New Zealand's peripherals market is competitive, so is Richard Olsen at IT Computer Products. He's working hard to become one of the top dogs. Jan Birkeland talks to Olsen about his passion for the peripherals business and his love for motorbikes.
How did you get into the IT industry?
I would not call it so much the IT industry as a peripherals and cable business. I started in 1998 when I took over SI computer products. The management was all wrong back then and it took some work to turn it around. While in Taiwan I had one of those meetings you don’t believe will happen. I met a representative from a German company and was able to tack my products on his line. He shipped orders all across Europe, so I was able to access the European market.
Was there a point defining the start of your career?
When the USB technology came along it basically changed the whole market for us. We saw right away that we needed to change our strategy and business. We also became involved with the German company Assmann and their sub brand Digitus. We have followed Digitus from the beginning when they started with switches and cables. It soon exploded into more and more products and today I don’t think anything can match the range in New Zealand today. It works for customers because they provide everything and you don’t have to go to 101 different stores for your computer accessories.
When you started, did you think it would grow to what it is today?
I thought it would be a two man job, giving me something to do as a smaller business. Peti Saofia came with the business when I started. I guess what really stuck with me is that I never knew I could not do it. I don’t regret that now, this is a fun place to work with great people.
How is the market today?
The market in New Zealand can be very hard. In This business you can get some guys coming in and selling below price, which can hurt you. The difference between them and us is that we have to focus on quality. An example could be one time when we were in Taiwan looking to buy a Power adaptor. We were trying to reduce the price of the units, and it came down. The problem was that they would drop quality with the price. You could see that for every dollar the price went down, components would be shifted with cheaper, less good ones. It is a competitive market here today, very competitive. Luckily for us we have been around for a long time in this market and have a good reputation. Everything moves very quickly here, you will be busy doing one thing and another opportunity or problem will duck up behind you.We also play in the duplication market, which is very exciting. We normally sell orders on quantity, but this is a different game.
Where to now for IT Computer products?
We are really at crossroads at the moment, and we have to decide whether to stay on the same course or expand. We focus, still, on switches, cables and networking with racks and mounts, and we are looking to be able to provide a complete solution in the future, in essence having someone come to us and we can supply all the gear they need. I am looking forward to the future, it will be very interesting. With our recent location move we now have the ability to play harder in the market.
You sound like a busy man, do you have time to relax and do things outside of work?
I love motorbike riding, it is something that has been with me all my life. I have a Honda VTR at the moment and an offroad bike as well. I have had some great experiences riding in Australia riding in the Tablelands around Cairns, I absolutely love it. I used to be into sailing quite a bit, and I have sailed over to the islands a few times, sometimes in pretty rough weather. I have almost given it up though; it can be a very time consuming and constrictive hobby.