Dell Technologies, one of the leading OEMs in India, recently hosted a Channel Roundtable on 22nd August 2023 to share details on its ‘Partner First Strategy for Storage’. The roundtable had Diego Majdalani, President, Global Channel, Dell Technologies, Tian Beng Ng, Senior Vice President and General Manager – Channel, Asia Pacific Japan, Dell Technologies, and Anil Sethi, Vice President and General Manager, Channel India, Dell Technologies, on the dais.
Majdalani kick-started the discussion and stated that Dell has finished a big cycle of growth and expansion post-Covid, and now the business is changing dramatically to new things. “We see AI is being mentioned very frequently. Hybrid clouds are showing up all over the place.” Citing new trends in the industry, he highlighted that “there is no longer cloud as a default, but cloud by design.” So, the industry is pondering on ways to make the best use of the cloud in an efficient manner.
“Meanwhile, edge is evolving by the day and becoming more relevant in understanding how one can get the benefits of a distributed architecture where the data is in the edge. The processing happens on the edge, but the value needs to come back to create value for the customers. Also, it’s observed how the overall workspace changed. Three years ago, people rushed to work from home, and now three years later, all are going back to the office,” he added.
Citing an example of the changing work dynamics in most organisations, Diego Majdalani out that “the user learned that he wants a smaller speaker, a monitor, and a good quality camera which is better than the camera that comes in the frame of the computer. However, on the other side, companies learned that this distributed architecture has a lot of risks in terms of security. Now, how one manages those risks, the patches and the upgrades, and everything on the systems, also show a different reality than the pre-Covid era.”
So, when you look at the market overall, even though the spike in the demand for PCs has slowed down, there are a number of other fronts that are shaping the future of work like AI, cloud, Edge, and more. Consequently, it’s a good moment in terms of innovation and growth for the customers.
Majdalani, further said, “At Dell Technologies, we have been adjusting and improving how we work and what we try to do. One of the things we realised is that we could do more with the partners. To give you an overview, roughly half our revenue comes from partners globally but we thought we could do more, specifically in the storage space. Also, partners have been looking to collaborate better with us. Therefore, we want to be more intelligent on how we engage together and drive the business forward.”
It’s been almost two weeks since Dell launched its ‘partner first for storage’. Around 99 percent of its customers who are also potential customers of storage, will be driven through the channel and not through Dell’s account teams. To make a change in the way Dell partner ecosystem operates, there’s a need to ensure that all levels are covered, he added.
“Let me elaborate with a simple example. Whenever a Dell rep finds an opportunity, he will get better compensation if he uses the channel to close the deal than otherwise. Therefore, he gets an incentive to use the channel for the deal. Secondly, we have something called a ‘partner of record’. This is basically when our partner brought a new account for us and we hold that account with him for as long as 18 months. However, we multiply it by 4 times the number of accounts with ‘partner of record’. Now, the partner that brought us a new account, knows that he is the preferred partner and that if a rep finds an opportunity, he must engage with him to drive that business. So overall, we are doubling down on the partners for storage. It is the most creative and extreme measure that we have taken in terms of improving our partner engagement going forward,” Majdalani highlighted.
Adding to the growth that Dell witnessed in its partner ecosystem, he mentioned that “due to the change in criteria, the number of accounts under partner records has increased four times now. This is fantastic for the channel community as well.”
Tian Beng Ng, Senior Vice President and General Manager – Channels, Asia Pacific Japan, Dell Technologies elaborated on the status and growth of the partner ecosystem in the APJ region. He said, “Moving on to APJ, I think we have had very good business momentum.”
Globally more than 50 percent of revenue comes through the channel. In APJ, the percentage is even higher because of the business culture in the Asia region. In fact, some of them are operating 100 percent through the channel. “One metric that we look at in the channel team is ‘due registration’. It is the number of dues that our partners register or bring to Dell. In fact, that also saw good momentum recently. So, having a good momentum in the channel is actually a good indicator of business,” he mentioned.
Taking over from Beng, Anil Sethi, Vice President and General Manager, Channels India, Dell Technologies covered the Indian scenario. He stated, “We stand committed. When you say commitment, it is to show with actions and that’s what Dell believes in. We have been in India for around 27 years now. Consistency, commitment, and trust are crucial for both the co-partners and customers.”
The previous year was a tough one. Dell saw just 10 percent year-on-year growth. However, a year before that, the company had around 35 percent year-on-year growth on channel business only, he added.
Speaking of Dell’s growth, Sethi pointed out, “We have really grown with a CAGR of about 24-25 percent across each and every single year. Today, we are the most promising and trustworthy OEM. Our numbers can go here and there in a year, but that’s what we have retained. Also, our commitment to our customers and partners continues to be there.”
