Technology in general and, more specifically, the telecom space, is about change. In order to succeed, developers, service providers, VARs, and customers all have one thing in common: they all must determine how they can best cope with the changing communications landscape without overspending or without risking their profitability.
Part of the equation, of course, is figuring out how to future-proof new products so that they can be easily upgraded instead of having to be replaced. This is especially important now, when technology is evolving so rapidly and companies are being bought and sold sol quickly it can prove difficult to keep up with name changes. In its efforts to retain existing and win new customers, Tadiran is one telecommunications systems provider that focuses heavily on meeting the specific needs of its customers.
I recently had the chance to speak to Ron Bregman, President and CEO, Tadiran Telecom, who explained how Tadiran supports the needs of its customers with an eye on growing its business.
RT: It sounds like a lot of things have been happening lately at Tadiran, right?
RB: A lot of things are happening. I’ll start by telling you that, for the beginning of 2007, coupled with our new release of the Coral Sea softswitch, we’re going to be actively marketing this through our existing channels and actively looking to add either partnerships or acquisition of distribution channels to grow the distribution for the product. This is really the highlight for real growth of the company. We’re really on our way and we’re really going to take some steps to grow.
RT: What is the most exciting product this year for Tadiran?
RB: I think the most exciting product is the new Coral Sea Softswitch that we have developed with many, many, different, unique capabilities that are based on our prior experience and the actual core technology that Tadiran has had for many, many years. The Coral product has evolved and has really become a product that can compete with the Avayas and the Nortels.
That experience is really going to be shining through when compared to market leaders, but I think our take will be more of the functionality and redelivering the solutions that the customers really need, more of the applications on top and how you tie them all together, and that comes from the core design; it’s all based on prior experience.
So, I think it will shine when people will go and see the functionality of it as compared to bigger names than Tadiran — granted, there are much bigger names — and they will see the difference in the product.
RT: For the last year, Tadiran has been marketing without the aid of a large distribution partnership. What has that change meant for your company and your business?
RB: It has only been for the better and we are doing much better financially in the U.S. then we did before. We have also been distributing through partnerships around the world, which were not before. We have really been able to brand and market our product. We have been able to show the product for its capabilities. In that respect, we like our independence. We feel that we can definitely make the changes that are needed to grow our footprint, specifically in the U.S.
Internationally, we added a partner in India, and that market is growing very nicely. We had growth in China, and we had growth in Russia. These are independent channels that we are growing based on our activities and based on our product, and that speaks volumes.
Really, on an ongoing basis, it’s about creating market demand, and I think
we have not been doing anything other than creating the right programs that will allow our partners to succeed together with us. And what are we doing? We are growing market share, step by step, creating the program, making sure that people see it, being in front of them, sending them marketing notes, sending them the notices. It’s little by little, but the results are in the numbers.
RT: You have a government division; how do recent government purchases differ from over the private sector?
RB: The government is a different business. In fact, it’s really not a business at all. The government is driven by demand, and you don't know if the seeds that you’re sowing today will bear fruit three months from now — which is wishful thinking — or three years from now.
At the government level, you have to be at it every day, three hundred days a year. You have to promote. You have to push. You have to fill out many, many forms. But if you are willing to invest the time and the money and the effort, it comes back to you, and that’s what we’ve been doing the last few years, and our government division has been growing because of it.
Government business is not something you can succeed at simply through a marketing scheme. It’s not like selling cars, where you can drive business by offering zero percent financing. It can’t be driven by a $299 sticker for the month on a car. Rather, it has to be done by matching their requirements. They have very strict protocol. You have to make sure that you comply, and when you do that, they have their standards, which are regular standards, but they adhere to them and they don’t buy anything other than standards-based technology. If you’re willing to go in and base your technology around that and put the manpower behind it and provide the support, which is most important, then you will see results. We are seeing it and we have been very fortunate in that.
RT: How about the international sales? Are they following the same needs as U.S. customers?
RB: We have been growing our international business every year since I joined in 2001. I think the international market holds great potential for Tadiran. The real market drivers are Eastern Europe, including Russia. There are places that we have new partners, in countries where we didn’t have a presence a year ago, like Romania and some others. People are joining and buying technology today to which they didn’t have exposure a year ago.
In China, we’ve gone to market with a subsidiary. We are in the Indian market, which is very competitive, we grew ourselves very nicely there with the addition of a nice distribution channel.
While I know, many of our competitors are pretty much stagnant internationally, we are growing, and I think it’s because we have local, what I would call, catering. We cater to the specific needs of customers in these countries and try to accommodate them as best we can. We try to do whatever we can to make sure that our partners are happy and they can resell our product, and we stand behind it.
That is really the added advantage of doing business with Tadiran. We try to be very accommodating and flexible when it comes down to it. We don’t do everything, but we really try to develop, and at least put on our road map, things that they require. Most times, if something makes sense, it can also be used elsewhere and is added to the next release. Later on, these enhancement help us elsewhere in the world.
SMS, for instance, was an entry that was requested from the European market, to do SMS messaging to our DKT telephone. It’s available today, and now it’s sold not only in Europe. So, if it makes sense, then it’s inserted usually by the next release. We listen to our customers, and if their requests make business sense, we act on them.
RT: Are you relying on partners as well?
RB: We have partners in most places. They’re individually owned and sometimes they resell to dealers locally. Most of them are a single shop, but they sell through others, representing us, if you will. We’ve been successful with that arrangement. It certainly has be easier to support a master dealer, a master distributor, a master partner, instead of supporting all of them from where we are. It’s easier end customers to get the local support from whoever sold it to them — of course, if necessary, we will get involved.
