Our endeavour is to work with the partner ecosystem & help them build capacity, competency, and service capabilities around our AI & HPC offerings: Amer Warsi, HPE India

Amer Warsi

In this exclusive interview with Amer Warsi, Director – Channels & Ecosystem Sales, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), India, conducted by CRN India, we explore the dynamic landscape of the tech industry, particularly focusing on the evolving role of channel partners. As a seasoned leader, Warsi sheds light on the pivotal role of channel partners in driving HPE’s growth and market penetration in India, underscoring the company’s commitment to nurturing strong collaborative relationships. Throughout the discussion, Warsi articulates HPE’s innovative approach towards enabling partners, particularly through programs like Partner Ready Vantage, which are tailored to empower partners in delivering comprehensive solutions and maximising profitability in the rapidly evolving tech landscape. With a focus on customer-centricity and continuous innovation, Warsi outlines his key priorities for the year ahead, signalling HPE’s unwavering commitment to driving excellence in the channel ecosystem and solidifying its position as a preferred partner for businesses navigating the digital age.

How has the tech landscape evolved over the years and how are partners getting aligned to this changing market dynamics? 

The tech industry is constantly evolving and has undergone paradigm shifts ever since I started my career. The changes in the consumer base have always kept me fascinated and involved. It’s exciting to see the world transitioning towards a digital-first economy, and the business landscape around us is transforming in fundamental ways.

Way back in 2019, our CEO called out that the world is going to be edge-centric, hybrid, and everything would be consumed in ‘As-a-Service’ way. At that time, this concept was in a very nascent stage. In the recent few years, those big industry shifts of edge, hybrid cloud, and AI have been the driving force for a lot of rethinking happening in the channel community.

The customer’s buying pattern has also evolved. Today, customers want a choice of how they consume and where they consume. They are now very focused on outcomes and looking at workloads and outcome-based conversations and deployment, which are driving their decisions. They’re looking for a partner that can deliver on this. As a consequence, the partners are also realigning and evolving themselves, keeping up with the trends in terms of their ability to talk and take outcome-based solutions to their customers.

In keeping with the current trends of technology, be it on edge, hyper-scale, or hybrid cloud, the partners are also looking at how they can adapt to the changing buying behaviour, adding the option of consumption as against outright purchases. Moreover, the partners are looking for OEMs who can support them by way of educating, enabling, provisioning, and creating capacity for them to go to the market. And last but not least, the most important aspect is the portfolio. They are looking at OEMs who are consistent from a programmatic approach and have a portfolio that supports customer needs, which is exactly where HPE fits beautifully.

In India, HPE gets the highest contribution to its business through its partners. And I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that compared to other OEMs that engage in the country, ours would have the highest route to market through our partners as a percentage of the overall revenue.

What’s the contribution of the channel in your overall revenue?

Globally, for HPE, close to half of the business comes from our channel partners, and in the country, nearly 90% of our business happens through the partner community. We’ve been present in the country for a long time. The fact that we’ve had a consistent approach towards our partners has led us to this high rate of partner-led business in the country. Our partner programs allow us to reach new markets and customer segments, expanding our customer base and sales potential.

These programs also offer partners access to their expertise, resources, and capabilities, which help them provide a more comprehensive solution to the customers. The partners also promote our innovation and agility while helping us in geo expansion and in delivering complex system integration projects to customers, which may involve products other than those offered by HPE to complete the solution. And that’s why we are such a high percentage partner-dependent company.

What strategic partner initiatives have been undertaken in recent times to position your company as a preferred vendor for driving edge, hybrid cloud, and AI solutions?

HPE is committed to supporting partner expansion and growth, helping them wherever they are on their journey, and continuing to offer resources for developing unique solutions and increased market differentiation. Being a multi-product and services company, we understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all. We have partners of various personas and sizes, and we categorise them based on their capacities, competencies, and capabilities in our partner community. Our approach is tailored to the diverse capacities and capabilities of the partner community, focusing on where the partners and their potentials lie, what they want to do, and how they want to serve their customers. And then, what can we do to build the capacity around these.

There are certain products that need a different set of initiatives. At the same time, there are certain services that need a longer gestation and an enablement process for capacity building. We’ve tailor-made each aspect of this and matrixed and matched it to our partner community at large. We have partners at one end who are the largest system integrators and global players in the market. Our engagement levels with them are supported through a lot of enablement, business, and market development activities.

Then we work with service providers, who are an emerging set of partners catering to the new emerging trend of collocating and consumption models. These partners are supported by our Centers of Excellence, competence centres, creating the right sizes, developing joint go-to-market strategies, aligning them to our sales approach in the market, co-creating and co-delivering in the market.

