Identifying partner training and enablement as a crucial factor, Juniper Networks has been actively undertaking various initiatives in this area. Harshavardhan Kathaley, Director – Channel Sales (India and SAARC), Juniper Networks, shares the company’s focus, opportunities, and channel strategies
How has been the recent growth for Juniper, and what have been the key factors to drive that growth?
Things have been good and 2017 was a good year for us. The India market is doing good overall, and we are one of the beneficiaries of that growth. The year has been great for us across verticals. We kept doing what we have been doing – efforts on marketing, partners and sales engagement. We also had a new leader for the India market who joined us at the beginning of the year. People, technology, market opportunities among other things have helped us to build good business.
What will the the key focus areas for Juniper in 2018?
At Juniper, we help customers build high performance networks and we will continue to do that, alongside leveraging new technologies and software automation which are the new innovation areas now as part of the company’s overall product roadmap. In India particularly, we will consolidate in the segments where we have done well. Meanwhile, there are some segments where we sense more opportunities; this is something that we will go after. India, for every IT company, is an exciting market presently. It is one the fastest growing large economies and ranks second in telecommunications, internet users. Rural areas are also getting onboard internet at a fast pace; 70 per cent of which are mobile users, so mobility is the key and Juniper is well poised working with service providers and telecom companies, to help them build the next generation networks.
From a channel perspective, it’s always about matching the capacity with the opportunity. My team’s role is to ensure that we build enough capacity – capacity building is a two-way process wherein we build capacities for the channel and the channel also builds capacity for itself because they also have to address the market opportunities.
Our underlying philosophy has always been about dependent partnering and partner-first strategies which are the guiding principles. We have a partner program called ‘Juniper Partner Advantage’ which has been built on these broad principles.
With many new opportunities coming in with the changing market dynamics, has Juniper made changes in its partner program to align it with the current market?
Juniper Partner Advantage is a modular program and it keeps evolving every year, wherein we take into account new market opportunities, business models, domain expertise, technology trends, and what we are doing in terms of getting new products and innovations – the program is always transformative is nature. This year’s program is called Juniper Partner Advantage 4.0, wherein numerous good changes have come in. Earlier the program was more about core networking capabilities and opportunities, but now we have started specialization, because we realized that, for instance, data center and cloud is one area.
We have specialization on data center and security, which are two main areas of our specialization. Based on these, our current marketing tiers are also segregated. We are putting enough amounts of market development funds (MDF) to ensure that we carry out marketing activities around these areas. We are also focusing on training and enablement initiatives which are clearly directed towards specialized areas – our overall investment and focus on training and enablement has been extremely high which is something that’s required by the channel.
Channel looks for skills in the principal company and we realize that we need to have highly skilled and capable partners who are able to deliver the high performance network we look forward to.
Last year, I did some internal tracking, and we found that Juniper did more than 100 training programs last year in India alone, which reiterates our focus on training and enabling partners; this will continue in 2018 as well. Many tools that we now have for our partner program address every aspect of the sales cycle such as demand generation.
We also have deal registration tool, through which we provide protection and preferential treatment to partners; this is one of the key areas that partners look at. We also have rebates of various kinds, free Juniper training credits and partner rewards, making the Juniper Partner Advantage program rich.
Are there special efforts directed at building capacities?
Our effort is aligned with the market growth, opportunities, and prospects where Juniper and the partners can work together. The capacity is dependent on various pillars including technical skill building and coverage. Overall our efforts are in line with market opportunities and the company’s growth strategies to tap these opportunities. We have been successful in these for years now and we will continue it. Juniper has invested big time on partners and channel last year.
What are the efforts to address challenges in training and skilling of partners?
The challenge of retaining will be everywhere, because it is based on human aspirations. We want to continue to enable and we are not confined to training programmes. We have also tied up with around five universities, wherein we work with them to networking and Juniper-related into the curriculum of these universities. This creates a larger pool of skilled resources, which will further engage into the business in a more productive way.
Juniper has done a lot of technological innovations and with vertical opportunities coming in, where do you see the role of traditional channel partners envisaging?
As long as customers feel that network is central to business needs, and the partners also have networks as one of their core offerings, there are opportunities for us to engage. We have been able to work with partners who are very keen not just to look at IT infrastructure, but also to look at the entire thing with higher focus on networking. Whoever believes – customer or a partner – that network is strategic, that’s where we engage and can add value.
Networking has always been a major business arm of large VARs and SIs. Do you think they are ready to address the opportunities in the current scenario?
Indeed, because networking as a technology and requirement, has become mainstream. Earlier the solution offerings were disparate in nature, but solutions are now more integrated and network is the core of it. I have seen all these partners getting graduated and enabled over a period of time, to be able to address the networking opportunities in an effective way. Connectivity, automation and virtualization help to get IT infrastructure working in the most efficient way.
Many VARs and SIs think they haven’t been able to get through the government vertical, because it’s probably dominated by the global system integrators. How do you get these players get into the government business?
The answer to this lies in the way government looks at IT infrastructure as an utility. That’s the basis for a lot of e-commerce services, e-governance. The Digital India initiative is not just driving the central government and ministries, but also the state governments and PSUs to to digitize infrastructure; I believe there are enough opportunities for every system integrator who has the capacity to build networks.
Also the Government e-Market (GeM) provides opportunities for every partner and the barriers are getting lower. We work with these VARs and SIs on government opportunities.
Our partner program this year addresses traditional partners and also the born-in-the-cloud partners. We help them to develop services and roll them out to customers – this is a new specialization been have added this year. We are already in talks with partners from this segment; as we go forward, we will have onboard some of these partners. In terms of our expectations from partners is to create a win-win environment for both of us.