Office Partners

Becoming a real partner to its customers is what it's all about for Austrian operator Tekaef and contractual services like MPS are very much part of the plan.


It’s been a busy year for Tekaef. New warehouse, new company name and, to top it all off, the Austrian operator most recently joined EOSA, fuelling hope there’s life left in the reseller alliance that’s been worryingly quiet over the past 18 months or so.

At €80 million ($108 million) in revenues, Tekaef Holding is a very sizeable organisation, but it’s also one with several strings to its bow and not all of them are related to OP.

With a consultancy business focused on asset management based in Switzerland (Office Asset Consulting), a non OP-related wholesale business (Mape Distribution) and promotional products firm Media Group just making up €10 million of this total, however, it’s firmly rooted in OP or, perhaps more accurately, in the resale and distribution of printer and printer supplies.

And that’s indeed how the company started out, says Gerhard Panwinkler, Distribution Manager of Printberry, the distribution business of Tekaef Holding. “We began as a reseller of printer and printer supplies – on a telesales basis – in 1994. About ten years ago, we added office supplies to our B2B offering.

“Part of our initial portfolio included having supplies distribution contracts with companies like Lexmark, OKI and Brother, for example. Then, about seven years ago, OKI approached us and asked if we wanted to also do the distribution of hardware, ie printers, for them. At the same time, however, OKI felt that we had to split the company so as not to confuse B2B customers with end-users and their distribution contracts.

It was a sensible thing to do, so we divided the company into Tekaef Distribution and Logistics and – the B2B reselling part – Tekaef Data Hero and Office Angel.”

These two names are now redundant since the firm completely rebranded earlier this year. Since April, Tekaef Distribution and Logistics is known as Printberry, while Tekaef Data Hero and Office Angel assumed the name of Tekaef Büroleben (translated as ‘office life’).

As mentioned before, Panwinkler heads the distribution business, but he has, in fact, been with the company since its inception. He works closely with company owner Christian Maass and Managing Director Daniel Rossgatterer and is a key part of the firm’s strategy team.

Bigger capacity

In addition to the name change, Tekaef also added a second large warehouse at the beginning of the year, in preference over a number of several smaller facilities that proved to be ineffective. Now everything to do with Tekaef Büroleben, now a pure B2B online shop, is stocked at its HQ-based warehouse in Ried (see picture above), while the new Printberry warehouse is located 5km down the road in Hohenzell.

This holds all the bulkier items and hardware like monitors, printers, but no office supplies. Partly as a result of that but also due to a different stock rotation, it’s the bigger of the two facilities at 5,000 sq m (the Ried facility has a capacity of 3,000 sq m).

That said, Tekaef Büroleben is, weighted in revenues, the larger part of the two businesses, with €40 million now coming from the B2B channel – that’s 50% of overall company sales – as opposed to €30 million for Printberry. However, and at the risk of adding confusion, Printberry holds all the purchasing functions within the organisation and as such Tekaef Büroleben is its biggest customer.

Within Printberry, office supplies account for a negligible 2-3% of sales. The vast majority of customers – about 600 to 700 – are wholesalers of printer and printer supplies. Most of these players are very small, admits Panwinkler, with typically just one to five employees, while 10-15 are more sizeable firms. One of these customers is PBS Holding, in its wholesale capacity and for printing supplies only.

The fact that a company like PBS Holding does not go straight to the manufacturer for these supplies is easily explained, says Panwinkler – it simply has to go through the official distribution channel as part of contractual OEM agreements with the likes of Lexmark or Samsung.

Tekaef Büroleben’s customers are a completely different mix altogether, though just as wide-spanning, from small businesses with ten employees to multi-million dollar companies won through public tenders. As such, its competitors are equally diverse, with everything from small dealerships to the likes of PBS Austria and Lyreco in the picture. Interestingly, OEMs like Canon or Ricoh are also on the competitor list, as they frequently deal directly with large business clients for printer and printer supplies.

Office supplies account for a small 15% of overall sales in Tekaef Büroleben, while is the rest is largely made up of printer and printer supplies, plus a small amount of notebooks, monitors etc. Says Panwinkler: “We check with our customers if they need office supplies and if they do, they can purchase everything from Tekaef Büroleben.”

Focus on solutions

But the growth lies elsewhere, he adds, notably in the solutions around its products. “C-article management, printer asset management – that’s what we’re focusing on right now. We’re moving from shifting boxes and selling products to contract management. This is the business of the future, both in our B2B as well as our distribution business.”

There are plenty of challenges on that quest and one of them is to speak to the right person: “You really have to sell asset management, MPS or whatever you want to call it to customers. You have to explain to them the costs they can save by signing up to our printer asset management system, for example. Or take our C-article management system – customers can use the software and either buy their C-articles from us or from other companies – we just give them the platform to handle all these C-articles and manage them in an easy and cost-efficient way.

If you tell the story, people will be mostly be happy to contractually commit, that’s what we’re seeing.”

And it appears to be working. This solutions-based business now represents 25% of Tekaef Büroleben’s overall revenues, that’s a very healthy €10 million.

So what of EOSA, how does that fit into the picture for a progressive organisation like Tekaef? Panwinkler remains guarded when it comes to the benefit that the alliance can bring to the Tekaef table. He says: “We are new to EOSA so we are still figuring out how it’s doing business, etc. What I can say is that it will be a change for us to do business all over Europe. We are in Germany already, but not on a big scale. Where we see value is that we’ll be able to buy OP cheaper than we do now because of the greater purchasing power.

“What we bring to the table,” he adds, “is our expertise in the area of MPS and everything to do with document/print management. Most EOSA members still focus primarily on reselling office supplies. But the traditional OP market is never going to recover and you have to find other solutions to create margins.

“The most important job for the next 12 to 24 months is to move away from just moving boxes for customers; you have to give them ideas on how to save money in their business, offer them contracts to optimise their print and overall asset management, fix where something goes wrong. In other words, become a real partner rather than a provider of products. If you don’t do this, you will lose out to others that do.”