Ashok Kumar E R, VP-Cisco Services, Cisco India and SAARC
Increased broadband penetration coupled with awareness about the transformational role that technology, particularly network connectivity can play, is fuelling the growth of the Indian domestic networking market. The launch of 3G and WiMAX services in the country has made it possible for broadband to be available almost everywhere. This has increased the focus on smaller towns where growth opportunities are immense, infrastructure costs are low and acquiring manpower is easy.
With the metros getting over crowded B, C and D class cities seem have become an integral part of the market penetration plan for most organizations. Connectivity is no longer an issue and B and C class cities are economically much more viable for companies to expand their base. While the metro pie is still pretty big, the trend of using high-end technology (for example wireless) is picking up in non-metros making them critical for the overall success and growth of organizations across most industry verticals. Having realized that moving beyond the metros helps to add value to their business and enhances growth, many vendors have increased their upcountry base. Those who have not will begin reaching out.
From a partner perspective, tier-2 and 3 cities hold huge market potential for those working in the areas of e-governance, virtual healthcare, distance learning and rural banking. Benefits come from the ability of the partner to reach out to more customers and tap the nascent, yet fast growing rural market. The impetus for growth also comes from the special initiatives taken by various government bodies for the provision of better infrastructural facilities along with the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
Partners who wish to grow in class-B and C towns must identify and leverage market transitions, build strong customer relationships and collaborate with vendors to drive local innovation in the region. Bringing a slew of products, and strengthening service and support ensures greater consumer loyalty. With an increased services focus, partners can make more profits because customers get more sticky and loyal when they get good service levels from partners.
Vendors play a big role in enabling their channel partners to explore these territories. Proper training and development of soft skills, sales and field enablement as well as pre-sales/post sales support for partners are vital to their success. In order to grow and become successful, channel partners are dependent on their vendors to provide them with a framework that simplifies their services offerings, along with essential tools and resources to develop, sell and deliver services efficiently.
Channel programs designed around services must evolve towards growth and profitability for the future while maximizing opportunities for success to both the vendor and partners. These efforts must include the provision of an enhanced services portfolio and a refined sales engagement model. Together, these elements will provide partners with an opportunity for competitive differentiation, accelerated services growth, and greater innovation in service delivery.
In order to help partners to optimize business success and become profitable, vendors must devise programs that provide partners with a clear investment path. Creating a unified go-to-market strategy for product and service offerings also helps to increase partner productivity. Accommodating different partner types and recognizing geographic differences should be part of the partner enablement program. Providing rewards and recognition that commensurate with partner capabilities adds to the benefit.
Channel programs devised by the vendors must provide a flexible service channel structure that establishes holistic partner business relationships and simplifies how partners access, sell and deliver the services portfolio. In addition to enabling partners accelerate growth and profitability in their service practice this will also help partners meet customer requirements for service excellence. Elevating channel program elements such as entry and ongoing eligibility, incentives including rebates, and simplifying contractual terms and conditions into an umbrella program structure that accommodates the entire portfolio of services can help partners to build their individual services capability for delivery.
A tight alignment and integration of the channel partner program to the partner business models allows partners to optimize the investments they may have made to build both services infrastructure and capabilities. It also provides partners with clearly defined eligibility criteria for access to the services portfolio and the reward structure for the value delivered. In the long run, such holistic program structures create a simplified experience for the partners and their sales teams. When implemented in a phased manner and across different partner types, these programs help partners to drive profitability across the entire services portfolio.