as a result. In fact, Octagon has witnessed a growth of over 100% from 2019 to 2021."
With points of sale in the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Netherlands, United Kingdom, India, and UAE, Octagon's global presence was a major factor that kept the company on a firm footing throughout the coronavirus pandemic, adds Mishra. He also believes it is his firm's biggest USP. "Multiple stock points globally helped our customers to save the time of transit from origin, in addition to operating with low working capital," he says. "The key differentiator for Octagon is its ability to provide access to cutting-edge technology across many markets simultaneously, by being present in mature markets like the USA as well as emerging markets like India. Our ability to cater to a sudden rise in demand efficiently happened largely due to the firm's international presence, and our in-depth knowledge of these markets. In essence, we are democratizing the traditional limitations on logistics, and making technology available to all at the same time."
Image courtesy: Octagon International FZCO
In addition to this, there were a couple of other trends that opened up new opportunities for Octagon- these include the boom of the cryptocurrency market as well as the increasing growth of the gaming industry, both of which rely heavily on technological solutions, particularly IT hardware. "Seeing the growth of cryptocurrencies and the gaming industry, Octagon was quick to recognize the potential, and we immediately added a portfolio of products that not only helped in revenue, but also acquired a larger base of customers," explains Mishra. "The potential of the gaming industry is huge, and as of today, only 0.1% of people are invested in the crypto market. But we see a large potential in both." At the same time, as schools closed down during the COVID-19 crisis and the edtech sector came into prominence, Mishra saw yet another opportunity for his business. "The tremendous growth in the education sector, and the general rise in corporate demand, has been icing on the cake, as remote functioning and work from home is now a new normal," he says. "Many more businesses are going to adopt technology widely, necessitating the requirement for hardware, which will increase the addressable market size by 2022."
When it comes to advice for entrepreneurs setting up businesses in the MENA region, Mishra asserts that one mustn't rely on using the same approach for different locations in the region. "One must be careful when it comes to socio-economic beliefs in the region," he says. "A proper research is required before entering any market, as there are large differences in the type of products required within the Middle East itself. A country of low population density like Kuwait needs more luxurious products than Egypt, which requires more practical products despite having a larger population. So, it is important to study each country's market individually, in isolation, instead of adopting a uniform policy for the entire region."
Mishra also asks budding entrepreneurs to be wary of factors such as currency inflation and trade policies. "Currency is another important factor, as some countries have very high fluctuations, whereas other currencies are pegged against the dollar," he adds. "Trade policies and economic structure are also very critical, and must be understood well since each country is unique in its policies of international trade." Raising funds in the MENA region remains a tedious task, he adds, and so, entrepreneurs should set aside enough time for this effort. "Barring the UAE, most of the markets are still opening up to the idea of venture funding or private investments," he notes. "So, one must be very careful in planning business, and must lay out all contingency plans for the long term."
According to Mishra, the UAE's strategic location provides his firm with a robust, logistical advantage for its distribution and trading, and the lack of corporate tax in the nation allows Octagon to have competitive pricing. And with the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai just around the corner, Mishra believes it will only propel the UAE's position as a global business hub. "The growth of venture capitalism and abundant initiatives by the government to promote entrepreneurship will lead to innovation and development," he says. "I see huge potential in digitalization and social media marketing, blockchain technology, fintech, and clean energy."
Despite the future looking bright for his firm and the industry it operates in, Mishra is clear that that innovation is the only sure-shot way to ensure success. "The recent trend of entrepreneurship has impacted almost all businesses, and capital flow is becoming a key determinant for any business to succeed," he adds. "Traditional methods of business valuations are obsolete, and new disruptive ways of defining business viability is the culture for tomorrow. You have to be constantly innovating, changing, or adapting new methods of doing business, or else be ready to tank!"
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: SUKANT MISHRA'S TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
1. Always look ahead to the big picture "Visionaries have always been able to pave the path to success. Their unique ability to predict the future makes them ahead and winning."
2. Be patient and persevere "I feel the quality of perseverance is very important, especially as the CEO of a company."
3. Keep an eye out for opportunities "A leader most importantly needs to be a risk taker, and be ready to jump on an opportunity, without a fear of failure."
4. Remain humble "I personally believe humility and empowerment helps in gaining trust of people, and loyalty is the best reward one can expect in return. Allow people to make mistakes, and let it be a motivation to innovate."