We also work closely with the software vendors, who are a large set of niche operators that engage out here with the large industries in the country. At HPE, we call them micro ISVs or industry-specific ISVs. We have a set of teams that work with them to create capacity to integrate our underlying infrastructure, as well as tools in their offering on their IPs, and make those solutions robust and complete and make them available not only at a local but also global level.

Besides, we have a traditional set of distributors, who play a very key role for us. They are engaged across the length and breadth of the country. We have multiple programs and enablement sessions that are driven through them for the larger partner community. Similarly, we work with a set of tier two partners, who operate from small towns and cities and are equally hungry and want to build their competencies around what they’re selling to their customers.

If you see there are multiple initiatives and programs, and each one of them is well-tailored and well-sorted out for each partner type or persona. And all of them drive a lot of programmatic partner enablement, wherein we do a lot of certifications on our products, solutions, and verticals.

What actions are required from partners to ensure the highest profitability within the Partner Ready Vantage program, which is structured around pillars of innovation, expansion, driving growth, and delivering top-notch experiences?

Built on the foundation of the award-winning HPE Partner Ready program, Partner Ready Vantage is designed for partners who want to do business on ‘As-a-Service’ model with their end customers. It is open and available to all partners looking to enhance differentiation, build stronger practices, and deliver complete solutions to support a variety of business models. This program addresses customer needs and accelerates ‘As-a-Service’ partner growth across HPE’s Hybrid Cloud and HPE Aruba Networking portfolio. Since being announced, HPE has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from partners of all sizes enrolled in the program.

Through this program, we encourage partners to build capacity around HPE GreenLake. They can choose to resell, look at annuity services, or use completely HPE-led and delivered services. Partner competency will now be end-to-end, including technical, sales, solutions, and industry expertise, providing a choice to partners to develop their path based on their specific business model.

To ensure partner profitability, we work in such a way wherein HPE has its own set of focused accounts where we engage ourselves and prioritise our resources. The rest of the larger segment of the market is partner-led and partner-owned. Our rebate structure is such that we reward partners for engaging in areas where we are not present, creating new opportunities, winning new accounts, and acquiring new business as opposed to fulfilling rights.

Typically, our reward system is structured to cater to various levels and aspects of our partner engagements, ensuring that all our partner types are incentivised and rewarded for their areas of engagement with us. ‘HPE Engage & Grow’ is our platform for incentivising and rewarding the Partner Sales Representatives for their efforts in selling across the entire HPE portfolio. Apart from rewarding sales achievements, HPE Engage and Grow also provides opportunities for product, solutions, and program training, as well as participation in contests and sweepstakes. It’s designed to be an engaging platform that allows partners to earn and redeem points for selling HPE products and staying updated on our offerings.

Most of our partners have been engaged with us for quite a few years and are well versed with our ideology and approach towards this, and the Partner Ready Vantage program is nothing but an extension of our existing Partner Ready framework built around our ‘As-a-Service’ model.

What revenue opportunities does HPE see for the channel in the AI domain, and what strategies are in place to assist partners in generating margins from AI?

India’s AI market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25%-35% to $17 billion by 2027, according to a report from Nasscom and Boston Consulting Group. In line with our high route to market through partners, it becomes very important for us to work with our partners and create capacity for them in the emerging market segment like AI. As we’re seeing a massive demand emerging for AI across vertical industries, a lot of hand-holding will be required by end customers in terms of how they can derive benefits, what’s the ROI, and how to create their own AI and HPC setup, which is where our ecosystem of partners will play a critical role.

HPE offers a range of products and solutions tailored for HPC and AI workloads and these include our Apollo Systems, HPE Cray Supercomputers, Ezmeral Software Portfolio, and Performance Cluster Manager. We also have GreenLake for HPC that gives organisations the choice to scale their HPC deployments on-demand while paying only for the resources they consume. These offerings from HPE cater to the diverse needs of organisations looking to leverage HPC and AI technologies for research, simulation, modelling, and other data-intensive tasks.

Our endeavour is to work with the partner ecosystem to help them build their capacity, competency, and service capabilities around our offerings.

Have these partners been identified already?

We are in the process of identifying the right set of partners. While every partner organisation is interested, the capacity of all partners to engage in this or the speed with which they’re able to respond to their customers asking for AI or high-performance computing workloads or outcomes may vary.

Just like when we started our journey with HPE GreenLake through our partners, it took some time for the momentum to pick up. Partners saw the benefit, customers also changed their conversations, and many of our partners embarked with us on the journey of building capacity on ‘As-a-Service’ production models across workloads and infrastructure. This has led to a lot of confidence in terms of our program and approach that we had. We have a large, active partner base and we worked with those partners who showed interest, were willing to commit and make investments on their own to be part of this journey. We will be deploying the same framework when we embark on creating capacity for our partners around HPC & AI.

