We want all of our strategic partners to be managed services partners: Jagdish Mahapatra, McAfee

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Jagdish Mahapatra, Chief of Channel, APAC, McAfee
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In a conversation with CRN, Jagdish Mahapatra, Chief of Channel, APAC, McAfee, shares about the current security market scenario with a focus on the India market, and how McAfee is planning to approach the market in 2018 and beyond

How has been the recent growth in the company?
Asia Pacific has always been an exciting territory for us for the last few years; and we have always believed that we will grow faster than the markets – we deliver on that promise. However I think today, it is not about speed, it is about relevance. The security landscape is changing so fast, customers are looking at the threat landscape and they realize that they need more. However, the question is that what’s needed more – people, technology, tools, or redoing things we have done in the past? That’s the journey, as we feel, holds prominence for our partners and eventually our customers. We operate across Australia, New Zealand, ASEAN, North Asia, China, Korea and India; overall we are very satified with our achievements in these markets. Every market has its own set of challenges, and I think India is starting to gather growth. We also do strong business in South East Asia and there are numerous small and mid-sized economies which are thriving well, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and more. Whereas, Australia and New Zealand have always been progressive markets in terms of future business models and cloud adoption. For instance, New Zealand is entirely on cloud; we have a big range of market maturity.

What’s the uniqueness about the India market, when compared with other countries which are high on technology adoption?
The best part about India is that it gives you layers of understanding. Indian banks are at par with international banks, and there’s a notion of first-world maturity in some of the verticals in India. The broader SMBs and some other verticals still need to catch up. However, the layers of market dynamics in India can be applied to mid-sized or smaller economies around the region – this is a big value that India brings. Overall, India has been a very strong market for us over years; India is a market we look forward to in terms of more and more ideas. A lot of international markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have the basic dynamics the same as India.

What similarities do you see between Indian partners and those in other markets?
I believe the fundamentals are still the same. When you work with partners, it’s not just about telling them the products and technologies. We are always in a hurry to show them that we are smart, and we have the best technologies. The reality is that people don’t work with you just because you have the best products, but because they believe that they can trust you and this point is the same across all the regions. We have been successful in meeting the partners’ expectations. Building a better partner ecosystem is the key point that unites everyone. In matured markets, the expectations are different in terms of profitabiltity and services revenue – markets like Australia and New Zealand are rich on the services side; whereas, market like India still haven’t reached that level. However, I think if we start getting into complex projects with our customers and truly sell value, the services revenue will start ramping up. We do work with many India partners on services delivery, and a lot of them are our services partners as well.

Are there any best practices which you have implemented in other regions, and are planning to implement in India or vice-versa?
We have a professional services arm, designed to look mostly at some large customers looking to sign the contract with us directly. However, that’s a small team; we are a product-selling company and to drive outcome, we need to have a strong services team. The sweet spot we have identified is how can we mentor our partners to deliver a big part of the deliverables. This teaming is something we are finding as a best practice across the region – the teaming of professional services and McAfee partners is beneficial for both the sides. In cases wherein customers need more, it’s better for us to collaborate with partners.

With the changing threat landscape and security being one of the major investment areas across enterprises, what innovations has McAfee brought in its product line that sets the company apart?
In the last eight-nine months, we have put a lot of thrust on digital campaigns disseminate useful information. Today the biggest threat to cyber security is not from technologies; it is from us. Our lower awareness level makes cyber attackers’ activities easier. For instance, Ransomware happened on an home computer at some small office, which usually lie neglected. McAfee is shifting this conversation more and more, and we are ensuring that decision makers know about this. In terms of technology, we continue to make our platforms story even tighter. One of the things we have realized is no single vendor can fix everything.

Could you elaborate on creating awareness in the partner ecosystem?
Obviously we want to join hands with large strategic partners such as large SIs and MSSPs – this is one of the types of engagements. We also want to work with big consulting firms, because they have their own unique spots. We have also started to give our distributions a bigger play, and have been running programs to drive more partner management. We realize that our channel team can manage a limited number of partners, so are trying to give a lot of ownership to our distributors to run those programs – this is part of our broader commercial mid-market coverage. We have built a strong foundation through this last year. Additionally, another thing is looking at different routes to markets. Managed services being one of them, we had great experience with MSSP partners last year.

The traditional channel business has also evolved. Do you think MSSPs will have a fair play than the traditional channel?
I urge all of our partners to have a managed services strategy; it’s not an option now, because customers are tired of managing their own setup. Managed services has to be a core component of every strategic partner who wants to be a serious player in the security space; we want all of our strategic partners to be our managed services partners as well. It’s a profitable business for them for sure, but it will also get their customers asking for more.

Do you think the born-in-the-cloud companies also have ample growth opportunities?
Our offerings are available on the AWS market as well. Many of our AWS partners belong to this space, andd we probably have not engaged much with them. However, that’s our next step, as we start to see security getting consumed by models like AWS. For instance, we acquired Skyhigh Networks which was a big acquisition in the cloud space.

Any focus area for McAfee in 2018?
This year we will have more strategic and deeper engagements with fewer partners, because it provides value to both sides. Alongide, managed services will be a mainstream focus for us throughout the year. Our distributors will also lead the whole commercial market coverage; we will continue to develop programs and invest in marketing to drive the commercial space. Addtionally, the DXL fabric is unique to our table, so will identify and look at partners who would want to build that – this will be a small project, but over the time, it will grow. In terms of channel expansion, the distribution base will expand.

What expectations does the company have from the partner ecosystem?
We are challenging our partners to challenge us. We always ask our partners to push more value. For instance, we ask them to mull on what we can our with our programs, marketing, andd joint developments that provide value back to our customers. Many of our partners have responded positively and are doing well. Some are still lying in their comfort zones, and we have to constantly direct them to things that are moving. We are bullish on endpoints, but we are equally focused on cloud adoption. We will follow our partners more in the future, because they will lead the conversation – we want them to lead the conversation, because that’s the future.

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