Optima guns for Federal deals

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Aussie box-builder Optima Technology Solutions has appointed IT veteran David Hughes to head up its new Canberra office and is lobbying the Federal government to consider it over multinational PC and notebook suppliers.

At the same time, the company is touting a new partnership with Taiwan-based Quanta – the world's largest notebook manufacturer, which builds for all notebook suppliers except Toshiba.

Later this year, Optima will build a configure to order (CTO) production facility in Sydney in conjunction with the company, which expects to do $10 billion in sales globally this year. “They make most of Dell's, IBM's, HP's, Compaq's and Sony's [notebooks]," said Stuart McCullough, general manager of sales, at Optima. "There's only about three or four manufacturers in the world of this stuff and the difference is in the perception of the badge. They're the largest Tier 1 manufacturer in the world and have great technology for thin notebook styles. They're the Rolls Royce of notebook manufacturers....Compaq or HP like you to think that they made their own,” he said.

Optima's Hughes has been in the IT industry since 1997 and doing business in Canberra for the past 20 years. “He's well connected in the Canberra IT market,” he said.

Optima has just completed a 20,000 PC rollout with the Department of Defence – Optima's only Federal government contract to date.

The company is working on other Federal government tenders such as Centrelink. McCullough said he is travelling to Canberra next week to meet with the department. “They [Federal contracts] only come out every couple of years but there's fragmented purchasing all the time,” he said.

McCullough said that by this time next year, between 10 and 15 percent of the builder's sales revenue is expected to be generated from Federal government deals. He said that the Defence deal has been “reasonably profitable” for the supplier.

Optima will also look to compete strongly with big Federal government box supplier Ipex. However, McCullough said Ipex has been heavily involved outsourcing services at the high-end, while Optima will deliver and wrap PCs in desktop and asset management services and not chase the big end of town.

“There's no reason that if any other major partner goes out for product now that we shouldn't win. All the profits stay in Australia, we employ Australians in the factory and the helpdesk.

“Now that these outsourcing contracts have been disintegrating, then there's an opportunity for us to deal directly with departments versus through American filters if you know what I mean.”

Despite the Federal government's promise to increase its support for local suppliers, McCullough, who has been in the industry for 20 years, says nothing's changed - but local suppliers are shooting themselves in the foot.

“The reason companies like Optima don't sell more to people in the government is our own fault, because we're not there talking to them at the right level. Companies like Optima haven't gone into the high level of wining and dining and schmoozing and all those sorts of things that happen in those markets because we're a bare bones lean and mean sales and manufacturing company,” he said.

“We will now get ourselves in front of these people and put the argument forward strongly. It's our own fault that we haven't been more successful,” he added.

To fuel its government drive, McCullough has issued a letter to all levels of government in Australia titled “Are foreign badges worth over $100,000 per year to your department?” It called for the Federal government to consider Optima as a cheaper alternative to the branded vendors.

In the letter, sighted by iTnews, he said that this year Optima will deliver over 60,000 systems with three year on-site warranties. He said: “To give you an indication of our competitiveness, in a recent government tender Optima [charged] $930 for a complete system against HP that was charging $1330 for an identical system. In this instance and in many others, the only difference was the badge; $400 is a lot to pay for a ten-cent badge,” he said.

He continued: “Optima does not get involved in international transfer pricing as it pays tax in Australia and re-invests profits in new ventures to help reduce the growing IT trade deficit.”

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