CRN India interviewed India’s top ICT distributor Ingram Micro’s Navneet Singh Bindra, Vice President & Country Chief Executive who explained the impact and recovery of Ingram Micro from the pandemic led lockdown and the future of IT channel distribution, post Covid 19
CRN: Your assessment of the lockdown situation and the lessons learned
Ingram Micro: The lockdown made remote workforce support essential, and it happened at a scale that most organisations weren’t prepared for. Businesses had to quickly adapt to a rapidly evolving situation and turned to the IT channel for the tools that they needed to make remote work possible such as mobility, wireless connectivity, security, business applications and collaboration solutions. Seven months into the crisis and it is evident that building agility and resilience into an organisation’s DNA is more important than ever. Covid-19 has served as an opportunity for businesses to evaluate their preparedness to handle unprecedented disruptions. These assessments will inevitably boost demand for long-term digital transformation projects, and channel partners should ensure that they develop the skills and competency to leverage these opportunities.
CRN: Lockdown has hit the distribution business, how do you see the overall impact of the lockdown on the business, both for customer and partners?
Ingram Micro: Prior to Covid-19, some segments of the IT market were poised for strong growth driven by enterprise digital transformation deployments. When the lockdown was imposed, new opportunities emerged as organisations quickly implemented business continuity and work from home policies. However, from a more holistic perspective, the business has been adversely impacted due to supply chain disruptions, liquidity crunch and a lower risk appetite. While revenue is likely to see a year-on-year decline due to reduced customer demand – the real impact will depend on the duration of the crisis. In addition, partners are already experiencing a change in product sales and customer mix as more businesses move online given the current situation.
CRN: How has Ingram Micro channelised the demand and supply for its OEMs and partners ?
Ingram Micro: To support the evolving business needs of our partners and customers, we provided them with the resources and guidance needed to implement remote work solutions quickly and effectively. The solutions included Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, team collaboration tools, file-sharing and document management solutions, MDM, remote support tools and cyber security solutions. On the hardware and networking front, we carefully monitored inventory levels especially for products that saw increased demand such as VPN, unified communications, laptops and other remote working gear. Considering the ongoing pandemic, we are also working with OEMs that produce equipment required for disease prevention and control such as IR thermometers, workforce management applications, etc. Finally, to ease the financial strain on our partners and customers, we are offering long term financing solutions with flexible payment options and leasing programs for various product lines under the Ingram Micro Financial Solutions bouquet.
CRN: What sort of preparedness Ingram Micro has exhibited to handle such unprecedented situations?
Ingram Micro: As the largest distributor of technology products and services with warehouses and offices across India, we were well positioned to support essential service providers with their IT and mobility requirements from the early days of the lockdown. There have been numerous instances where timely fulfillment of technology requirements by Ingram Micro through its partners during the lockdown has made a real impact, like storage for DR for a large PSU, laptops, desktops and UPS to marquee banks and IT/ITES companies, interactive displays for the meteorological department, and many more such critical requirements. Ingram Micro continues to process and execute orders across the country in compliance with local regulations.
CRN: Can you highlight some of the challenges being faced in providing service or support to your partners during the lockdown period ?
Ingram Micro: Lockdowns and containment zones affected our ability to operate our warehouses. Movements of goods both from imports and local/national logistics was affected. But we were constantly in touch with partners giving them updates on their consignments and were able to serve many essential services requirements even through the most strict lockdowns.
CRN: How has Covid impacted Ingram’s cash flow, business growth, and major projects postponement?
Ingram Micro: The macro economic factors that emerged due to the lockdowns and consequent hit to business sentiment have affected us in the same way as most businesses in the country. We were able to support our partners with extended credit periods, sometimes supported by OEMs. But we are e ncouraged to see a strong recovery as the economy starts to get back into full swing.
CRN: With remote working becoming the new normal, what are the best practices that your distribution house adopted?
Ingram Micro: Technology plays a crucial role in helping organisations become agile and maintain business continuity. At Ingram Micro, we were well-equipped to adapt to 100 percent remote operations without any challenges. Most of the technology we use is cloud-based, and this enabled our team to adapt to remote working seamlessly. Though the way we interact has changed, the importance of people and relationships in business will always be the same. Throughout the lockdown, our teams have continued to interact with partners both through one-to-one virtual meetings as well as one-to-many virtual events to ensure relevant and timely communication.
CRN: What is Ingram Micro’s recovery plan, post-Covid? How do you see the recovery of IT distribution business in India?
Ingram Micro: The current accelerated pace of technology adoption in India looks very encouraging as under normal circumstances it would have taken at least a couple of years more to get to this level. The biggest shift we see today is in the demand for cloud in the form of SaaS & IaaS, cyber security, and services. Several organisations have implemented remote working as a part of their long-term strategy and are going all out to ensure that their data, devices, networks endpoints and systems are not compromised. Once the dust settles, there is likely to be a greater demand as organisations will prioritize IT modernisation projects given its impact on business continuity.
CRN : The adoption of managed services and cloud services accelerated in Covid times. How Ingram is adding value to its OEMs ?
Ingram Micro: We have been working closely with our OEMs in multiple areas like regulations, demand forecasting and demand generation, partner experience etc. However, in the recent times, OEMs also rely on us to get the real pulse of the market as we are much closer to the ground by virtue of our extensive partner network across the length and breadth of the country.
CRN: Recognising this business disruption led by the pandemic, what’s your message to your partners?
Ingram Micro: The pandemic has fundamentally altered our perceptions about business models, sales strategies, planning for business continuity and managed services. Channel partners that focus on a specific type of product or service may not be able to fulfill the role of a trusted partner in a customer’s digital transformation journey. Despite the headwinds, channel partners are quickly reskilling their workforce and adopting a consultative approach to deliver customer success. This is the perfect opportunity to develop a transformative strategy and deliver solutions that help their customers tide over the current crisis and thrive in the future.
CRN: PC and IT related products have seen significant jumps during the lockdown period. How do you overview this demand contributing to your growth plan?
Ingram Micro: Growth in certain product lines is offset by softer demand in others. Over a longer period, these spikes will even out, but we do see some fundamental shifts in consumption models as companies gear up for the future.