In an exclusive interaction with CRN, Shrenik Bhayani, General Manager of Kaspersky Lab (South Asia), charts out the company’s focus and efforts on products and channel partners, in order to ensure growth in 2018-19.
Since you have recently come onboard, how has it been the transition? How are you taking the company’s success story forward?
It has been over two months now and a lot of things have happened during this period. We are also in the planning phase for 2018 and 2019 – one activity was associated with this. Whereas, another activity was associated on how do we see the next year GTM, and where the focus is. Predominantly we are pretty much established in the market as a consumer company. Kaspersky Antivirus and End-point Security is something which people acknowledge as decent products. They have also shown decent acceptance in the market. More importantly, the channel as well the market is not aware of our products for enterprise market too. Anything beyond antivirus and end-point security has less visibility among people, which is largely because we have neither conveyed it extensively, nor our channel community has understood it in terms of our offerings. For those who have understood, they have probably not been enabled in terms of how should they bring this in market.
The whole focus in the last two months has been to understand the current environment. We know the evironment that we need to be in 2018, and how we will go towards this journey and put our plans in place, which is largely to ensure that we are preparing ourselves for 2018 with all the multiple channels that we got to activate. So we see a very high growth in 2019. The current year for us is a year for consolidation, laying down the foundation, building and enabling the right channels, working on specific verticals where we want to prioritise the numericals. Then we will set the base and have exponential growth in 2019. I have travelled extensively in the last two months – to Moscow to understand Kaspersky headquarter’s thought process around India as a country. India and South Asia as a region are of strategic importance to them, and they are willing to invest in this market.
From the Asia Pacific standpoint, I have interacted with APAC stakeholders in Singapore. I believe it has to been an ecosystem; in order to build up something, you have to play in the ecosystem. It is important to hear out people and get their perspectives.
What learnings have you observed in your interactions with international stakeholders?
From a consumer perspective, there is a lot more work to be done. From our channel positioning standpoint or from go-to market standpoint, we are only visible in the retail segment. There are numerous other channels and avenues for us to explore, and have more sales. For instance, in our local website, we didn’t have acceptance for Indian cards and e-wallets. We took this up to our headquarters, and from January we have it operational. The second perspective is around e-commerce platforms and how we bring ourselves on a visible domain of electronic software distribution – not just e-commerce, but from multiple other avenues. The third perspective is around looking at more exciting avenues; we are also looking extensively at the xSP model, wherein a service provider can offer this along with a mobile connection on a per-user, per-month basis.
An important avenue which is completely untouched by all the players in the market is the issue of awareness on mobile security. If we are in the position to make the mobile users aware, it will open a different kind of channel.
In terms of enterprise business too, there are multiple avenues lying untouched. For example, in the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of targeted attacks, so we are mulling on how can we protect organisations. Just a platform from our side not solve the customer’s issue; we will need to have partners who will put in their services components and leverage the platform and deliver the end objective of the customer – that’s where out channel play will come in. A big focus will be on industrial cyber security. At present, in the industrial environment, we have the operational and IT technology, but the emphasis is on how the operational technology environment is secured – from a cyber security standpoint, they are not completely secured. So if there are variations, for instance in the turbines, how can we report these variations to the IT. Again, we will have to leverage our partners, because a partner who has the knowledge of SCADA based environment will be in the position to do justice to this kind of a setup. It’s not just implementing certain aspects of cyber security; it’s about understanding the environment and applying security. These are some of the things that we’ll do around the enterprise markets in terms of large enterprises, public sector or government units that have large scale infrastructural investments.
In the India business, what’s the breakup of enterprise and consumer segments?
The consumer segment forms 60-62 percent, while the rest comes from enterprise business. With the growth we will take in 2018 and 2019, we will effectively grow the enterprise business and bring it at par with the consumer business. However, this doesn’t mean that we will marginalize the consumer business. We expect a growth of 30-35 per cent from 2018 to 2019. Leveraging upon newer avenues will eventually open up newer channels for us. On the enterprise side, the newer set of channels that understand cyber security and the expectation of the end customer, will enable us to achieve this growth.
The consumer segment has been seeing influx of players. What have been your efforts to sustain the company’s position?
One of the major reasons is quality. Many of these product companies provide solutions at a cheaper price. Kaspersky has launched its Premium product, which is for free. However, for people who really value security – not confined to antivirus standpoint – on our mobile security platform we have a lot more applications; for instance, password manager and phone locator.
Is there a scope for Kaspersky to tie up with cellphone handset makers and provide solutions?
The scope is always there. We have done this in other countries. We haven’t done it in India is because here we want to get a view on where the market is stabilizing – Nokia got replaced by Samsung, whereas Samsung is something getting replaced by Chinese manufacturers. If we get associated with just one company, we won’t get the optimum out of it. We would rather prefer to channelize and put energy in service providers, and work along with them being neutral to the mobile companies, and offer services to customers on a subscription mode.
What are the efforts put as part of the company’s enterprise focus?
The fisrt effort is within ourselves, in terms of ensuring we have the right team which will be competent enough to do the right sales. The channels expects that OEM plays equally hard in terms of winning the opportunity. Our internal sales transformation process was initiated three-four months ago, and we are now working on ensuring our representation in the market is with the right people. We will have regional force which will assist and work along with the partners. The second focus will be on profiling of our own channels, what is it that we currently do with our own channels and distributors – some of them are doing great job, while some are sitting on the fence and some are dormant. For the ones that are doing good work, we intend to work on a business plan approach. For the ones who are performing average, we want an ecosystem where they get support from our distributors more proactively. We will try to activate the one who are dormant, but our focus will lie with people who are serious with us. From a customer perspective, my team is already geared up. We are investing in our own training and demo gears.
