Can Synnex’s Varnex Be Big in Japan?

Synnex Varnex leadership

Varnex Japan chairman Shozo Yamada (left), with Varnex US president Steve Hull (center), and Varnex Canada president Tim Lomax. (Courtesy Synnex Corp.)

Shozo Yamada was a busy man at this week’s Varnex Fall Conference in San Diego. Yamada, CEO of Okayama, Japan-based solution provider Santec Corporation, met with executives from Synnex and Varnex solution provider members, and even trade media, exchanging stories and comparing notes on business by way of a translator.

Aside from speaking a different language from his U.S. and Canadian counterpart, Yamada seemed like one of the gang. And in a very real sense, although he was a guest of honor, he was part of the gang. Yamada was in San Diego as the first-ever representative of Varnex Japan to attend a North American Varnex Council.

Synnex, by way of its Synnex Infotec subsidiary acquired in 2010, became the first of the North American distributors to launch its reseller community in Asia, with an initial group of 24 solution providers.

“It’s a unique opportunity to have a distributor host this kind of a community,” Yamada said through his translator. “The distribution model is getting more global, and this is a big differentiator for Synnex.”

Yamada, a longtime friend of Synnex founder Bob Huang and a longtime customer of Synnex Infotec through Santec, attended as the first chairman of the Japanese Varnex chapter. He was in San Diego to see how the larger North American community works, and from there, the group will set its own course.

“I’ve learned so many things here at the conference, and I’m going to take them home and then we’ll establish goals for the group,” Yamada said.

Bob Stegner, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Synnex, said there were no similar reseller groups in the Japanese market, but as it talked to its reseller base in that country, there was an appetite for such a community.

“We think it will be a great market for us,” he said. “Nobody else is doing it over there. It will help the distribution company over there, and it will really help build customer loyalty in Japan.”

From the initial group, Stegner said the goal will be to get the community to about 50 in the next few months. But the Japanese community appears to be taking the same “slow but steady” approach that Synnex Canada chief Mitchell Martin led with the expansion of Varnex into Canada three years ago – first, build strength in the initial core of the community. Then, expand as it makes sense.

“Our goal is to provide good service to them members, and then grow from there,” said Shotaro Shimizu, manager of marketing for Synnex Infotec.

There is one aspect, though, in which it seems the Japanese chapter will differ from the Canadian one. While Stegner has long pushed for Canada to have its own Varnex conference every year, every time it’s gone to a vote, Canadian members have opted to have their own tracks within the broader North American conference, but to stay in with their U.S.-based peers twice a year. That’s not going to prove practical for the Japanese chapter, although Stegner did suggest the North American contingent will get used to seeing Japanese representatives at their events.

“In the spring, they’ll have their own event in Japan, then they’ll come to Las Vegas in the fall,” he said.

The cultural similarities of business between the U.S. and Canada are one reason the Canadian Varnex members are keen to stay in with their U.S. counterparts. But that probably takes a back seat in terms of importance to the ability to connect and do trans-border business more easily through partnerships with other trusted solution providers in the community. And although its early days for Varnex in Japan, there are already signs that this kind of international dealing will be a significant benefit for both Japanese Varnex members with opportunities in North America, and vice versa.

“Mr. Yamada has already met with one of our American members who has end users in Japan, and they worked a deal right here at the event,” Stegner said. “It’s already paying its first dividends to the community.”

Along with meeting a lot of his fellow solution providers from the other side of the Pacific, Yamada said he was taken by all of the services and offerings from Synnex in North America. In particular, he seemed very interested in the potential of the distributor’s CloudSolv cloud aggregation platform, something he said he feels could help expand the importance of cloud in the channel in Japan.

“In Japan, the idea of cloud-based services is very popular, but the business hasn’t really developed,” Yamada said. “If a distributor could aggregate these cloud services, and provide one-stop shopping, that would be a very unique opportunity.”

Cloud is something of a passion for Yamada, whose business includes a traditional reseller business, as well as a popular software application for household bookkeeping, which has made the transition to a cloud-based service in recent years.

While distributor-hosted reseller groups have been very successful in North America, with each of the “big three” broadline distributors hosting groups, they have largely exclusive to this continent until this year. This spring, Ingram Micro announced plans to introduce its VentureTech Network community in the United Kingdom, and representatives of the new group were in attendance at the group’s fall gathering.