Partners need to change and transform to remain relevant: Joybrata Mukherjee, HPE India

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In conversation with CRN, Joybrata Mukherjee, India Leader – Channels , SMB and Service Provider, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India, talks about the enhancements that have been brought into the company’s Partner Ready Program and shares insights into the new suite of digital tools and content to create new opportunities for partners.

How has the market evolved in the past 5-7 years with the emergence of new technologies? And how well are the partners equipped to address the growing market opportunities?
With the growing digital disruption in the IT industry, the customer’s buying behaviour has changed a lot in the past 5-7 years. Today, 70% of the businesses are actually product business which are seriously competitive and are based on value differentiation on the product. However, the overall buying pattern is changing from a product purchase to an outcome based purchase.

At HPE, 80% of our overall business in India is done through channels. Over the past 6 months we have met around 150 odd partners from tier 1 to tier 3 and small start-ups who are trying to create a niche for themselves basis the requirements. However, we believe that for partners to be relevant and to grow profitably, they have to change and transform.

So, in order to enhance them, we are trying to introduce a concept called partner of the future, where we do a complete analysis and assessment of the core competencies and strengths of our top 200 partners across technologies including IoT, hybrid IT, data management, and analytics space.

On the basis of these assessments we create a specific plan for each of these partners by understanding their plans, setting up competency centres, centre of excellence, bringing our pre-packaged solutions, and so on.

What was the idea behind to enhance the Partner Ready Program?
Our primary intent was to make sure that HPE is available to help partners better engage with customers and streamline sales processes more efficiently. These updates include Expanded Partner Ready Competencies to include a broader set of hybrid IT, data and analytics, and Intelligent Edge solutions built on HPE infrastructure. New Silver Data Center Specialization to reduce partner training time from nine days down to five days; and Knowledge Credit Simplification, which is based on the same leading-edge curriculum used for HPE employee enablement to ensure partners are focused on content tied to business priorities

As HPE is growing, we need our partners to grow along with us and reach a level where they have that maturity in understanding, and capability in assessment in terms of going and addressing those customer procurements for IT buying, and be relevant so that they can grow profitably. Focusing on just selling server, storage and network as commodities will not take them anywhere as the margins are under pressure.

We are also making a lot of investments to take the partner to a level from where they can gradually evolve. Hence if there is a gap in terms of taking the partner to the next level, we put all our focus and energy is to enable and skill them.

By when do you expect to these updates to yield results?
Let me answer that by illustrating an example. We have a partner based in Pune who has more than 150 courses and is one of the enlightened partners who wants to go to the next level in terms of selling outcomes, solutions, portfolio, and is ready to invest around these 3 or 4 areas. So what we did is, for the past one and a half month me and my core team spent time doing an analysis of the business. Let’s say out of the 150 crore business, 100 crore is contributed by IT products and rest by services, consulting services, advisory services etc. So for the business to reach 250 crore and increase profitability, over the next 6 months there is a need to identify and invest in those 2 or 3 new areas.

To help the partner achieve this, we first identified the zone where he operates and the workforce strength accordingly identified that the smart city as an initiative is very relevant for this partner. So to enable him we are creating a centre of excellence around Smart Cities on the HPE universal IoT platform.

While large SIs has the resources and capabilities to build large solutions, how do you plan to enable your tier 2 partners to tap in to 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.

Before I move on, let me quickly categorise our partners. 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 two 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% of our business, we have about 750 odd partners which are non-managed partners by HPE but they are tightly coupled with our tier one partners to drive transact business, in a low touch account.

For instance, we are working on a few projects with our tier two partners in Bangalore. We are creating a centre 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 are HPE’s plans to leverage tech savvy companies as part of its channel strategy?
We have selected 6 to 7 such companies and signed up with service providers exclusively. There are two areas which HPE believes are relevant for the growth of such partners. Firstly, to deploy HANA solution on a shared service mode and number two is storage as a service. HPE is signing up with exclusive technology partners that can bring benefit in various areas.

HPE provides the overall technology solution including end to end HANA solution and storage as a service. The tier two partners create the opportunity for the service providers from the end customer. While service providers have the capacity and core infrastructure, they lack the reach. Through HPE’s expansive partner network, service providers are able to leverage the vast reach.

Additionally, we spend considerable effort in market development by hosting joint sessions with customers where we invite tier two partners and service providers for an open discussion on competency areas such as HANA or infrastructure services, wherein we talk about the solution and application to the end customer to help develop the market. In the past 6 months, we have signed up with 5 promising service providers in India. This program is coming along well and we are seeing positive results.

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 3 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.

HPE is devoted to enabling its partners through various initiatives such as the setting up of centres of excellence, competency centres and enterprise customer base. Presently, there are 3-4 functional CoEs in India. Over the next 6 months, we will see many more such CoEs across India dealing with various competency areas.

Also, we have IoT projects with Tata Communications and JUSCO (Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company), where we are enabling them to create smart cities of the future. These will be launched as a national reference for our end-customers.

What are HPEs plans to add new partners to expand its reach in the country? What opportunities does the company foresee in the SMB market?
We are always looking to increase our partner base in India as it has a vast geography. With our reach, we will be able to keep building on our partner network. In fact, my team is focused on upscaling our existing partners while further expanding and bringing more to the fold.

While, banking and telecom are the two largest spenders in the country, SMB is the fastest growing segment in India in terms of year on year growth. In order to tap into this segment, HPE has a dedicated team that focusses on SMBs. I oversee the functioning of this unit.

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.

What are your plans for your partner community?
In the context of the Indian market what we have acquired from our partners is their trust in HPE. In the next 6 months we plan to take 20-25% of our top partners into the partner of the future category, to their agreed upon areas and enable them to reach to that scale. So that is something which I am driving and it is very close to my heart.


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