We have a few offices in China in independent offices that are owned by us. We also have a rep office in Russia, which is ours and services the dealers there. And, needless to say, we have our U.S. exposure right here from Port Washington. We have the government office in Washington, D.C. We have our marketing and support office in Florida. We have places around the world, and then that’s where we support our product from, support for sales, not just tech support.
RT: Are you still looking for resellers around the world?
RB: Tadiran is always looking for resellers, but it is really resellers that make sense, resellers that represent peak business opportunities for Tadiran — one of the assets that we have is loyalty. Very few companies Tadiran has done business with have left and, if they did, they’ve left because of corporate acquisition, where the acquiring company had a previous arrangement with someone else. Still, most of them are still doing business with us, even if they have been bought. They have an installed base and an interest in continued business with Tadiran.
We hold an annual meeting for our partners, where we show them what’s new and exciting. It’s a great session for networking and hearing success stories from one side of the globe to the other. It’s a great tool to generate excitement and create focus on a particular product.
RT: What will be your biggest challenges for the next 12 to 24 months?
RB: We want to make sure that our reputation subsists and that the quality of our product and our users’ satisfaction level remains high with the Coral Softswitch. To me, number one is customer service and really making sure that people are happy with this release. It is the most exciting product for Tadiran for the near future and, perhaps, even long term.
I do believe that the upgrade path that we provide will allow our customers to use most of their existing hardware and add provisions to move forward, but the challenge will be to make sure that they are happy with the new solution, as happy as they were — which is probably the reason that they decided to migrate and go forward with us.
But I do envision growth. We’re preparing a new mainframe and new exposure with e-business — all for our partners to be able to get more of us 24/7/365. It’s a challenge to make sure that, while we’re preparing and gearing ourselves for new heights and different levels, that we still are functioning on a day to day basis, without hurting our business. You want to make sure that you deliver at all times.
So, it’s very exciting to me. The challenges are there. There are day-to-day challenges; there are long term challenges, as with any different business; there are different cultures to manage, especially if there’s a different distribution channel. I’ve seen cultures that don’t match, and we have to make sure that the cultures match. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, so it’s not going to be boring. It hasn’t been boring, but it’s going to definitely get busier.
RT: Tadiran is known for providing upgrade paths for customers rather than recycling with something completely new. Is this still the practice?
RB: That is the practice. While we can’t guarantee that any different product that was sold at any given time is migratable, most of them are. You may have to change some common card to make an old TDM digital switch become a new gateway to the future with IP connectivity, but it should be relatively easy.
RT: I would imagine you didn’t have IP connectivity 15 years ago, right?
RB: No. But the ability to use the technology was originally designed 15 years ago, and to use it as a gateway is, in my book, pretty creative. We don’t believe in going back to our users through our partners and saying, do you remember that product? Let’s move on. Let’s go forward, and here it is, new and exciting.
One of the nation’s largest retailers has been a user for many, many years of the Coral product, I think starting as early as 1989. They had, at one point, about 900 systems nationwide, and about five years ago, with the changes in the industry, someone said to them, “You’re a Fortune 500 company. You need to use a Fortune 500 supplier.” They hired a consulting firm to understand what they needed to so, and they chose another system. However, a year ago, they were told the switch was no longer available to expand systems, nor was it upgradeable. So, being rather upset, they called us in to see what we could offer.
We have recently completed a presentation to their communications department that seemed to raise eyebrows, because, while we may need to take out a system that is only two years old, but we’ll be able to control everything with the Coral Sea SoftSwitch. To me, that’s proof positive. If they say, “Wow! It’s very interesting,” it says something about our company and it says something about the product. And while we didn’t win this yet, at least we’ve opened their eyes and we’re in the running.
Why? Because they have a good business case, and they want some special attention — and they will get it from Tadiran. Tadiran will accommodate them a year later, even when it doesn’t have a new release. If it makes sense, if it will be re-used elsewhere, because most of the time, when people tell you, “I wish I had this,” more than one customer needs it. People don’t need unique applications ¬— what one company needs, many others are also likely to need, and, ultimately, the market needs it. That’s the best way to develop.
Tadiran is built of people, not computers — people who give answers, people who are obligated to really support their customers, and I think that’s really what sets us apart. I mean, we are a company based on relationships, and the longer the relationships, the deeper the relationships go, the more committed both parties are, and that’s the important ingredient. If people feel they are being supported, if they feel they’re being heard, they come back.
RT: What mistakes do you see companies making when they are rolling out VoIP applications?
RB: I think the biggest mistake people do is they don’t analyze their network before they go into VoIP. They think because they have connection to their PC, they can just use it. They don’t analyze their network usage. They don’t analyze their potential quality of service, the busy times, the traffic times.
I think people are not as educated as they need to be. You have to educate both the channel partners and the end users in order to get the right solution. You have to prerequisite or pretest and design the system to be able to support all your applications.
Soon, video is going to be flooding the market. What are they going to do with this? You can do all you want, but at the end, if you have a bottleneck, you’re going to die with that bottleneck, and then the finger pointing begins. People point at each other, and then, by the time you find the pollution, there is a very irate end user on and a frustrated partner, and sometimes, it’s lack of knowledge on both sides. So, education is, by far, the most important thing. It’s a matter of design. If you design it right, there’s no problem.
RT: Any final comments you want to leave us with?
RB: Honestly, I think it is a great era for Tadiran and I’m pleased personally to be associated with the company, but right now, at least as a core focus, the direction is there. It’s here to touch and feel, so I am excited. I wake up in the morning and I want to go to work and people see e-mails from me in the wee hours of the night, crazy hours, because this really is really an exciting time for us as a company, and I'm glad to be part of it.
Rich Tehrani is President and Editor in Chief at TMC.
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