A company originally set up to repair mobile phones played a big role helping to restore connectivity in the wake of cyclone Gabrielle.
Spark-owned Entelar Group, known as Telegistics until 2021, was propelled to become a “full-on” distributor after winning the rights to Cisco products in rather unusual and fortuitous circumstances in 2017.
After that, Telegistics started to expand its scope, bring on talent and claim a space in the local distribution landscape.
“It was always our goal to run a distribution company, but not to be a big one,” Entelar CEO Rajesh Singh told Reseller News.
“We were never going to compete with the likes of Ingram Micro or of Westcon.”
Entelar now covers IT distribution, 3PL, integrated supply chain and IT field delivery, and services, including mobile and fibre design, build and maintenance. Customers include Datacom, NTT, Kordia, PBTech, Cello, Lexel and NetQ among others.
In addition to Cisco, Entelar also distributes and provisions Nokia and Samsung products, wireless products from Ekahau, and cyber security and other products from Radware and F5.
Along the way, around 2015, the then Telegistics and Vocus set up a joint venture network construction business called Connect 8. Two years later, Entelar bought Vocus out, just in time to mass deploy mobile network upgrades to support the Rugby World Cup.
The next move, to buy into mobile network builder Sky Communications, initially in partnership with electricity distributor Elektra and later fully owned.
Since then, Spark divested its mobile passive assets to Connexa, but remained a 30 per cent joint-venture partner in the business alongside major investor the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.
Having effectively rolled up the network engineering and field delivery nous previously found across those entities, Entelar now serves as the network build and maintain partner servicing Connexa's assets.
"It's quite unusual because on the one hand we are a full-on IT distributor and on the other end of the spectrum we are full-on field services," Singh said.
Entelar staff and contractors are now provisioning everything from meeting rooms through LANs and WANs, security restorations right through to building fibre or mobile networks.
All of that came together just in time to face one of the biggest natural disasters in New Zealand's history.
As the cyclone was about to hit, the Entelar team was tracking its progress closely and making sure it had people on the ground in the right places to manage potential impacts.
We all now know what those impacts were: loss of roads, bridges, power, networks and extensive storm damage to homes and businesses, especially on the East coast of the North Island.
Entelar had 50 generators on standby in Auckland ready to go wherever they were needed.
Coromandel was first in line and Entelar was preparing to deploy, but NorthPower managed to get power back on there relatively quickly.
Working with power companies NorthPower and Unison, Entelar was able to deploy its generators to best effect first in Northland and then, after hiring a couple of helicopters, it began sending people, generators and satellite gear into Napier.
Generators, of course, also need refuelling, in this case every eight hours.
"It was a huge effort in terms of having a team on the ground ready to go," Singh said.
Pretty soon, however, a plan needed to be developed to support the badly hit and isolated Gisborne and Wairoa regions. Again, it was down to helicopters and using Starlink satellite services and a small cell to deliver 3G, calling and texting capability.
All up, around 450 sites were taken down on the broader east coast and Entelar was involved in helping to restore around half of them, including supporting competitors and working on fibre restoration.
"As an industry we worked closely with our competitors, we worked with Spark, with Vodafone and with 2degrees and with Kordia as well to come up with a plan."
Developing a common effort around refueling around 200 generators was one vital outcome.
Eight generators were stolen, but GPSs had been fitted and word soon got around that they could be tracked.
"The team really jumped in and did what was needed, leaning in to get the job done," said chief delivery officer Jacques Botes.
During the enormous effort, otherwise fierce competitors from across the telecommunications industry worked together, cooperated, coordinated their efforts and backed each other up.
"What was quite evident was there wasn't a label about who you worked for," Botes said. "We were all telecommunications technicians and riggers, and we worked as one to get the job done."
As business-as-usual reemerges, Singh and his team are pursuing opportunities to change the way distribution is done in NZ. The drive is to move beyond box shifting and add value by enabling resellers to deliver services such as customisation, asset tagging, installation, support and maintenance.
All of that gives resellers stronger capabilities to compete in the market.
"We've got the ability to do something completely different and we have some very ambitious plans in terms of how we want to do that and what that growth looks like," Singh said.