CRN Exclusive: Synnex's Murai On His Decade Of Accomplishments As CEO, Growth Opportunities Ahead And His Future Plans

Long-time Distribution Exec Kevin Murai Prepares To Hand Over CEO Reins

Kevin Murai, who had a 10-year run as president and CEO of Synnex, will shortly retire from his role to become the distributor's chairman of the board.

Taking over for Murai is Dennis Polk, who currently serves as Synnex's chief operating officer, the company said on Tuesday

Murai presided over significant changes at Synnex and in the distribution business during his decade with the company. In particular, he led Synnex's $830 million acquisition of Westcon Americas, adding about $10 billion to Synnex's total addressable market. He also helped turn Synnex's 2006 acquisition of BPO company Concentrix into a worldwide market leading provider of business services.

CRN was lucky to catch Murai for a couple minutes Wednesday in a day he had filled with back-to-back meetings, where he discussed his decade at Synnex and the company's future.

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So, how does it feel the day after announcing your plans to retire?

It's a little bit bittersweet, right? It really hits home once it gets announced. It's been very endearing just in terms of all the messages that come in. I'll miss it a lot. But at the same time, I am certainly looking forward my new role as chairman of the board. But I need more time with my wife and my kids.

When did you first come up with plan to announce on January 9 that you would be retiring?

I don't know the exact time frame. But these things don't happen overnight. I've been working with the board, I've been working with Dennis, for quite some time. It's one of those things where it's great to have a great run with the company for 10 years, but at the same time, ultimately, your legacy is also based on your ability to put the right person in place and make sure that you got the right team in place to continue the success going forward. It does take time to do that.

Dennis Polk has been with Synnex for some time, and served both as chief financial and chief operating officer. He probably knows the company well.

He does, actually. He started as the CFO, obviously before my time. He was one of the key people in taking Synnex public back in 2003. He's a very strong leader. A lot of people think that because he was the CFO and COO, he's more of an operator. And he does a great job with that. But he's been a real partner to me on strategy as well. And that's a big part of how it gives me great comfort in knowing the company is in good hands.

So, what's the first thing you are going to do with all that extra time after you retire?

March 1 is the transition date. Which means March 1, I get to sleep in. …

I've had a number of friends who have retired over the past few years. I've watched them. A number of them have retired very well, and they're doing really well. And some of them don't retire as well. To me, the difference has been, those that are retiring to something retire well. Those that retire from something don't. And even though I'm very grateful for the 30 years in my career, and in particular the last 10 years with Synnex, I really am looking forward to spending more time with my wife. As you may or may not know, we haven't lived in the same city in 11 years. … We both have to fly to each other in order to see each other. So we'll be able to spend much more time together.

As you look back over the 10 years you led Synnex, or even going back to the previous 20 years you spent at Ingram Micro, what do you think are your crowing achievements and biggest accomplishments?

First and foremost, I don't think it's my place to take credit for anything personally because it really is the underlying leadership team and all the people that make it happen every day. And I do mean that sincerely. I'm not just saying that.

But as a company, and as a team, we accomplished a lot. You look back on the last 10 years, and we took the distribution business from a distant number three in the North American market to one of the top players. … Over time of course it was an evolution. But when you look from 10 years ago to today, it's been a transformation of the business into a much more value-added distribution business than what it used to be.

How about specific events like the acquisitions of Westcon and Concentrix?

With Westcon-Comstor in particular, that really does enhance our portfolio that we bring to the market and fills in a lot of key line card gaps. But it's also very much aligned to the way we were going to market anyway to have a number of business units that specialize, whether it be by technology or market segment. And that's exactly what Westcon did with their three divisions. So it fits in very nicely to that.

In addition, we took a very small BPO company in Concentrix [which 10 years ago] was barely 10,000 people to well over 100,000 people today and a number-five global player for customer care BPO, and that's certainly a very strong force.

What do you think we'll see from Synnex five years from now, or ten years from now?

It's so hard to look at a crystal ball and see three years out, much less five years out. But the core focus of what we feel is success in the company is continuing to grow the business and being able to see where the growth opportunities are and really be there. That said, I fully expect that Synnex is going to continue to be a key technology player. I think that the capabilities that we have today are going to continue to be enhanced. And I see us as continuing to be a premier player in technology, and in particular as there's a big shift to cloud, to solutions around IoT, and I see us getting much more specialized in key verticals as well.

So I think we're going to continue to organically invest in those capabilities and stay ahead of the market.