Our broad & strong portfolio offers unique advantage to partners: Tian Beng, Dell EMC

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Channels form a very critical part of Dell EMC’s overall strategy in the APJ region. In an exclusive conversation with CRN, Tian Beng, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Channels, Asia Pacific Japan, Dell EMC talks about the deep and wide strategy that the company has created to do more business with each one of the partners and in the process, capture the burgeoning market opportunities.

How are your partners in APJ aligning with the new channel program?

Channel is really important to our business in APJ. Apparently, the channel mix (in terms of percentage) is the highest in this region. Besides, many customers in APJ actually prefer to work with the channel partners. Across APJ, 70% of our business actually goes through channel. We have close to 20000 partners across APJ. But we break it up into what we call Metal tier partners. They are categorised as Titanium Black (only for Elite partners), Titanium, Platinum, and Gold partners.

When we look back, last year, we had the big integration between Dell and EMC and as part of the integration a lot of work went into creating our new Dell EMC Partner Program, that was launched in February this year. But before launching the program, we put a a lot of effort in getting feedback on the design and structure from the channel partners across the globe, including the US, Europe, and APJ region. Even the partners from India gave feedback on what they would like to see in the new program.

This new set of program is built around three core principles of being ‘Predictable’, ‘Simple’, and ‘Profitable’. In terms of being ‘Predictable’, the new program is now available for a longer term. With the erstwhile Dell program, we were quarterly focussed but now, it has become bi-annual. And since it is a longer term program, it is more predictable. We have made it simpler as well, wherein our channel partners can now access products across all portfolios. In terms of profitability, partners actually stand to earn about 1.6 times more now in terms of the channel rebate.

From the channel standpoint, what position does India hold in the APJ region?

The way we are structured in India is pretty much the same as other markets. We have an enterprise and a commercial segment. And then we have channels that cut across these two segments. Now, if you look at India specifically, we have about 4000 registered partners. Before the integration of Dell and EMC, we had a Dell led, partner led and distribution led structure. Now, we have restructured it as the enterprise and commercial segments with channel cutting across both.

In India, the launch of the new channel program has been really well received. Besides the Metal tier partners, we also have another category of what we call ‘Strategic Partners’ in India. We have about 35 such strategic partners in the country, wherein each partner is assigned a National Account Manager who has the responsibility for the tapping the business across the nation. These Strategic Partners are a subset of the Metal tier partners, who have been identified based on their competency, business skills, reach in the market, market presence, reach across different verticals, and geographies

This is a very unique initiative from our end, as we never had such a role in the past. The new structure gives an opportunity for partners to expand their product offerings and gain higher share in the market.

Has this categorization of Strategic Partners been done in India only or is this model being followed across the APJ region?

This model is being followed in the largest as well as important countries of the APJ region like Australia and Japan. These Strategic Partners are only operating in countries that have a big geography and where channel partners have a large playfield. We need such a role for countries like India with multiple regions. For example, the Chennai business is different from that of Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata and vice-versa.

As the Dell EMC’s business grows in the country, will you add more Strategic Partners?

To be honest, we haven’t set a target in terms of the numbers of Strategic Partners. Our worry is not the number of partners we work with. It’s more about the depth of the business. These partners are very big channel companies and our focus is on doing more business with each one of them and grow together.

How does the new partner program gives an opportunity to the partners to expand their product offering and in turn gain more market share?

While every IT vendor company has a channel program in place, one key differentiator for us is that we have the best and complete product portfolio. No other company has such an end-to-end portfolio. And since we are the only company with such a broad and strong portfolio, channel partners are really looking forward to work with us. Instead of working with many different companies, channel partners need to work with one Dell EMC in order to get access to such a big portfolio. As we are the market leaders in most of the product categories, it gives our partners an added advantage.

There were reports that Dell EMC is aiming to double the number of Metal tier partners in APJ region by next year. Have you set any target in terms of numbers and what sort of strategy being followed to achieve it?

We made a statement earlier this year that we are looking to double the number of Metal tier partners in APJ and that has not changed. In terms of how we are going to get there, we have created a ‘deep and wide strategy’. As part of the deep strategy, we are looking to do more with our existing partners. All these programs that we have launched are about being Simple, Predictable, and Profitable. And we want our existing partners to do more business with us.

Under wide strategy, we will not only look at recruiting more partners but also upskill and move them up in the value chain. This will help us the increase the number of Metal tier partners. For example, we have a big base of about 19000 authorised partners and we want as many of the authorised partners as possible to move up and get into Gold category. We also intend to move a few of the Gold partners into Platinum category and similarly a few of the Platinum partners to Titanium. The main strategy here is to move every partner up into the tier.

What according to you is the biggest opportunity for Dell EMC partners in this whole digital disruption era? How are you preparing them to be market-ready?

We see a huge opportunity in this digital transformation era. We are mainly focused on what we call the 4 pillars – digital transformation, IT transformation, workforce transformation, and security transformation. Our overall strategy is to remian focused on the transformation pillars. And again if you take a step back and look at our portfolio, it is so broad and strong now that we are very well positioned to work with our partners as well as customers on all these pillars.

Channel enablement is one of the big focus areas for us. If you look at Dell EMC in the past, EMC was actually known in the channel community for having a really strong channel enablement function. We have inculcated the best of both the programs. In fact, we have a dedicated team across APJ that focuses just on training, enabling and certifying our channel partners.

We have recently launched a ‘Heroes Exchange’ program across APJ, wherein we actually take the engineers from our channel partners and create a very focused program for them in terms of providing face-to-face as well as virtual training. We also have different incentives for getting certified post training.