Ingram’s loss is Synnex’s gain

I had to do a double-take when I first read that Kevin Murai was joining Synnex as co-CEO. After all, he just left the top-dog position at Ingram Micro (NYSE: IM) to spend more time with his family.

But, really, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. It would be hard for someone like Murai to stay out of the business too long. He will share the CEO role with current Synnex (NYSE: SNX) president and CEO, Bob Huang, who is expected to retire in November.

For Ingram, where Murai spent 19 years working his way up the ranks to become president and COO, this probably isn’t such great news. For Synnex, it’s a real coup.

Most people in the industry were shocked when he announced his resignation from Ingram last year, which he described as “bittersweet.” He had been commuting back and forth between Toronto and Santa Ana, Calif. for an entire year, after his wife and four children moved back to Canada to care for his wife’s aging parents. So he made the choice to spend more time with his family.

But it’s a few months later, and Murai will once again be racking up air miles with his new job – back to California. This time it’s Fremont. The difference, he says, is that there won’t be as much international travel as with Ingram.

When he left his previous job, he wasn’t planning to take over the helm at Ingram Micro Canada – and it probably wouldn’t make much sense, anyway – nor was he planning to retire. He just didn’t know what his next step would be.

Murai shaped many of Ingram’s initiatives (and now brings that knowledge with him to a key competitor). His biggest move was establishing the controversial North American sales strategy; he also outsourced part of the business to the Philippines and India and acquired AVAD, a home-technology distributor.

Perhaps what he needed, in the end, was a change. But where do you go after heading up a massive, global company? There aren’t many options, unless you move on to an equally massive, global company.

Ingram was, and still is, a powerhouse in the distribution business. Synnex is at a pivotal point, and this will provide an environment where Murai can apply his skills, knowledge and connections. Synnex’s vision is to diversify around high-end technologies, integrated services and business process outsourcing, and Murai says he expects to continue driving this vision.

VARs seem pretty happy about this – as long as Murai doesn’t mess around too much with Synnex’s competitive pricing structure.

But Synnex is playing in the same sandbox as Ingram and Tech Data, and wants to gain market share in the channel – hiring Murai shows that it’s serious. Synnex now has a team of strong players – Jim Estill, of course, on the Canadian side, and now Murai. Synnex has also hired former Ingram exec Bob Stegner. This leads one to believe that Synnex will focus on building more of a community among its VARs, and perhaps more value-added services.

Murai has made a lot of contacts over the past 19 years, through Ingram, and is well-regarded in the industry. And that’s one thing that can’t be replaced when someone like Murai leaves a company: a big, fat rolodex.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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