We have always believed in core channel policy: S Ganesh, Head, SMB, Lenovo India

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S Ganesh, Head – Small & Medium Business, Lenovo India
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With the support of the channel, Lenovo is committed for profitable growth of its partners and believes in the core channel. Highlighting the commitment to be the most channel friendly company in 2018, S Ganesh, Head – Small & Medium Business, Lenovo India,
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What’s Lenovo’s direction in terms of market, technology, environment and, innovation? What are your plans for 2018?
Lenovo is on a growth path. From the consumer part of last quarter, we have become No 1 PC seller in India; we are one of the top three IT players. If you put some of the verticals like consumer, SMB together, we are always within the top three brands which are always under consideration. The brand’s popularity is also increasing every year which is also getting us deeper connect with the customers. We always believed in core channel policy in terms of channel. Core channel policy is something that we bet big with the partner, research strategic alignment with the partner. We try to expand as much as possible with the same partner; we call it our core channel policy. The objective of this policy is to grow with the partner, strategic alignment and operational alignment.

Many of our partners have been working with us since the inception of Lenovo. They are there with us as exclusive partner, distribution partner or as multi-brand partner. We have always believed in the policy of profitable growth; we have also grown profitably with them. Lenovo is more partner-friendly among the top three brands, because we have multiple things which connect us with our partners. For instance, we have partner advisory committee. Internally we call it LEPAC – Lenovo Partner Advisory Committee.

We have our core channel group where we connect on analysing the equations as much as possible. We also conduct various meetings at the regional level, ensuring that our engagement with partners is constant. We firmly believe that we need to have strong engagement with our partners. The engagement is not only restricted to a Tier 2 partners; we always engage with the Tier 1 partners as well – like Ingram, Redington, Citrix, etc. In Tier 2 markets, we have regional distributors, exclusive stores, and multi-brand stores, alongside online presence. Moreover, we also engage with Tier 3 partners which is one level below RD. We have a model called ‘Express’ which includes exclusive stores under RD. Our team engages with this set of partners, where their concerns are addressed. We always believe in the policy of strong engagement model under a win-win situation.

Under LEPAC, our 4-P plans for the year in the quarter is being discussed our partners, and modifications are done in line with their suggestions. We are looking at a strong growth in 2018 when the market is estimated to be almost flat – we might grow in some verticals. We want to raise our market share and reach at the second position in consumer vertical next year.

What’s the total channel base that addresses Lenovo’s consumer market?
We have around 200 exclusive stores and around 200 multi-brand partners. We have around seven top LFRs – Large Format Retails. We engage with top three online channels: Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm. We also have 55 regional distributor partners across the country, alongside an express store which is under RD. Currently, we have a base of around 400 stores. We have Tier 3 base which is supplied by RD, wherein we have 6,000 partners.

How is your internal team positioned to take care of the entire process?
For consumers, we have a sales team, which is further split into four sub regions: East, West, North and South. There are also SRGMs – Sub Regional General Managers; RSMs work under them. Under RSMs, we have distribution and retail RCM. Furthermore, we have HO team which consists of the product team. We also have a vertical team, and Tier 1 team.
There is also a separate team, supported by the marketing team, which is supported by the finance team, which is then supported by the claims team and legal team. There are multiple teams forming a complete arm. We also have a partner engagement cell, wherein partners can post any kind of query and get response within 48 hours. For partner’s benefit, we are also launching a new portal called ‘LPP’ (Lenovo Partner Portal) from this quarter. LPP is a holistic gamut where a partner can log in and see pricelist, marketing campaigns, various marketing elements which are available and various products. They will be able to download anything from this portal – this is a worldwide tool.

Are there international best practices that have been adopted in India?
For us, China is a model that we always look forward to. In China, we are the single largest brand in terms of consumer commercial. We have followed some of best practices in China, and we want to follow those practices in India as well. In China, there are large RDs, spread across large districts as well as states. We have replicated that concept in India. There is a reason behind creating this model – we have to increase our base in smaller towns. We have around more than 400 partners in this set of towns. Contribution of our Express stores in India is around 12 to 13 per cent. Total contribution of direct and indirect exclusive stores is 25 to 26 per cent. That’s a significant mix for us.

A lot of training is required to address customer requirements. Are such efforts being put for the consumer?
Training is big part for any organisation; it is important to project your product in front of a customer. We have our national trainer, who trains on products and alo the soft skills of people. The scope of training includes Lenovo employees to external field force consisting of promoters etc. We also train partners, managers and people who are engaged; they have to be trained to promote our products. It is important to sell a product based on its features and not on its price. We have very deep calendar for every quarter to ensure that there are training initiatives.

What are your expectations from partners?
Growth is the first thing – we would want to grow along with our partners. Secondly, something which is important for us especially after GST implementation, is ‘hygiene parameters’. One of the hygiene parameters is maintaining price parity, followed by selling within the territory in which we are supposed sell. For example, retail should restrict to retail within the same store. If you’re a distributor, you should restrict to the same territory. Promoting the product in the right manner is also crucial. In a highly competitive market, you should give the best experience to a customer. Customer expectation is the single biggest thing that needs to be addressed. The other important thing is after-sales service and Lenovo leverages this service – our time is the lowest in terms of solving the problem.

What’s your larger message to the existing and prospective partners?
The year 2018 is definitely a year of growth. We would come with the strongest products and the best products in coming years with the best of value-for-money. Ultimately we need the support of the channel. We are committed for profitable growth of our partners and we believe in the core channel. We have always wanted to give a message to the entire trade channel that we are committed to be the most channel friendly company in 2018.


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