‘Cisco will invest in its channel partners to create sustainable business models.’

Manoj Chugh is an industry veteran of 18 years. As President of Cisco Systems for India & SAARC Region, he is looking after one of the company’s fastest growing markets in the world. An IIT graduate, Manoj started his career at HCL and then went on to join Wipro, where his tenure lasted 14 years. DQCI caught up with him to understand how the company is getting set to deal with the recession in the market. 

How is Cisco gearing up to face the market slowdown? 

While we cannot predict transitions in the economy, it is important for us to stay focused on what we can control. This means a continued dedication to our customer’s success, profitable market share growth, teamwork, and working closer with our partners and technology leadership.

Cisco is an inherently strong company, with more than US $17 billion in reserves. It is confident of retaining and growing its market share in the current scenario because global customers prefer to go with a tried and tested brand in these trying times.

Therefore, when the market bounces back, Cisco will emerge stronger than before. 

There have been reports of layoffs and cutting down of costs at Cisco? Will these measures be taken in India as well? 

The layoffs that had been announced by Cisco Systems were in the month of April. The announcement was about reducing our work force by 8,500 employees on a worldwide basis. 

In what ways has the US slowdown hit the Indian IT industry? 

India today plays an important role in the global IT economy. Our skills and talent are well recognized. The US slowdown has had a global impact. This notwithstanding, the reaction of the Indian IT industry to the situation has been admirable. 

In spite of all profit warnings and cuts in earnings estimates, Indian firms have stayed focused. I am confident that the country will emerge from the current slowdown as a stronger, more mature economy.

What is Cisco’s vision for its channel partners? 

Cisco and it’s partners will make our customers successful in the Internet economy by building solutions for competitive advantage. we will invest in our channel partners with a strategy to help create sustainable business models based on end-end solutions and importantly, a strong focus on customer satisfaction. 

Cisco’s channel strategy now focuses on certification and specialization programs to gear partners for relentless customer service and support. This is a program recently announced by Cisco where the partners will have to specialize in one or more technologies – WAN switching, IP telephony, VPN, security, storage network, network management, wireless LAN and voice access in line with their business and focus area.

Where does the channel fit in Cisco’s aggressive e-commerce strategies? 

In 2000, close to 90 percent of Cisco’s $18.9 billion revenues was driven through partners, up from 36 percent four years ago. Channels have played a pivotal role in Cisco’s success.

What strategy Cisco is adopting to enhance its business through channels? 

Cisco’s channel program supports and trains their channel partners by specialization and certification to sell solutions, rather than pushing boxes. This gives them a competitive advantage and opportunity to differentiate by providing value-added services.

What are Cisco’s strengths vis-à-vis the channels? 

The SMB in India represents one of the fastest growing segments for Cisco India. This comprises of medium size organizations that need to be networked within the office, as well inter-network their various offices. 

The end user is new to networking and needs a lot of handholding. The number of such customers is large and they are spread over a large territory and the support and the training requirements for the end user are higher than other large organizations. 

Cisco addresses this segment through Cisco authorized resellers — almost 1200 of them, who are present in more than 100 cities. For addressing some of the complex requirements, we have the premier resellers who are capable of providing the highest levels of sales and post sale support to the end user.

Cisco’s strategy has been to develop a reliable and competent channel structure of resellers who can reach out more effectively to these customers. We have invested in training our channel partners in our latest technologies and also in helping them develop business models, which will make them successful. We strive to instill the same focus on customer service and customer delight that we have into our channels so that their customers will have a better all-round experience. 

Cisco channel partner program is a comprehensive program that enables partners to skill themselves in the desired technologies to provide state of art solutions for our customers thus giving them a competitive edge. 

Training is a critical issue for channels. How does Cisco ensure that its channel is constantly updated? 

Cisco’s commitment to keep its channels partners ahead of the technology curve is built around three core pillars – industry leading product technologies and solutions, a flexible partner specialization program and training. We provide a variety of training for our partners through workshops, web-based training and online learning.

Recently Cisco announced a partner specialization program, which will allow our partners to develop and demonstrate their expertise in specific technologies.

Cisco has also updated its certification program which is called ‘Cisco Channel Partner Program’ to support current industry challenges the partners are faced with.

What measures are you taking to support the channel on warranty issues? 

Cisco’s support infrastructure has been developed to provide transparent support to Cisco’s global user base, irrespective of the user location. These include the following. One, Cisco Connection Online or CCO access comprises of a host of technical self-help tools, exhaustive documentation, collation of white papers, tools for call logging, tracking. 

Two, Technical Assistance Center or TAC access provides 24x7x365 worldwide direct access to Cisco technical expertise for problem resolution support and critical problem escalation. TAC can be accessed using the CCO, email or on phone. From India a toll free number 000 117 – 888 861 6453 can be used to access
TAC.

The levels of access allowed are varied as per end-user entitlement. The access levels include, public, reseller, partner, direct customer and partner initiated customer access and employee access.

In addition to these , a specific email ID has been created for supporting the Indian reseller community —
smbindia@cisco.com 

With bottom lines under immense pressure, what steps are you taking to provide satisfactory margins to the channel?

Cisco works actively in training our partner organizations so as to enable them to provide customers with comprehensive end-end solutions. Our goal is to help customers optimize their networking investments. 

Specialization and certification is enabled through the Cisco University Program. This program imparts the skills needed by our partners to help them provide consulting support to customers. Our partners can then design the ideal solution set which best fits individual customer requirements. 

Mohit Chabbra in New Delhi

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