A network of highly-skilled partners, increased marketshare in new business areas and closer relationships with customers - these are just some of the goals that Internet and infrastructure solutions giant Cisco Systems has set for its second formal year of business in Nigeria.

The news results from a review of the business secured since the opening of Cisco’s regional headquarters on Victoria Island in June last year. Previously, the company worked through business partners and a small local sales team, all supported by Cisco in South Africa.

"We take a rather partner-centric approach to our business in Nigeria," explains Didier Lecluse, the regional manager for Africa at Cisco. "The local Cisco account management and technical team focuses on creating and building relationships with customers. Practically all product and solution business is then passed on to the partner that’s most qualified for the job."

The company maintains an exclusive number of one-tier partners - distributors, systems integrators and solution providers that are highly-skilled and experienced; they source products directly from Cisco and work with larger enterprise companies. A broader contingent of smaller two-tier resellers buy from these primary partners and, in turn, service the needs of small to medium businesses (SMBs).

"It’s a relatively simple strategy and it works," says Kayode Jegede, the territory manager for Nigeria at Cisco. "Customers benefit from technology that’s ideally suited to their business, and implemented and supported by highly-skilled companies. Our partners do excellent business. And we stay close to all parties while continuing to grow the Cisco brand in Nigeria."

The numbers seem to reflect Jegede’s assertion. Over the past year Cisco has cemented its position in the Internet and infrastructure space, claiming upwards of a 90% share of the enterprise router and switch market in the West African country. And with newly-set goals, other markets are coming onto the company’s radar screen.

"While we’re well known for our network infrastructure technology, less is known here about our IP telephony, wireless networking, content networking, network management, security, virtual private network [VPN], storage networking, voice, video and Optical solutions. These are all going to be an area of focus for us in the coming year with particular emphasis being placed on IP telephony and content networking," says Jegede. Cisco is also turning the spotlight onto new customer segments this year. The company has traditionally been strong in large scale enterprise markets - particularly financial services, oil and gas companies, governments, manufacturing organisations and education institutions.

As far as new markets are concerned, the SMB space holds great potential. "The SMB market is an area that we haven’t addressed to any great degree in the past," explains Jegede. "However, Cisco recently acquired Linksys [an SMB networking company] in the US to bolster the portfolio. That, combined with a pricing review and the addition of a local team member dedicated to this market, means we’ll be able to add great value to Nigerian SMBs." The service provider market is another active area for Cisco. Here the company works with the large fixed line and mobile telecommunications operators, private telephone operators (PTOs) and Internet Service Providers. Jegede admits that competition from other international suppliers exists in this space but sees that as a motivating factor for doing better business.

"We’re going to focus on introducing telecoms operators to the benefits of IP-based Next Generation telecoms solutions - including its flexible service creation and cost savings in terms of capital and operational expenditure," he says.