Constantly Innovating

The moment someone thinks of Cisco, they instantly identify with the products it offers. However, we also have a wide spread in services as well. In fact, during FY ’10, 11 percent of our India revenues came from services only. Our services range from network management services, unified communications services to datacenter and storage services. We are a 100 percent channel-driven company, because worldwide we have scaled through partners only. We have an advisory and technical committee for partners. We want to sell solutions like the way products are being sold. 95 percent of our business is only through channels.

How does the Bengaluru Global Briefing center fit into the Cisco services plan?
The Global Briefing Center at Bengaluru provides a place for open-dialogue about how ‘network’ is truly the platform for transforming customer’s business. Partners can bring their customers to the center, to leverage business and they can use it as their own office. All that the partner need to do is get in touch with channel account managers.

How do you profile your partners and the latest happenings in the channel space?
Our profiling of partners is different from other companies. For eg, if a partner is operating with 50 customers, we ask him to show us his client list and which market vertical they belong to-IT, ITeS, education, BFSI etc. Then based on that we find out the similarity and make a team to educate them on how to use the products and services. We also get them to train with our account managers.|
Talking about the latest happenings, about nine months back, we launched a five-city service-focused event. Partners came in thinking that we would ask them to sell products but they were pleasantly surprised when we asked them to sell advanced services. We are also in talks with partners from smaller cities to understand their requirements. Next year we want to come up with solutions pertaining to education, healthcare, e-governence. This will again be fueled through channels. We also have a channel recruitment policy, which is vertical-based and is based on the emerging market. But if a general partner wants to become our partner they have to contact our account manager and we will take care of the rest.

How many channel partners are there currently on board and what is your channel focus?
Cisco has many layers of partners, like global channel partners and tier-1 and 2 partners. All inclusive we have roughly 1000 partners, out of which approximately 50 are premier select partners. Unlike other companies we focus on all our layers and not get obsessed with just one layer. We also conduct all our events together. There is a new set called service provider partners. Usually global customers prefer doing business with tier-1 partners. We do commercial and mid-business with tier-2 partners with whom we also conduct customer events. Global delivery model is our USP apart from having generic, mid-market and high-end programs.
Whenever we have a project, we follow the PPDIOO plan. Partners are involved from the planning stage after initial preparation. As soon as the implementation stage comes, we give them as much assistance till the optimization stage. We call this, a life-cycle approach and this is our way of fueling growth for the channel community.

What is your go-to-market strategy?
We have a tier-approach and vertical-approach. For eg, A partner in Coimbatore wants a manufacturing solution to address SMBs, etc. He might be interested in services also. In spite of having different approaches, we maintain a balance between them. An interesting trend has come up, which is tier-2 partners are equally strong. After the year’s closing we noticed that the number of events conducted in smaller cities was up by three times than the last few years.

Which is going to be the next big vertical?
SMB is the next big segment. After SMB, IT, ITeS, healthcare and education is also doing well. According to our analysis, the commercial market is best addressed and understood by tier-2 partners. We are training them and incentivising them to get solution-centric. People today know Cisco as a product company but we want them to know it as a solution company also. We have started doing pilot projects with partners because the market has become crowded. Partners now want to know how to differentiate and create niche businesses over a period of time.
Private verticals are most flourishing but government is picking very fast. Recovery is faster in the government space. Manufacturing has also touched its peak. IT and ITeS is also showing an interesting trend. The other newer markets are defense, manufacturing and IT/ITeS. Springboard research indicates growth in all our services and verticals. We have grown from 16.3 percent in 2009 to 16.9 percent this year. If you split vertical-wise we have grown from $ 6,653 million to $ 7,780 million.

Which cities are you targeting?
We are looking at all major trading cities like Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Hyderabad. We are also covering Sri Lanka as it is an emerging market. We are focusing on the SAARC countries and have our local teams there. Hyderabad and Ahmedabad look very promising. We do focus on having round-table meetings with partners regularly as they can speak their mind.

Revathi Raghavan

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