As your focus will be also be on industrial cyber security, are you also looking at specialized partners?
We will have to do that, because every partner can’t do everything. We will have specialised partners specifically for two platforms – Kaspersky Industrial Cyber Security (KICS) and Kaspersky Anti Targeted Platform (KATP). There are a few partners who are already working with KATP, whereas discussions are ongoing with a few for KICS. This needs specialised traning from our side, because KICS is a lot more than KATP, and we are in that direction. KICS will come as a combination with services from the partner – to a customer, the partner will be more relevant tha the partner. Also the partners will make decent margins in this business, because of the stickiness of the customer and the unique customisations built by the partners.
Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) will have a fair play. MSSPs have alo graduated over the period; customers are also looking at options for cyber security as a service. We also have our MSSP platform, where we sell our softwares and applications on subscription model. We are also coming up with a new partner program which will have MSSP as a defined metal status.
There is a lot of cloud implementation happening today. What is being done in that direction?
Specifically on the SME side of business, we had a cloud proposal for 25 users. We recently concluded with our headquarters on making these available for 200 users. Starting January 2019, we should be in position to offer cloud-based security platforms for SME players. Whereas, large enterprises would want their cyber security to get implemented in their environment rather than being on the cloud. I see that enterprise customers are looking at someone who are offering a solution not just at the end-point level. The real value of cyber security come when end-point security, email security and network security are in sync. In March this year, we will launch Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), which will eventually solve these problems. A combination of our end-point security, EDR and ATP will give a completey secured environment to the end-customer.
From the Cloud service providers in India, there’s significant push to the hybrid environment. Do you think this will open up different opportunities as the cloud environment grows?
A lot of people are opting for Cloud as a terminology, but many are also opting for it as a point solution. The maturity of cyber security, as an industry, is still not established. Also the number of people working in the industry is not much, while the need from the customer’s and partner’s side is high. One will probably look at going on Cloud when there’s a sense of maturity, and today enterprises are not wanting to take any chance on cyber security. However, a large part of our solutions can be offered on Cloud, but I don’t think there’s a trend yet.
With the emergence of AI, IoT and Machine Learning, is Kaspersky looking at providing security to protecting such environment?
Definitely. In enterprise, one is the normal security solution; the second aspect is around industrial cyber security. The third and fourth aspects are IoT and Smart Cities respectively. We will be 100 per cent positioned to cater the IoT needs to customers. We do have solutions for it which are getting deployed. We also have solutions for the BFSI segment. We see the trend increasing on IoT-based devices. When we look at cyber security as a solution, we are not just looking at end-points, we are looking at this environment – the solutions are already there today. The question lies how the channel scales up and sells it in that environment; that’s where our focus will be.
Any special efforts being put to gear up channels for this kind of changing market dynamics?
Special efforts are put in terms of people within the company building the channels. There are specific head counts which are approved only in terms of building the channels. They are the ones who will look into channel enablement – this is supported by our technical team specifically dedicated for South Asia business. I am intending to effectively have a calendarized based approach. Looking at the right distributors is also part of the same plan. Now we have to look at set of distributors who can handle the transactional workload as well as cater to the basic security aspects, and is also keen to invest in their technical skillset for these newer technologies. We are in discussion with a couple of them, and this year we will have this distribution operational. This structure will largely focus on the enterprise market.
Which are the key verticals you are currently working in?
BFSI, government and public sector which largely includes manufacturing plants. We are unique in this position and there’s need from the customers. A challenge is that operational technology (OT) and IT don’t really bridge this, so customers are are inviting us for convergence where they will have IT and OT players, to spread the perspective on why should we have cyber security as a solution. At HQ and APAC level, we are also working closely with the likes of Siemens and Honeywell, so that they also make this as their integral component when they offer their solutions. Hence, we are also leveraging that part of our global alliances. However, we can’t do these projects on a daily basis; we don’t have enough manpower. So need to pick the right projects. KATP would be the next game-changer to drive our run-rate business. Whereas, KICS are the larger deals we forecast in one or two quarters. Our focus will be all around, while exploring how do we pick on large projects and do a couple of deals in a quarter, across regions. That will bring in a lot more value for our partners as well.
How imperative is it for Kaspersky to have the right channel program in place?
The phase where Kaspersky lies today, is the phase of building building the business using channels. One aspect is leveraging the portfolio and make the team sell more. However, you can’t sell without a channel community. So the companies prefer to select a candidate who can help and build the channel ecosystem around selling the portfolios. The whole ecosystem is all about channels now. We will have people who will sell, but there should be people will implement and maintain it. When it comes around larger technologies, specifically in the enterprise business, this is purely a channel play.
From Kaspersky’s perspective, what key message would you give to partners and prospective partners?
When it comes to our enterprise business, I would covey to our partners that we are very serious to do business and we have right products and services, which will complement the products and end-user experience. There are numerous opportunities for partners to leverage upon the services they have built around cybersecurity, and complement with our products and operate as a solution for the consumers. There is also an option where the partners take our products, a larger component of our services, add a small wrap-up of their services and deliver it to the consumer. Our own presence in the markets and regions will help them build confidence with the customers and sell more. I also want to assure our channel community that we will not overcrowd the space; we will play to the need of the market and onboard only the right ones. From a consumer perspective, we are open to new avenues to create more crowd in the market.