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Flex IT is also highlighting the cost benefits of circular IT by offering a refurbished laptop and desktop/ screen/keyboard bundle for half the price of a brand- new laptop Generation rent Flex IT launches Rent partner programme and economical product bundles Circular IT distributor Flex IT is expanding its offering for channel partners with a new Rent partner programme and economical product bundles for organisations preparing for a flexible working future. Last year, Flex IT devised a three-year plan to increase circular IT’s share of its business to more than 60%. In the event, it reached this target in less than a year. This had a lot to do with the surge in demand for laptops ahead of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. Even so, Flex IT Chief Executive Leon Timmermans argues that circular IT is more attractive than ever, both for businesses and the reseller community. “We offer more or less than same benefits that PC vendors offer in terms of rebate programmes and marketing support and on top of that I can honestly say there is more margin in the circular product for the reseller,” he said. On the demand-side, Timmermans says Flex IT is over-riding potential objections by focusing on high quality refurbishment, accurate product ratings and generous warranties. With its new Flex IT Home & Office scheme, it is also highlighting the cost benefits of circular IT by offering a refurbished laptop and desktop/screen/ keyboard bundle for half the price of a brand-new laptop. Available exclusively through the channel, there is also the option to rent the equipment through the Flex IT Rent program. In order to meet growing demand for refurbished laptops, PCs, servers and mobile devices, or, as Timmermans puts it, “to feed the hungry beast of circular IT”, Flex IT needs a steady supply of used equipment to sell to resellers through its circular IT distribution arm. Traditionally, it has collected such machines from a variety of sources, including computer vendors’ overstock of superseded models; its own asset recovery (ITAD) business; its own demo business, which manages the supply of demo machines to enterprises and Government bodies on behalf of vendors; and from its own rental business, which has a supply of 15-20,000 laptops (sometimes as many as 60,000), which it rents out for days, weeks or a few months to cover a temporary need, such as an exhibition or a product appraisal. Rental machines tend to be high quality, well specified devices that, when decommissioned, make a valuable addition to Flex IT’s pool of used machines. “For vendors, it is super-interesting to have their latest and greatest products in that rental asset pool, as they act as a sort of demo. A lot of companies ask us to send them 1,000 notebooks, for example, for a period of 2 or 3 months and at the end of the period they sometimes decide to buy that brand or specific model. For us, the rent and demo businesses are very much connected – and they both feed the circular business,” explained Timmermans. Flex IT, already the biggest rental company in Europe in terms of stock, is planning to capture an even greater share of the rental market (and thereby increase the flow of premium devices to its circular IT distribution arm) by launching a brand-new partner program called Flex IT Rent. The three-tier programme – Bronze (up to € 25,000), Silver ( € 25,001 to € 75,000) and Gold ( € 75,000 plus) – is designed to help new and existing rental partners break into what for many is an untapped revenue opportunity. Flex IT is removing traditional barriers to entry, notably the need for capital to invest in large quantities of hardware upfront, by giving partners access to the largest IT rental stock in Europe. It has also offered to buy partners’ unsold stock to give them liquidity to stay afloat during the current crisis. Partners can then lease back a base stock of equipment or rent the exact kit needed for each specific deal. into lockdown early, so we had a couple of weeks to test our systems and learn how Tech Data subsidiaries were dealing with their lockdowns. While it was very fast – one day we were in the office and the next we weren’t – we had been able to prepare our staff and test tools and systems to ensure everything worked from day one.” Despite its success in working from home, Tech Data has been relatively quick to re-open its offices so that those who wish to – and only those who wish to – can start working normally again. “I pushed pretty hard for the office to be open from July, and Facilities did a massively impressive job in opening offices in the north and the south – one in Warrington and one in Basingstoke. We survey staff a lot and some told us they felt isolated at home or found it tricky working with their family or in a shared house. So, we wanted to give people the opportunity to go back to the office. That’s one reason. Another is that our destination is not ‘working from home’ but flexible working, so at some point we are going to ask people to come back and the more chance they have to try it out beforehand the better,” explained Watts. “Some of our largest customers, vendors and large VARs – I would say much more than half – are not coming back until next year. I think we are going to be unusual in giving that opportunity to staff sooner rather than later.” In the meantime, there are other challenges and threats to be negotiated, from economic recession and cost-cutting to Brexit and deteriorating relations with China. Even so, Watts remains optimistic about the future. “I think it will be tough, but technology generally does well during periods of change. Technology has enabled people to work from home and it will be part of the solution for people to remote work. Then, it will be part of the solution for people who say ‘I don’t want all my data residing on my estate in case there is another lockdown and I can’t get to it, so I need cloud’. We are going to have lots of opportunities. The trick for the industry is how fast we move and enable those products to be deployed in the right way.” With its new backing from Apollo, including the promise of $750 million of investment, and greater freedom to react quickly to new opportunities, Tech Data will be looking to set the pace. CIRCULAR IT 43