Balasubramanian: We have been holding this event for the last 2 quarters, and have received very good feedback. We are embarking upon the same in the third quarter. In the first phase, we covered close to 75 partners, and in the second, close to 100. Channel Yatra has been a complete rejuvenation in that sense. We give partners our inputs in their office, and they come back to our local head office and share their inputs. So, the two-way process has been great.
CW: How different is your channel strategy now as compared to the previous partner programmes in India?
Balasubramanian: Presently, we are talking less about products and more about customized solutions. This change in focus will help make customers profitable. The CIO's responsibility is getting closer to that of a CEO, in terms of strategic decision-making. Customers are taking complete solutions-based approach, and we have a very good product table on that. We have changed our language from products to solutions in our discussions with partners. Also, we have crafted specific solutions, like VDI and CCTV, and created bundles to showcase to our partners, who in turn, showcase them to the customers. When we started talking solutions in place of products, our demands grew much higher among tier-2 cities. Customers love to hear about solutions from somebody who is known for selling boxes.
CW: But don't you think a solution-driven conversation would be relevant more to SMBs since such an approach is already present in large enterprises?
Balasubramanian: It depends on the kind of solutions we are taking to the market. It's more of the mid-market and smaller businesses that go for complete consumption of solution-based offerings. But some of these new solutions can work across the spectrum. It also depends on the nature of buying. We need to make sure that we have the right price as many of our competitors are building block solutions too.
CW: How many partners do you have? How do you map your partners?
Balasubramanian: Our partner count runs in 100s. We have offices in places our competitors can't even imagine of. We plan to open offices in close to 50 more cities in order to enable the ecosystem. It's very important for IBM to set up branches in these newer cities and directly engage with the customers and partners there. In all these 50 cities, you will find IBM STG personnel, who will also be known as "channel brand specialists". As we speak, we are in the process of adding more partners in these cities. Our intent is to increase volume share and mindshare through the partner business. IBM is a one stop shop for hardware, software, and services. Moreover, at STG, we look at partners by the brand they align themselves to.
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