In India, Dell basically gives a choice to the customers to connect through partners, channel partners, or directly. So, the company has clocked slightly above 50 percent of business through the channel in India. This brings in a lot of partners that come into the play and they played a key role in making us get a dominant share in three important segments in India, including the public sector, BFSI, and the mid-market.
“Our ‘partner first strategy’ is a further commitment from our side. We always did have a partner of record earlier, but we are also telling our teams to go and choose a partner first, and as Diego explained, they get compensated high, compared to the previous approach. So, this brings investment protection for the partners who invest in the customers. Also, it means that they would be given the first chance to deal with the customer. We have evolved a lot and we are still evolving. We have matured our partner programs and today, these programs and our efforts are well appreciated by our partners. Moreover, this also invites many new partners to join hands with us and do business with us. It’s overwhelming for us and we feel good about it,” he mentioned.
Replying to the press on how Dell ensures regular training to both partners and customers, Sethi said, “If there is a new appointment which happens, there is a whole onboarding program. Further, there are different competencies that the partner has to complete before he gets on board. At first, he gets on boarded as an authorised partner. Later, he fulfills certain competencies to become a Gold, Platinum, or Titanium partner. Titanium is our top-most grading in ‘metal tier partnering’.”
While, for customers, it depends upon what contract Dell closes with the customer. All services like implementation, deployment, need for resident engineers, software applications, data transfers, migration of hardware, lift and shift, and more, all of these are dealt as per the contract. “There is no specific training for customers, however, if it is required by the customer we have ways to get it done. Some partners can provide it or Dell can also step in if required. So, we work jointly at the end customer level to see whatever the customer requires to close the transaction or the deal at that time,” he said.
When asked about his comments on the Government of India’s focus on localised manufacturing and strengthening Dell’s existing manufacturing infrastructure in India, Sethi highlighted that Dell is gearing up completely and working in tandem with the government on the localised manufacturing front. Also, appropriate decisions are being taken within the organisation, which was also one of the reasons for Diego’s India visit.
“We are in discussions to see how the scope is going to be on the manufacturing front. What SKUs and models in our client business that we can consider as under our client portfolio we have multiple SKUs. Further, we manufacture some servers and desktops in Chennai, India at present. Moving on, post-discussions a decision will be taken on how we are trying to see this further and where we can take this, also, what are the next steps we need to take,” Sethi replied.
He called the ‘Make in India’ an ‘extremely good’ initiative and said that the government is pushing to see that the country gets more and more manufacturing from all the kinds of global players in the technology industry and other industries as well. This is good for the country.
Meanwhile, Diego shared his perspective saying, “Firstly, governments are worried about deciding how they want to manage technology in their respective countries. Secondly, India is not only a material market, but it is also one of the biggest markets in the world. We are here to stay, and we will find a way to make it work. We are not doubting, we are just thinking about which is the best possible, fastest, and simplest way to collaborate on the new policies. We’ve solved bigger challenges over the years and we will solve this one as well, together with the India team.”
While interacting with CRN India, Majdalani commented on their new ‘partner first strategy’ and addressed the infamous issue of “Dell products are on the higher side, considering the cost part.”
He said, “When you look at the set of accounts in the market, we have those who always buy from Dell directly, another set who buy from the channel directly, and then there is a central group of accounts. We go and work together always and that gives predictability which helps partners invest properly, trust our teams, and drive their business forward.”
Sharing his perspective, Tian Beng Ng said, “This program drives predictability because even if Dell representatives finds an opportunity, they have to bring it up through the relevant partner. So, we probably didn’t mention clearly that around 99 percent of our accounts would fall under this and as mentioned earlier there has been a fourfold increase in our partners of record.”
Commenting on the cost issue, Beng said, “As far as we know, we do not have an expensive lineup of products. We have the biggest portfolio of storage products in the industry and that’s an undeniable fact. Therefore, with such a broad portfolio, one needs to be careful because most of these are purpose-built products, one product to do one thing. Also, there is a possibility that the cost comparison with the competition might not be among the right products, and so it may look expensive. The one thing that everyone would agree is that we have the right product, the right portfolio, and we are the leading storage company in the industry with no cost problem as such. Also, we need to remember that as the digital transformation continues to grow, investments in technology become critical for the long term.”
Dell invests more in R&D and this gives the company a higher chance of innovating down the road. In a challenging market like the IT industry today, it is seen that a lot of customers talk about Dell’s financial stability and strength to continue innovating. At some points Dell might seem to be less or more expensive than the competition, but in general terms, the value is there, and customers recognise it, he added.