Schneider aims to on-board partners with retail, healthcare, BFSI clientele

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Gurudutt M, Director – Channels, India & SAARC, Schneider Electric (IT Division)

Having forayed into various new market segments over the years, Schneider Electric has also planned to build expertise of its Tier 2 partners around Edge Computing in 2019. Gurudutt M, Director – Channels, India & SAARC, Schneider Electric (IT Division), shares more details

How is Schneider Electric uniquely positioned in its business?
We are in the business of critical cooling and power, and we drive this through IT distributors and partners. Especially in the area of data centre and Edge Computing, there has been a huge focus on training and enablement. We have a partnership level called ‘Elite DC Partners’ – the premium partnership level. We have invested heavily in enablement of partners, allowing them to design, build and operate a data centre by themselves. We also have a services bureau for monitoring of non-IT devices in a data centre – we are one of the few companies to possess this. When this is coupled with our Elite DC Partnership program, it creates a strong value proposition for our partners. Behind these initiatives, we have an objective to encourage partners to place services as the main portfolio, instead of products – this is helping us to drive the momentum. However, we are also strongly focused on the products business, with constant introduction of new, differentiating products.

How do partners qualify for the Elite DC Partnership?
Currently, it is only by invitation in selected territories. However, in 2019, we will urge more partners to join, subject to qualification in the criteria set by us. In the next phase of expansion, we will focus more on key verticals such as retail and BFSI, where there’s a need to build small server rooms or Edge Computing. We will be looking at partners who have such clientele.

Currently, we have 20 partners and we aim to grow the number to 35 this year. Additionally, we have a separate partnership program for our products business. The mindset of partners is also changing; they want to move up the chain. There is a plethora of services that our partners can foray into. For instance, Monitoring as a Service, Shifting as a Service, etc. We have another program – EcoXpert – for building management solutions.

How has the company’s IT business evolved over the years?
Our presence in India spans almost 25 years. We have a global manufacturing hub in Bengaluru, with huge export rates – the Indian market consumes six per cent of our total production, the rest is exported. Our journey started when IT was evolving from small desktop UPS; slowly we forayed into online UPS, which was sold by our distributors. We have about 7,000 partners in India, who are serviced by four distributors. The evolution of our business started in 2008, with the demand for organised data centres. Following this, the focus started shifting towards building efficiency in data centres. Another new business area is the manufacturing industry, which requires UPS to optimise operations. Our company has a stronghold in these areas, which is backed by our ‘Power Partner’ category of partners. Our products offer repeat revenue for our partners and ourselves. A lot of partners have shifted to this line of business, due to ample of opportunities for services revenue.

Many Tier 2 partners are willing to develop themselves as elite partners. Does Schneider have a partner program for this set of partners?
With reduction in opportunities around captive data centres, there are increasing opportunities in Edge Computing. We are trying to drive a program for partners who may be interested in this, but can’t invest as heavily as elite partners. This is a shortened program focusing on expertise around Edge Computing; this will be launched in Q1 2019. Our distributors are bullish on this program, which allows their Tier 2 partners to gain expertise. We have three categories of partners – Elite, Premier and Select – and we want to bring Edge Computing as a certification at the Select level. We are expecting to have 100-200 Select partners, having expertise around Edge Computing, as it serves as a stepping stone for partners who want to enter the software-defined space.

Partners form the core of our company’s DNA. We already have a growing number of SI partnerships, and we now want to to grow our Tier 2 IT channel. Through our interactions, we have learned that Data Centre Infrastructure Management is one of the key areas for customers this year. To tap these opportunities, we will work with our specialised channel partners and push our EcoStruxure platform.

With emergence of new technologies, are you putting special efforts to onboard partners, especially for the EcoStruxure platform?
Onboarding partners was tough until last year, but now awareness levels have increased among partners. In certain cases, we also work on a GTM approach. This is the right time to onboard more partners, as they can integrate our offerings with the rest of their IT services. EcoStruxure is a great platform. We have a lot of it in the Smart Cities space; for instance, around data centres, data centre surveillance, etc.

One of the GTM strategies, which has worked well for us, include managed services partners in addition to our Elite DC partners. Currenty, our EcoStuxure business is completely driven by Elite DC partners, but we want to explore business possibilities through alternative channels as well.

How are you ensuring profitability for your partners?
We sign a standard agreement with our partners, pre-defining rebates and MDF. This is coupled with various tactical programs. We pre-dominantly operate on the MDF mode with our solution partners. We also provide marketing support through our partner portal. We have 250 Select partners and 90 Premier partners; whereas, our Elite partners include large product-centric players. We offer the products, services and tools necessary for our partners to be more successful and ultimately more profitable.

How critical is the success of your partners and what are your expectations from them?
We want our partners to explore growth opportunities, which will eventually also help us grow. We have been successful in the new application areas as well. We are set in the right direction, in terms of our partner ecosystem and distributor ecosystem. With our strong manufacturing hub in India, we are definitely set for success. We will continue our training and enablement efforts to ensure that we enter new application areas.