Partners are increasingly engaged in supporting customers’ digital transformation journeys: Shantaram Shinde, Channel Sales Director, NTT Limited in India

Shantaram Shinde

In this exclusive interview conducted by CRN India, Shantaram Shinde, Channel Sales Director, NTT Limited in India, delves into the recent surge in growth within the organisation. Shinde discusses the pivotal factors contributing to this growth, including the integration efforts with NTT Data Inc. and the evolution of the channel ecosystem. As NTT Limited undergoes transformative phases, Shinde provides insights into the collaborative approach taken to align offerings, engage partners, and effectively meet the evolving demands of customers, particularly amid the challenges posed by the pandemic. Through this conversation, Shinde sheds light on the future trajectory of the channel ecosystem, highlighting key areas of evolution and innovation expected in the coming months.

What factors have contributed to the recent growth of NTT Limited?

We recently completed an integration with NTT Limited, incorporating erstwhile Netmagic into what is now known as Global Data Centers (GDC). Presently, we are in the midst of another integration phase, this time with NTT Data Inc., a NASDAQ-listed global brand. This integration offers significant advantages in terms of global brand recognition and the alignment of service portfolios across various continents and regions. While we currently provide a diverse range of services across different geographical areas, we anticipate a harmonisation of these offerings in the coming months as the integration progresses.

How did you integrate the channel ecosystem to meet the increased demands for data centre services, and how did you collaborate with your partners to effectively serve the customers during this period of heightened demand?

Previously, our operational model leaned towards value-added reselling, but we’ve shifted towards a partner-driven approach for opportunities and deals. This change grants partners greater ownership and involvement in initiatives, a shift we’ve actively pursued since 2020, particularly amid the pandemic and its aftermath. Introducing the Managed Services Partner (MSP) model further emphasises the crucial role partners play in service provision. Unlike mere reselling, the MSP model encourages partners to take on more responsibility, elevating their status from transactional facilitators to active service providers.

This evolution empowers partners to enhance their capabilities and deliver more comprehensive solutions to their clientele. From NTT’s perspective, this approach offers several advantages. By fostering collaboration rather than competition among partners, we collectively strengthen our position in the market without the need for individual reference points. This collaborative ethos aligns with NTT’s broader strategy and enhances our effectiveness in serving clients. Over the past 15 years, we’ve transitioned from a traditional partner model to one centred around MSP, reflecting our commitment to mutual growth and success. We anticipate further transformation as partners continue to evolve and adapt to meet the changing demands of the market.

As a partner leader, how do you ensure partners serve their customers well, particularly considering the current expectations of enterprises for a comprehensive consultancy approach during their digital transformation journey?

In the service provider industry, our engagement with the channel ecosystem differs significantly. While product or software companies often focus on reselling, for global technology firms like ours, the emphasis lies in solution selling and addressing complex business challenges. Historically, partners were not oriented towards solving customer business problems. However, over the last 2-3 years, I’ve witnessed a notable shift in the partner ecosystem. Partners have evolved to meet the demands of customers, whether it’s addressing IT issues, security concerns, or other challenges.

This transformation has been rewarding, as we’ve worked collaboratively to equip partners with the skills and capabilities needed to offer comprehensive solutions. For service providers like us, it’s not just about reselling products; it’s about providing tailored solutions that address specific customer needs. Whether it’s security solutions, data protection, cloud services, or modern application solutions, partners are now adept at delivering holistic solutions. The MSP model has played a significant role in this evolution, empowering partners to take greater responsibility and deliver value-added services to customers.

As a technology service provider, particularly in data centre services, how do you perceive the evolution of the channel ecosystem in response to the requirements arising during the pandemic? What new roles and responsibilities were either assigned to partners or undertaken by them to meet the changing needs of customers?

Specifically in the data centre business, a significant shift has occurred in how partners engage with customers to address their business challenges. Previously, partners were primarily focused on referring opportunities and earning commissions, without delving deeply into the customer’s business problems. However, over the past two years, particularly amid the pandemic, partners have recognised the need for deeper involvement in understanding and resolving customer issues.

This transformation has been instrumental not only for our ecosystem but also for our business objectives. We aimed for partners to take ownership of customer issues rather than merely referring to opportunities, and this shift has been realised. I am pleased with the progress we’ve made in evolving our partner ecosystem, and it’s evident that partners have adapted themselves accordingly.

Regarding data centres specifically, the approach has evolved from merely renting out space to offering colocation and cloud services. It’s no longer just about providing physical space; it’s about delivering comprehensive IT services tailored to address customer needs. Partners have embraced this evolution, recognising that success in today’s landscape requires a more holistic approach to solving customer challenges.

Could you outline three key areas where partners have actively engaged or taken responsibility to deliver or service customer requirements?

In the past, our focus primarily revolved around cloud services, where our partners actively engaged in understanding customers’ cloud needs, including hybrid and public cloud requirements. However, our scope has expanded beyond cloud services to encompass security services, particularly in light of the heightened cybersecurity threats observed during the pandemic. Partners have played a pivotal role in comprehending customer security needs and addressing associated challenges.

Our partners have been deeply involved in the realm of application modernization and DevOps services. This extends beyond infrastructure considerations to encompass the development and management of modern applications. Over the past two years, these three domains have emerged as key areas of partner engagement and collaboration.

Can you provide some use cases or success stories where partners have played a critical role, perhaps even leading entire engagements with customers?

There are a couple of notable use cases that highlight the proactive role of our partners in addressing customer challenges. In one instance, we collaborated with a prominent BFSI client facing significant infrastructure and application issues. While a partner had previously engaged with the client on a more transactional level, they recognised the depth of the customer’s security and application development concerns. Taking initiative, the partner assumed a leadership role in the engagement, successfully resolving the client’s security and application challenges.

Similarly, another scenario involved a major e-commerce client grappling with scalability and performance issues within their application. Initially, our partner’s involvement with the client was limited to service reselling. However, upon recognising the criticality of the client’s scalability and performance concerns, the partner took charge of the situation. Leading the engagement, they effectively addressed the client’s challenges surrounding scalability and application performance.

These use cases underscore the proactive and solution-oriented approach adopted by our partners in directly resolving customer issues and driving successful outcomes.

If I were to summarise our conversation today and ask you to identify key areas where you foresee the evolution of the channel ecosystem in the next 12-18 months, what would those areas be?

The evolution of the channel ecosystem is evident in several key areas. Firstly, there’s a notable shift towards offering comprehensive solutions tailored to address specific customer challenges, rather than simply focusing on service reselling. This reflects a deeper commitment to understanding and resolving customer issues effectively.

Secondly, partners are increasingly engaged in supporting customers’ digital transformation journeys. Recognising that modernisation encompasses not only infrastructure but also application development, partners are playing a more integral role in guiding and facilitating this transformative process.

Lastly, there’s a growing emphasis on an outcome-based model. Partners are no longer solely concerned with providing services but are actively invested in delivering tangible results aligned with the customer’s objectives. This shift underscores a move towards a more value-driven approach, where success is measured not just by the delivery of services but by the achievement of desired outcomes.


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