Around 85% of our India business is through the channel, says Joybrata Mukherjee, HPE

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Joybrata Mukherjee, India Leader - Channels , SMB and Service Provider, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India
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Hewlett Packard Enterprise India has been on a solid growth trajectory in India. Joybrata Mukherjee, India Leader – Channels , SMB and Service Provider, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India, shares his perspective on some of the company’s key plans for 2018

How has been 2017 for HPE; what are the firm’s key plans in 2018?
Last year was fantastic for us. We have been successful in all the verticals, whether it is BFSI or Telco or the public sector. Our focus has been on three-four areas. Firstly, our focus is on the data center and our belief is that data centers will move towards being software defined. Our entire strategy around data centers is software defined, whether it is server, storage or networking. This translates into better manageability as everything can be managed from a single console.

Additionally, with Aruba and the ClearPass portfolio, we are ensuring that more and more intelligence is embedded to the edge. As we move forward, a lot of decisions will be taken in the edge. Manufacturing units will be more intelligent; retail units will be more intelligent. Hence most of the decisions and customer experience will be pivoted around the edge. That’s what we are doing with the Aruba portfolio. The third thing we are focusing on is the consumption model. We basically believe that as we move forward, everything will be deployed as services, hence the consumption model becomes very-very important. The public cloud is becoming popular, but the issue here is that once you reach a scale, the economics don’t support the business case. Lots of people who have invested in public cloud are now preferring on-premise models. Under GreenLake Flex Capacity, we are trying to give our end customer the benefit of a cloud like experience with a control and security of on-premise infrastructure.

We are also bullish on flash storage, and we are seeing a gradual movement towards an all-flash infrastructure. If overall storage is growing up to 10-15 per cent, then all-flash is growing up to 40-50 per cent. We believe that the majority of our large customers will adopt all-flash.

What is the importance of the channel?
We are a channel focused company. In India around 85 per cent of our business is routed through the channel. Hence our dependency on channel is huge. We also understand that going forward, the survival of channel partners will become more and more difficult if hardware resale is their core competence. Hence, creating a service around a product becomes very important, which can be outcome-based and offer greater value.
We have started an initiative this year, FY18, across APJ. We started a concept called “Partner of the Future”. We explained to partners on how we see them, and how our partners can create value. We did a POC for about 20 partners across APJ out of which six partners are from India. This is the first proof of concept of what we are doing.

We organize events wherein we do a deep dive workshop with partners for three days and before that we do deep dive assessment of the partner’s business. We look at the overall business matrix of the partner, what is their core competence, and what are the various practices they have. Based on this information, we will evolve a strategy over the next two-three years where the partners can invest and diversify and develop a line of business with the help of HPE.

For example, we are working with one of the partners, wherein we are jointly developing a security practice and go the market with HPE for our end customers. With another partner, we are concentrating on IoT, where the focus is on lean manufacturing. We plan to identify areas where we can co-invest and create a value business for our partners.

What are your plans for SMBs?
The SMB market is the fastest growing segment for us in India. We are growing almost 25 per cent year on year. In order to tap this segment, HPE has a dedicated team that focuses on SMBs. This unit further bifurcates into SMBA (SMB Attended) – managed by dedicated account managers and SMBU (SMB Unattended,) which is partner led. HPE makes considerable investment in accelerating demand generation through inside sales, tele-calling or external agencies. The opportunities generated through this are shared with partners on a cumulative basis. This is a particularly profitable area for us which is growing within all segments. We will continue to see investments in this area to further strengthen the business.

As per our partner profiling, we have got 200 partners; of which 15 are platinum partner, 35-40 are gold partner and the rest are silver partners. There are various solution and product providers which are focused on the mid market. Hyper converged is the product which is focused on the mid market. We are going to market with a leadership product portfolio called SimpliVity. As a part of market development fund (MDF), we have invested with 10 partners across India and enabled and trained them in terms of creating POCs, back up services etc. On the hyper converged infrastructure front, we have 20 partners across India who are focusing around the hyper converged theme and addressing the mid market segment. As a result of this focus, we are seeing phenomenal results.

While large SIs have the resources and capabilities to build large solutions, how do you plan to enable your tier 2 partners to tap the huge opportunity in IoT, analytics and so on?
With SIs, we share a mutual understanding based on an excellent governance model. We leverage our respective areas of competency and deploy very large projects together.
The tier one partners are our distribution partners. These partners may sometimes be engaged in value distribution, while some may be involved in system integration. Now outside of this, we have our stock partners which we call as tier 2 partners. In this category, we have 16 platinum partners, 45 gold partners and about 140 silver partners. Apart from the 200 stock partners which form 85 per cent of our business, we have about 750 odd partners which are non-managed partners by HPE but they are tightly coupled with our tier 1 partners to drive transact business, in a low touch account.

For instance, we are working on a few projects with our tier 2 partners in Bengaluru. We are creating a center of excellence around various consumption models such as composable where you can very quickly deploy compute storage network through managed smart provisioning. We are in the process of building a proof of concept while showcasing test and use cases. This will further be verified by our service provider partners.

What is HPE’s strategy to ensure the profitability and margins of partners?
HPE is very strongly positioned in the market. Hence, there is a good demand for our products. However, it is seen that there is stiff competition in the server and storage market. This invariably impacts our profitability in the country as well as our partner’s profitability.
We are tackling this area of concern by delivering more value to our partners by architecting three packet solutions around areas such as composable, IoT, data mining, data analytics, data management systems, SAP, HANA etc. With this model, profitability margins are higher thereby benefitting both HPE and our partners.

Any message for your partners?
First and foremost, we would like to state that we are completely committed to our partner ecosystem and hence it has been a happy and long term relationship based on trust. If you speak to any of the HPE partners, you will find one standard response — HPE people are always black and white and there is no grey. Whatever we say, we deliver. And, we will continue doing that. That is in our culture.

Our partner ready framework is acknowledged by all our 200 partners as the best framework in the industry. We are making huge investments to do an assessment of our partner’s business, and ensure their progress and profitability.

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