In an interaction with CRN, Kaushal Veluri, Director, Channels, Alliances & Sales, NetApp India Marketing & Services, reaffirms the company’s position as a data management company to help customers become data driven.
What is NetApp’s direction in terms of market, technology and innovation? How are you weaving the channel piece into it?
Our aim is to start making customers data driven. It is all about making sure that the customers understand where their data is, how to manage and analyze, and get insights from it. Everything boils down to data management today.
With respect to the channel partners, we make sure that they understand the data story completely – be it management of data, whether it is on-premises, on cloud, or hybrid infrastructure, and ensure that the data flows seamlessly in all of these, and finally, the customers are able to get insights from it.
In terms of the evolution of NetApp, we always say that today NetApp is not a storage company; we have evolved as a data management company. In this endeavor, we are helping our data partners become data champions.
What are your efforts to skill and train the partners?
The entire channel partner ecosystem of NetApp is based on three axes. There is innovation on one axis, there are skills on the other axis, and there is revenue on the third axis. We help them innovate and move towards this direction. Partners would like to associate with those vendor companies that can help them catch the next wave and constantly innovate. In order to build skill-sets among partners, we do training sessions on a quarterly basis. Besides, we also have a ‘Partner Academy’ wherein we go across multiple cities, and spend half a day with our partners informing them about the company’s new developments and how they can latch on the new opportunities. We take Partner Academy possibly wherever we can. As part of this Academy, we call our channel executives and conduct a quick one-hour free-flowing discussion with partners.
At our flagship event, ‘NetApp Insight’, we announce a lot of our new innovations. Since, not every partner gets to attend this event, we bring it to the local level adding a local flavor to it. Alongside, we conduct webinars on a regular basis and this is going to be one major focus area this year.
From a revenue perspective, we help our partners make money through back-end rebates and incentive schemes.
How do you ensure that the attrition level is minimum among partners?
There are two ways to look at attrition. The first way is – how do I help the partner organization retain his team, whereas the other way is how do I ensure that I am in touch with the person who is leaving the partner organization. They will undoubtedly move from one organization to another. Hence, it is important here to remain in touch with them. We are trying to look at how do we maintain relations with these people as they cross organizations.
Another way of dealing with attrition is to ensure that the partner organization is constantly skilled, especially their technical knowledge is up-to-date. What we have realized very interestingly is that once the person gets into NetApp, they tend to be with the company for a long time. This means that they tend to be on NetApp Technology, learn more about it for more time. This is something we have to leverage.
Are you also looking at getting new or specialized partners on board?
There is depth and breadth aspect of it. When I look from the depth aspect, it means working with our existing partner ecosystem, making sure that they have the depth to go and talk to customers. There is also the breadth story, which means getting new-age partners on board. And we are talking to such partners. Another aspect from breadth story is expanding beyond the cities. We are looking at Tier 2 cities, going out and seeing whether we can build our business in cities like Nashik, Vizag and Nagpur. The only reason being that there is demand in these cities.
Moreover, we are looking at acquiring new partners. There are different partner levels in our organization – we have registered partners across categories like Silver, Gold, Platinum and Star. We are very close to getting one partner become a Star member, which is the highest level. It requires constant revenue and investment in sales and technical resources. We have also found that many of our partners are doing consistent business to go from Silver to Gold category.
We are ensuring that the active partner percentage is higher in comparison to others. One of the focus areas would also be to ensure that the active partner percentage goes up by at least 10 per cent every year. For instance, if we have 10 active partners, we will make sure that there are 11 or 12 next year.
What are your expectations from partners?
The simple, core expectation that NetApp has from the partner is to get into a solution. We expect them to move away from the box-selling thought process and get more into solution thinking from a data management perspective. From a broader perspective, it is going to benefit all – us, partners, as well as customers.
The only expectation from our partners is to elevate the conversation to a data management level. Essentially, we expect partners to become data champions, and from a customer’s perspective, we expect them to make sure that their customers are data driven.
What is your message to the existing partners?
The core message is simple – NetApp is not a storage company; it is a data management organization. It helps customers become data driven, and partners to become data champions, irrespective of what kind of partner you are, whether you are a reseller or SI or MSP.