B Raghavendran, VP and Head, Partner Organization, Cisco India and SAARC
India is at the forefront of adopting new wireless technologies, largely fueled by the rapid growth in broadband penetration. According to TRAI, there would be 20 million broadband connections and 40 million Internet connections in India by the end of 2010. The domestic networking market is gaining sophistication with increasing awareness about the transformational role that technology, particularly network connectivity can play.
Given this growth of broadband penetration in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, non metros hold a huge potential market for partners working in the areas of e-governance, virtual healthcare, distance learning and rural banking. The need to grow their presence in tier-2 and -3 cities is important for channel partners to reach out to more customers and tap the nascent, yet fast growing rural Indian market. Bringing a slew of products, and strengthening service and support ensures greater consumer loyalty.
Having realized that moving beyond the metros helps to add value to their business and enhances growth, many vendors, distributors, system integrators (SIs), resellers and solution providers (SPs) have increased their upcountry base. Those who have not are getting there.
Upcountry opportunity and growth strategy:
Partners in small towns can benefit from the growth opportunity provided by sectors like BFSI, real estate, retail, entertainment and education. The impetus for growth also comes from the special initiatives taken by various governments for the provision of better infrastructural facilities along with the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
While the metro pie is still pretty big, businesses in smaller towns are growing at a rapid pace and partners see these towns as critical for their overall success and growth. Both from a talent and market perspective, the large rural customer base with spending power, presents domestic market opportunities for partners in telecom, auto, infrastructure, public sector, consumer goods and banking.
Partners who wish to grow in class B and C towns must identify and leverage market transitions, build strong customer relationships and collaborate to drive local innovation in the region. An increased focus on ‘verticals selling’ will help partners to increase market share in the government and defense sectors besides education, manufacturing and healthcare across tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Apart from introducing new products and solutions, partners must strengthen their pipeline of investments and expand their reach in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities to take solutions to the market.
Working in sync with their principals, partners must build expertise in house and have trained individuals within their organizations in order to be able to understand the business challenges of their customer and provide appropriate solutions. Partners should be abreast with the latest technologies and develop capabilities for providing architecture- based applications that gives them enough head room for further growth. Solution delivery capabilities must be constantly improved as also networking with other partners in the region in order to benefit from the market opportunity and reach out to the customers more effectively.
Partner training and enablement:
Given that the opportunity for growth in tier-2 and tier-3 cities is huge, principals 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. Channel partners must be equipped with the right skills and constantly updated on new technologies especially developed to cater to the customers in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, be it SMB or enterprise.
Partner training programs help to service customers efficiently and resolve their queries quickly. Enhancing skills of existing partners and building skills with newer partners helps to engage and work closely with them. Such training programs can be conducted both face to face and over web-enabled sessions, with the use of rich-media conferencing solutions such as WebEx.
Regular partner meets and enablement sessions that focus on tapping the market opportunity must be rolled out on a regular basis to help partners to keep pace with the changing trends. Initiating partner rebate programs which incentivize partners encourages them to reinvest the rebates into their business and grow through various marketing and demand generation activities to profit from the business.
New product launches can help increase the principals’ reach into tier 2 and tier 3 cities and also enable partner business growth by providing connectivity, security, remote access, productivity, customer interaction and customer support. Such initiatives composed of sales, marketing, services customized service and support, help partners to increase their offerings and benefit from the same.
Future growth path:
In order to grow and benefit from the opportunity that non-metros provide, partners have to take the philosophy of their principals down to their practice in approaching the market. Since partners are an important constituent of organizational growth, principals must equip them with the right solutions and knowhow. Once implemented, this combination can become a win-win situation for both and ensure long-term sustainability.