Will you adopt a similar approach to enable your partners for AI, akin to the Partner Ready and Partner Ready Vantage programs?

Both Partner Ready and Partner Ready Vantage programs are adequately geared up to deliver on the AI boom that we’re going to see in the market. It depends purely on where the partner wants to play. If it’s a resell model, there is a program that supports it. If there are services wrapping around it, our Vantage program kicks in and supports them. We will build capacity for the partner depending on what their areas of interest are and the investment they will make in this business.

How do you measure the success of an ‘As-a-Service’ model, such as HPE GreenLake, considering HPE’s emphasis on the consumption model?

HPE GreenLake resets the digital opportunity for customers by providing a robust ‘As-a-Service’ portfolio that offers flexibility and speed to market. HPE GreenLake gives customers a choice of subscription-based, pay-per-use, and managed IT ‘As-a-Service’ offerings that provide a consistent cloud experience for managing all their workloads. The HPE GreenLake portfolio spans a wide range of purpose-built solutions, from HPE and our partners, giving customers choice in building the right digital foundation. In addition, HPE GreenLake’s powerful metering and governance capabilities allow businesses to monitor and adjust usage to ensure initiatives stay within budget and compliance.

From where we started off, to where we are today, every pointer leads to the fact that HPE GreenLake has become an industry standard. HPE GreenLake provides a foundation for customers to drive data-first digital transformation, and to modernise their infrastructure with a unified, hybrid cloud services experience. It empowers customers to access, analyse, and extract value from their data across public clouds, data centres, colocation facilities, and at the edge.

We have fantastic momentum and have grown our ‘As-a-Service’ business into a market-leading position to bring the modern cloud experience to our customers where they need it. Today, among our top 100 HPE customers, nearly 80 percent have already adopted the HPE GreenLake platform.

The success of HPE GreenLake Cloud Services Commercial Business has put us in a prime position to further accelerate our growth and build upon our leadership. As a result, we are now fully integrating the organisation into the core operations of the company. Doing so will enable us to integrate the deep HPE GreenLake subject matter expertise and capabilities into our core teams as the HPE GreenLake platform continues to be the centre of HPE’s strategy.

And our partners have played a very critical role for us out here. We’ve seen robust growth across partner communities on HPE GreenLake led business over the years. We currently have more than 70 active partners with GreenLake engagements with their end customers. We have a fairly large, robust, and strong set of partners who have ongoing live engagements in the country. It’s an active funnel, which is now taking its own course. Today, they need minimal help from us and are fully enabled and capable of closing deals.

HPE has a new worldwide “speciality-led hunting” GTM model. Is this go-to-market model applicable in India, and how can partners benefit from this approach?

We believe that the expectations of our customers have changed and are constantly evolving. They are looking for more workload and outcome-based conversations; want the solutions to be right-sized; and a complete bouquet of services, products, and applications that deliver the desired outcome. So when customers approach their requirements in a different way, it automatically means that the people who serve those customers need to realign.

Keeping this approach in mind, we have also realigned some of our resources to be capable of addressing such requirements. Hence, the need for specialisation and the ability to carry the conversation end-to-end around specific areas or domains of expertise. With us enabling ourselves, we also expect our partners to do the same. So it is not only our salespeople but also the channel salespeople who are going to specialise in products or services and have those conversations through the partners to the end customers. Our objective and vision is that the partners must build the capacity and realign their resources so that they can engage with the end customer or our common customers in a more holistic manner.

As a channel leader, what are your key priorities for this year?

Firstly, we want to be the preferred OEM of choice for our partners. We conduct a Total Partner Experience (TPE) survey every year, which provides authentic feedback directly from the partners. The results of it are used to measure the effectiveness of partner programs, incentives, and identify and drive focus in the areas that are most critical to HPE’s partners. I’m happy to say that we are rated amongst the best, most preferred OEMs when you look at our peers. We want to continue holding that position.

We want to be always seen as a partner-friendly, partner-centric organisation. Our objective is to continue growing our business and win. Winning has many aspects – it can be the top line, the number of customers you touch upon, the number of partners you work with, what each partner does, etc. All of these have KPIs that we look at and measure.

As we have a varied set of partners, we need to have different parameters of measuring their success. Our share of the wallet, presence, the comfort that the partners feel in working with us, programs, and toolsets need to be the best at supporting them. Our engagements and the resources that we have allocated have to be the most efficient so that we are able to cater to the entire set of partners in the country.

I have set multiple objectives and key areas for myself and for the team in the country. All these are aligned towards capturing the market opportunity that exists in the country, leveraging our strong presence with the partner community and their strong preference for HPE as an OEM.


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