Exclusive Interaction-Pankaj Lulla, Director, Partners Cisco India-SAARC

We asked Cisco about their plans to help the Partners through the Corona crisis. Pankaj Lulla, Director, Partners & Services, Cisco India  & SAARC, responded to our queries.

How does Cisco plan to resolve IT partners’ challenges in 2020?

The pandemic has created a bevy of challenges for partners. The first was access to the tools and technologies needed to help their teams and their customers stay safe and productive. Here, we enabled free access to cloud-based offerings across our security and collaboration portfolios.

Next, many of our partners are currently facing a slowdown in their cash flows and business. Through Cisco Capital, we aimed to ease their financial burden by providing a broad range of flexible payment solutions to customers, allowing partners to receive payments on time. Additionally, to help their teams understand what the new normal means for them and how to capitalise on it, we engaged with more than 400 partners over 150+ Cisco-led enabling collaboration sessions across India and the SAARC nations, assisting them in creating offerings for secure work from home with our Webex and security platforms.

We have also reassured our partners that their Cisco certifications, specialisations and authorisations will not be impacted during this time, even if they cannot complete their training or take exams.

Lastly, we have a range of programmes granting our partners access to the right technologies and imparting essential skills to help them prepare to serve customers in the post-pandemic world.

Partners are worried about E-commerce taking away a large share of their market. What are your thoughts?

While one of the most disruptive events the world has ever witnessed, the pandemic has also accelerated digitisation by a few years. Now, with technology becoming fundamental to the way we work, learn, consume, transact and connect, many organisations have realised that whether to go digital is no longer a question. As a result, we are seeing the rise of disruptive digital business models across healthcare, education, banking, entertainment, agriculture etc.

This spells tremendous opportunity for partners, creating a wider base of consumers and opening new avenues for growth. However, to capitalise on it, they must embrace digital technologies to improve operational efficiencies and cement their position in the new normal. I believe that ultimately, disruption catalyses innovation and creates possibilities and I am excited to see how disruptive partners will become post-COVID.

Partners are attempting to open E-stores to stay connected to their customers. How does Cisco view it and how is Cisco supporting them in this venture?

As consumers become increasingly dispersed, distributed and digital, partners are transforming to maximise their customer outreach strategies. Our partners are looking at digitising their operations to reduce costs and improve efficiencies and we are well-positioned to help them capture the opportunities of the next normal.

We have been evolving our channel programmes to allow partners to capture new markets, develop digital skillsets and differentiate themselves in the market. As a part of this evolution, we have been dedicated to increasing partner value exchange to help them adapt to fast-moving market trends and customer needs while making it easier to work with Cisco.

Our partner programmes are aimed at three key areas – recognising strengths, refreshing to digital and moving to lifecycle and recurring revenue.

  • The Cisco Black Belt programme is a simplified enabling framework to help partner sales representatives and engineers understand Cisco’s competitive advantage and how our solutions stand against the competition. It is delivered in a virtual environment to provide scale and agility and is on-demand for a self-paced experience. India currently has the highest adoption of the Black Belt program.
  • The “X-sell” programme arms partners with improved knowledge and skills through sales development practice and training in the partner’s region to help them create, lead and drive sales.
  • We are also working with our partners to pair their capabilities with our architecture through the Practice Development programme. This involves understanding the ecosystem within which they are operating to create solutions that they can take to the marketplace.

Another important part of enhancing our partners’ capabilities is assisting them in building their CX practice. We have been working with them to fine tune their CX practices and become CX specialised. The CX specialisation for partners mirrors Cisco’s capabilities in terms of structure, process, and tools. The updated CX portfolio includes BCS 3.0, Solution Support, Software Support, Cisco Managed Services.

Is Cisco supporting the IT Partners by giving them marketing support? In what ways?

 Our partners serve as the bridge to diverse and widespread customers across the country. We are as dedicated as ever to helping our partners perform and transform. We frequently conduct our Cisco Partner Summit to engage with our partner ecosystem and decipher their branding and marketing challenges. We provide them with relevant training modules and effective and evolving marketing strategies.

Our flagship marketing programme for our partners, “Marketing Velocity”, is an educational gateway for our partners to learn about the latest marketing practices. We aim to enable them to harness technologies that are tailor-made for them. To help our partners stay at par with the digital shift, we have announced an expansion of our Marketing Velocity brand that connects and integrates Cisco’s existing best-in-class capabilities under one offering. This is a first-ever comprehensive program of its kind to support our partners’ digital transformation. The expansion will enable partners’ end to end, from refreshing their marketing practices to providing them with marketing enabling tools to accelerate their field activation.

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