RPA is a new and trending segment in overall enterprise IT industry. This emerging technology gained prominence about two years ago, prior to which it was only leveraged by the business processing industry. The global RPA industry is experiencing huge growth and UiPath, as a global leader in this domain, enjoys a large part of it. In an exclusive interaction with CRN India, Ashutosh Kapoor, Vice President – Channel Ecosystem, UiPath, shares how the company is betting big on the channel ecosystem to expand its footprint in the country
Tell us briefly about RPA as an emerging technology and how UiPath is capitalising on it?
A unique feature of RPA is collection of data from the screen, without getting into the system. Moreover the implementation time is just five to six weeks, whereas the RoI can be realised within three months. This ensures significant cost and time savings. Behind the emergence of this technology is its simplicity and impact – it solves a lot of technology and business processing problems. As part of our channel building strategy, we want to have a completely channel-driven business.
One of the examples that we often encounter, is that of the finance and accounting sector, which deals with large number of different invoices. With Artificial Intelligence, (AI) Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP), RPA can churn out an excel sheet by collecting data from the invoices. Similarly this can be replicated across other domains such as HR. Over the last two years, enterprises have realised that repetitive processes can be addressed by bots; and UiPath is well positioned to cater to this market. The sustainability, reliability and security of our product have been success drivers for the company. In the last three years, we have grown bigger than our next two competitors. We are also probably the fastest company to reach a valuation of US$ 3 billion.
We differentiate ourselves basis our products and go-to-market strategy, involving a partner-first approach. We had been directly interacting with customers, but as part of our GTM strategy, we are now looking at a specific set of partners. We believe there are big opportunities for partners dealing with RPA, AI and ML. Although we have been present in the India market, we are ramping up in terms of leadership and strategy. Earlier our focus was on large enterprises and BPOs; whereas now we are also tapping the domestic market. We have a strong channel portion which includes boutique partners, ISVs, etc. However, we want to let the channel ecosystem realise the potential of the RPA market, and UiPath’s role in their growth stories. Additionally, we don’t compete with our partners in terms of implementation; we are purely a product company.
When had the company initiated scouting for partners?
We are currently in the phase of onboarding partners. We have had 10-15 partners over the last two years in India, who have already implemented several projects – each partner bring in its own skillset. UiPath, through its boutique partners, has already done business with almost 50 domestic customers in India. One of our focus is to grow the specialised skillsets of these partner, because customisation and implementation forms an important part of the business, wherein partners generate money. This requires certified and trained people with hands-on experience.
Was there a challenge for onboarding partners?
Getting partners was not a challenge for us, because the partner community was familiar with RPA as well as UiPath. However, we are looking at different sets of partners with specialised skillsets, having their own set of niche customers. To create this ecosystem of partners, we need to ramp up rapidly. We will have a complete ecosystem which will include ISVs, distributors, boutique partners. In the upcoming quarter, we are launching partner portals globally, to ensure that we have a good set of partners who are ready to invest with us. India is critical for us, because our worldwide product support is operated from Bengaluru.
Globally, we have an alliance strategy, but India is the first country, wherein we have started the distributor model. We have just onboarded Ingram Micro as our national distributor to drive business growth.
Please shed light on UiPath’s training and enablement programs.
We conduct individual training, support and marketing activities for our partners. These programs provide an organised platform for partner enablement and marketing. While we were doing training and enablement for a few partners, partner programs have helped us to extend this to a large base of partners. In 2019, we will do this on a larger scale, with the support from trainers.
Does the investments in the India market also include channel expansion?
Globally, we have announced US$ 20 million fund for partners, which will encompass partners who want to develop products embedded with RPA. We will also invest in channel expansion, marketing, partner enablement in India – not just for the channel ecosystem, but also for the student community. We also have UiPath Academy, but the focus is on online certification, which also includes sales enablement sessions. We have a three-week online self learning program; anyone with basic understanding of programming can learn the first three levels of the program. Currently, we have 250,000 UiPath certified people across the world and we plan to increase this to one million, with India contributing a large portion. Presently, we have partners who have multi-city presence, but we are also finding specialised partners who are focused on a specific city. For us, the number of partners doesn’t matter; we are focusing on market coverage.
BPO sector has been a huge adopter of RPA. Do you see RPA adoptions increasing in other industries?
BPOs and GICs remain high performing sectors for the RPA market, but the technology has definitely moved to other sectors as well: for instance, banks, insurance and pharmaceuticals companies, etc. RPA is not confined to a particular domain; using RPA, specific products can be built for a particular domain. In terms of Indian enterprises, RPA is a huge accelerator for digital transformation.
How important would be the role of the partner ecosystem to drive growth for UiPath; and what are your expectations from partners?
We haven’t set a number for growth. Globally, we cater to 3,000 customers and we are looking to raise the mark to 5,000 customers in 2019. Partners form a critical component to achieve this growth. While many partners are interested in associating with us, we need to find only the right ones. Our primary expectation from partners is awareness about the RPA industry and skillsets. Secondly, partners should have their own niche set of customers.