Interviews

On acquiring TSL: In conversation with Diversified’s President and COO

President and Chief Operating Officer at Diversified, Kevin Collins.

US technology provider Diversified will be establishing an office in Dubai, following the acquisition of TSL’s regional office in June 2018. President and Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Collins speaks to BroadcastPro ME about the acquisition and plans going forward.

Systems integrator TSL FZ-LLC is a company we have covered often in these pages, from the recent upgrade at the MBC studios and the Al Aan TV upgrade, to earlier projects with Dubai TV and Sky News Arabia, among others. TSL FZ-LLC was set up in 2008, and while initially the contracts were done out of the UK office, we saw the Middle East team build its industry credentials with some headline-grabbing projects executed under demanding timelines.

In June this year, less than three weeks after announcing its plans to acquire British AV solutions provider Digitavia, US technology provider Diversified announced that it will have a Middle East office through the acquisition of TSL FZ-LLC in Dubai Studio City.

Commenting on the acquisition, Diversified founder and CEO Fred D’Alessandro said: “Our clients are experiencing rapid growth and demanding innovative solutions as IP, AI and IoT technologies apply to every aspect of their businesses. Our aim is to have a world-class Middle East team working with the most diverse, advanced and experienced engineering team across the globe to better serve our clients’ growing demands.”

In the joint announcement, TSL FZ-LLC CTO Suhail Ahmed said company officials are “very excited at the prospect of joining Diversified”.

“We share the same engineering-centric approach to every solution. With Diversified’s scale and wide range of services and support, we can build upon our long-standing client relationships. Leveraging the experience and best practices gained from proven solutions across multiple industries will add value to every customer engagement.”

The acquisition will expand Diversified’s global reach from its APAC hub in South Korea to an EMEA hub in the UK with offices in London, Ireland and Dubai. All ten divisional specialities and solution sets will be offered, with emphasis on media and entertainment, digital signage and managed services, advanced visual environments and display, as well as technology solutions around IT networks, network security and data centres.

President and Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Collins, spoke to BroadcastPro ME about the acquisition and Diversified’s plans for the region.

Is this the best time for Diversified to be thinking of MENA? What potential do you see in this region?

We are excited about the timing of this announcement as well as the Digitavia announcement made in June. Europe and the Middle East are vital regions to a true global strategy. We are excited to bring our advanced solutions capabilities to EMEA, which would include MENA. At some point, companies in each region will be compelled to embrace transformational technologies to improve their standing in the market. We will be there for them.

“International business practices and industry relationships are largely regional. It would have taken us years to build the kind of reputation and standing in the market that TSL Dubai has earned through their success” Kevin Collins, President and Chief Operating Officer, Diversified

How did the acquisition of TSL FZ-LLC come about?

We have enjoyed a beneficial partnering relationship with TSL over the past six years. We had worked with their staff in the UK and Dubai on successful projects in Europe and the Middle East, and enjoyed a mutual respect that grew over time. The news of TSL UK in receivership in May this year created an opportunity to bring the Dubai team on board. So the timing, although unfortunate for TSL, worked out well for us. Were there any financial and legal challenges? Because of the familiarity between us, there were no real complex issues or hurdles. The most complex part of the transition to date has been the procedural efforts required by Dubai law to transition a company to new ownership. The challenge was not on any of the laws specifically. It was more in terms of the complexity of a US firm buying a Dubai entity owned by a UK company. That’s a complex transaction across three sets of laws and processes.

You opted to acquire a company based here, as against going it alone. Why did you adopt this approach?

If you look at our growth strategy to date, you will see that it is based on identifying the best companies with the right corporate culture in their field wherever we decide to focus. Diversified has now acquired six companies in the past two-and-a-half years. Each of them fit well into our wide services offering and each had a customer-first culture that we all embrace. In that regard, we are all sewn from the same cloth. International business practices and industry relationships are largely regional. It would have taken us years to build the kind of reputation and standing in the market that TSL Dubai has earned through their success. This was an easy addition to make, and the Dubai team will bring value to us on day one. We anticipate that the various resources provided by Diversified will open up a growing number of opportunities for the Dubai team to double their revenues in 2018.

You have acquired companies in the UK and elsewhere. Typically, creating new value takes time. What are the general challenges you expect to face in integrating your operations with TSL’s operations in the region?

I don’t really expect many challenges. Suhail has a tight team and a good vision of how they work. We are not interested in fixing under-performing companies. We look to add the best of the best and thereby make us stronger. Given the amount of acquisitions to date, we have gotten quite good at integrating new teams into the larger company structure, and each of them brought value right from the start.

One of the benefits to achieving the type of scale that we have here at Diversified is that we can justify large investments in state-of-the-art business systems that help us manage our business and client projects, because we are leveraging the core benefits over a global workforce of about 2,000 employees. Although we have the general learning curve of transitioning each group from legacy systems to a new shared system, there are sizeable economies of scale to realise once all of the groups start working together.

This is really not that different from building a finely tuned global media asset management workflow. Start with thorough design and use-case planning, collaboratively manage the execution with strong change management and provide 24/7 internal IT support … it’s what we do.

Will there be personnel changes in the Dubai office following the takeover?

The Dubai office will remain under the management of Suhail Ahmed. Suhail and his team have earned a reputation for excellence that we will build upon.

You are planning an increased presence at both IBC2018 and CABSAT. What will you be focussing on going forward?

Our focus is to bring the depth of experience we have gained through the application of emerging technologies in support of our US customers to EMEA. One size does not fit all and today more than ever before, there are a wide range of options. In 2016, we established a Business Consulting Group to address the early planning and analysis required by C-level executives to determine the best technical solution for each customer based on the needs and goals of their business. This is one example of the types of services that Diversified has developed at the behest of our customers.

Will you be exploring all the verticals in the region that you work with in the US, or will there be a focus on just media and entertainment?

Historically, the Dubai team has focused on M&E; however, our other divisions are currently working here and in Europe, for customers like Netflix, Al Marya Shopping Mall, Facebook and YouTube. Each of our regional offices will eventually have support for all of the Diversified divisions for various global project roll-outs.