How Indian IT channel is managing COVID-19 crisis

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CRN India spoke to various sections of India’s IT channel, managed service providers, IT associations. Across the spectrum, the one common thread of conversation is maintenance of business continuity digitally

As the world is in the midst of an unprecedented situation, leading to complete lockdowns across the world, the rules of business operations have suddenly changed. While the world may be topsy-turvy at the moment, keeping customer at the centre and maintaining business continuity is more important than ever. When you hear from leaders of the world’s most successful technology companies, whether it’s Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Marc Benioff of Salesforce, they are constantly pushing their organisations to put the customer first.

Many companies have already sent emailers to their employees and customers, informing delivery of services remotely. It is the time to show the power of remote working.

Converting remote working as a new scalable model for large clients
At Progressive Infotech, with a rapidly developing scenario and in line with central and state government advisories, the company has issued a letter to customers, assuring to keep services running remotely. Today, Progressive is one of the leading managed service providers to large hospital chains, online services firms, hotels and other mission critical organisations.

Prateek Garg, Founder and Managing Director, said, “Every crisis throws a new set of opportunities. We have been able to mitigate a large part of our managed service delivery by enabling our teams to connect remotely and solve the tickets besides keep the 24/7 operation running to about 80 per cent efficiency. The issues occur only where logistics is involved, or a break fix has to be performed. The silver lining of this crisis management experience is that we believe clients globally – and more so in India – will get the confidence that services can be delivered remotely and efficiently. Customers would be willing to reconstruct the contracts and move to this healthier as well as efficient  and scalable model.”

Connecting the unconnected digitally
Similarly, national IT Association FAIITA, which has over 32,000 direct IT channel members across 32 states, has decided to establish deeper connect with Tier 4 and Tier 5 indirect channel partners by encouraging them to do online registration at a newly launched website, www.faiita.co.in.

Devesh Rastogi, Senior VP, FAIITA and in-charge of the portal, based in Lucknow, stated, “We are digitally connecting through a large pool of partners, which otherwise was not feasible. Already, we have close to 32,000 direct partners as our forum members, and with this initiative, we will reach out to a total of 50,000 in the next three months. This is the time to test blended work environments, using physical and virtual collaboration tools. This online tool will help IT companies to launch their products across India. We are making this website as an online directory where our members can make their businesses more agile and scalable. This online campaign  by FAIITA is expected to create more collaboration and knowledge sharing for our members in times to come.”

Resolving channel issues
In Delhi,  Asia’s largest IT hub at Nehru Place wore a deserted look, where close to two lakh people operate and visit on a daily basis. Alok Gupta, CEO of Unistal Systems and President of Delhi-NCR based IT association PCAIT, said, “In this time of crisis, we are connected with our partners on WhatsApp a group, where we exchange day-to-day updates and try to resolve members’ issues. We are speaking to government authorities, in case our partners have to deliver goods during the lockdown period. Recently, we have written to all large vendors and national distributors for payment collection and billing material related crisis. Currently, we fear heavy bank penalties and interest. Collectively, we are trying to resolve this issue, so that ongoing projects don’t get delayed and customers don’t face inconvenience.”

Physical security of shops and stores in major IT hubs is another pressing issue for many of the retail store owners. Associations are asking local police to deploy more security personal and investing on additional security guards in this time of lockdown.

Likewise, Mumbai-based IT channel association TAIT, in its advisory to members, stated, “The IT channel is facing shortage of various materials as supply chain was disturbed due to COVID-19 situation in China. This has now pushed to additional crisis of closure of businesses. Apart from various other help that IT channel is seeking from TAIT, the association is working on implementation of force majeure, non-levy of penalty, delay for various compliance deadlines like GST and extension of financial year, so as to fulfill the supply within the budgetary allocation of the current financial year.

“Representation for all these are forwarded through various channels and we expecting the same to happen anytime soon. On the channel front,  we have also been pushing brands and national distributors to offer flexibility on fixed targets as well as payment deadlines,” informed Samir Parekh, President, TAIT.

Liquidating aging stock
This has brought an opportunity for the channel to reboot, especially in the hubs of IT and ITeS companies in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Noida, etc. “There is a huge demand for end computing devices, as most of the companies have adopted work from home policy. To address this requirement, the channel – distributors and resellers – is fast liquidating its stock levels,” said Ketan B Shah, President, AIT.

“In the last one week, customers have been asking to provide them with anything that is available. So the good thing here is that, most of the channel could liquidate the aging stocks. Now customers are even ready to buy intel i3 or i5 processors. Financially,it has helped them very well. Also the stocks in Tier 2 cities are being lifted by the Tier 1 partners. However, OEMs are struggling, because no material is coming from China. The import of material is scarce since December. On the darker side, it is going to be very challenging for us in the next quarter. The dollar is on an upward swing, thus the customers are going to defer their purchases till the next quarter,” added Shah.

Tapping collaboration tools and data opportunities
The sudden surge in wired and wireless remote collaboration tools has pumped up the channel for delivering online collaboration tools with fast bandwidth. With the work from home provision, there is an ever increasing requirement for collaboration tools, video conferencing, audio conferencing, enabling seamless co-ordination among employees who are working remotely.

“We are trying our best to address the present situation, whereby work from home now needs a whole lot of technology enablement. Also, we are exploring what other services can be provided. Now a new basic demand that has come up is that of device-as-a- service, which includes procurement of devices on rental basis. Customers are also asking for more bandwidth. Although we do not offer bandwidth, we offer solutions like SD-WAN to improve their business requirements,” said R S Shanbhag, CMD, Valuepoint Group.

Providing remote data security
With a large part of workforce operating out of secured networks and shared Wi-Fi remotely, data security is becoming a big concern for many large companies. Online monitoring tool and authorising limited access of data in the hands of few people is something that customers are asking from software providers. Alok Gupta said, “We are getting multiple requests from existing and new customers for activating remote monitoring tool for securing the data. Many companies are offering services for free for the next several months to help customers get through the financial uncertainty. Others are posting free content and access to other resources on websites.”

Extending the support
Apart from managing business remotely, a large section of IT channel partners is also helping the government in delivering free food and essentials to the police force, hospitals and migrants collectively. Sanjiv Walia from Chandigarh IT association said, “We are with our government machinery and local authorities to deliver their services, and at the same time, we are also offering free food services to them.”

(With inputs from Moumita Deb Choudhury)


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