In the transition from analogue to IP, system installers and integrators are often accused of slowing things down because of their inability to adapt to changing technology. One distributor, DVS, is aiming to change that. We spoke to Managing Director Shaun Bowie.
DVS, based in Cardiff but with a national footprint, was established 11 years ago as a CCTV distributor but in the past three years it has adopted a real focus on IP technology which has led to some impressive growth figures.
A strictly trade-only supplier, the company deals with most of its customers over the phone or through its network of sales reps around the UK. It employs 22 staff and last year had a turnover of £10m.
According to Managing Director Shaun Bowie, the company is not about shifting stock on the basis of least cost pricing. He said that the key strength of the company is the quality of the staff. “It’s a young sales force – average age 32 – very experienced and very IP literate,” he said.
Seven sales people – all with at least eight years’ experience in security and CCTV – plus six technical support staff means that the company works hard to help its installers understand the technology that they are working with.
“Design work tends to be done by the sales force, and we are continually told by our customers that our post-sales support is very good,” he said. “Because there is a push to IP and most of our installers grew up with analogue, we try to help by offering free technical support. We have dedicated fibre lines coming into the building so each of our six technical support staff can be online, working with customers on their equipment remotely, at the same time.”
The depth of the team’s technical knowledge is impressive. “It’s not just CCTV support – we have one guy with a computer networking degree, so we can help at any level on the networking side.”
Given the level of support that the company has put into IP, it’s not surprising that this accounts for 80% of the company’s revenues. “We are much more heavily weighted toward IP than other distributors,” Bowie said. “And that percentage is increasing quarter by quarter, and by the end of the financial year in October it will be close to 90%.”
The company has been involved in some sizeable projects with its installer partners. It has been working with three large supermarket chains, it has pilot schemes to introduce retail analytics to some major high street chains and it has a number of stadium projects.
In the stadium projects, DVS is helping an integrator install face recognition which will enable the stadium to maintain a database of faces of banned individuals and continually scan for them at the entrance gates to prevent them from gaining entry.
Retail analytics is an area that Bowie is particularly excited about, in particular a product called Prism Skylabs. Prism Skylabs enables a retailer to use existing cameras to monitor customer shopping behaviour, including which products were most popular and how long customers had to queue at the tills.
Its customer base are traditional installers, not IT specialists, so teaching networking is essential. “We work with our installers to build business,” he said, admitting that the shift to IP can be daunting for someone who is used to working with analogue technology. “When we work with a new installer, we will help them from start to finish and even hold their hand on the new installs.”
DVS offers free training at its offices for up to 10 engineers at a time, and as part of its expansion plans, it is building a new training centre over the next six months and designing its own complete training course. “It will be free to customers. They can send their engineers to us for training and we’ll do 5-6 courses over 12 months. It’s something that we’ve been working on the content for over some time.”
The course will start with simple four-camera systems, then cover hybrid systems, NVRs and then larger VMS/server based systems, followed by a course in video analytics. This will be supported by a demonstration suite with three demo areas, featuring all the latest technology.
“I’m surprised sometimes by how often I see demonstration suites at other companies that haven’t been updated with the latest equipment,” he said. “And I can understand that – it’s expensive and time consuming to keep this up to date but we understand the value of it.”
DVS has built its business through partnerships with key suppliers. Its biggest partner by far is HIKVision, one of the largest manufacturers of CCTV equipment in the world, which accounts for 35% of DVS’s sales. “We have been partners with them for three years and they are the largest surveillance manufacturer in the world according to the one of the market surveys. And that’s great for us because the more they grow, the more demand there will be for their products.”
Other key partners include:
- Arecont Vision – “A high-end product. We like the way they do business and we like their technology.”
- Flir – “We’re excited about them because there has been quite a lot of competition from other manufacturers in this area, but we have seen what they have coming to market, and they have a much lower cost thermal imaging camera which we feel is going to open up entirely new markets.”
- Videotec – “Proud to be associated with them. Like their products and the way they do business.”
- Exacq – “Quite new for us but we are very excited about the future with them.”
- Prism Skylabs – “A company I’m very passionate about, and looking at the second round of funding that they have secured, there must be some guys in the US who think Prism are doing the right thing as well.”
So what’s the future for DVS?
Bowie said continued growth is very much on the cards, although he concedes it will be difficult to maintain the same rates of growth that they have enjoyed for the past two years. The recession put the brakes on the entire industry, he said, but they’ve bounced back out of that strongly.
They have recently acquired additional warehouse space and will be increasing their stockholding from £1m to £1.5m, a necessary step as they grow and seek to maintain a six-week cushion of stock on hand. They are also planning to recruit five more staff.
They also plan to introduce new manufacturing partners in the next six months including an exciting new camera product from America.
“We want to be the specialist IP distributor for the UK,” Bowie said. “That’s why we are focusing so much on one technology and one route to market – the traditional installer base. And we’re trying to pick partners where we can see that their plans for the future fit into what we see for the market.”