Forcepoint is the leading user and data protection cybersecurity company, entrusted to safeguard organisations while driving digital transformation and growth. In an exclusive interview with DQ Channels, Ajay Dubey, Country and Channel Head, Forcepoint India and SAARC shared deep insights on Forcepoint’s GTM strategies, partner programs and how Forcepoint helped partners sustain their businesses during COVID 19.
How has COVID-19/lockdown affected Forcepoint’s business in India and Globally?
At Forcepoint, we place the health and safety of the community as a primary concern. Most of our offices are shut as per local government guidelines and employees are working from home in response to current events.
We have enacted our emergency preparedness plan and stand fully engaged to manage through the current threat. Our work from home capability allows for comprehensive duplication of office capabilities. This includes our sales, professional services, technical support, core operations, and product engineering, teams. Throughout this unfolding situation, Forcepoint remains committed to our employees, customers and partners for their continued success.
Forcepoint’s technologies and solutions are built for critical times like the present COVID-19 situation. Forcepoint offers human-centric cybersecurity solutions for enterprise and mid-market organisations and distributed networks that safeguard uses and data. Our approach is around understanding what really matters most to organisations, which is their people and their interactions with content and critical data. The premise that users could access data from anywhere, irrespective of the location (they may not necessarily be in one office location — they could be in a branch, at a customer location, at home, airport, or anywhere). Data could also be residing anywhere — in the data center within the same office, or in an outsourced data center, or as many customers prefer to continuously move their data to the cloud.
What recent developments have been done in Forcepoint?
We have launched the industry’s first true data-centric Dynamic Edge Protection suite of SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) solutions, featuring Cloud Security Gateway and Private Access. With these two solutions, we enable enterprises to transform their security and networking platforms converge and move to the cloud, instead of having networking and security components in the branch offices for a distributed company. This simplifies connectivity and unifies security policy to support the needs of digital business transformation, edge computing and workforce mobility. Further, these solutions offer the industry’s most comprehensive suite of converged capabilities that eliminate the need for multiple point products with simplified management, reporting and compliance, and reduced cost of ownership. It has been a very exciting journey for us as we launched these products on July 27th, and there is super excitement in the market around these technologies and products. We are looking forward to serving our customers by integrating their networks into a SASE platform.
How has Forcepoint revamped its GTM and marketing strategy in India?
We are a 100% channel company and we have invested to strengthen the channel team in India. We have hired dedicated channel managers for the west, the north and the south to drive engagement with a broader set of channel partners, which is a very important part of our business. We have quadrupled our investments in channels, and are getting extremely good returns. This has been our revamped GTM or marketing strategy. We also help our channel partners sell more. We have launched channel sales plays. These are essential tools available to our partners that enables them to sell deeper to our mutual customers.
During the COVID-19 times, it is very difficult for our partners to go and acquire new customers, but they can offer more products to our existing customers, which in turn can bring more ROI to them.
How much do you think about the profitability of partners during the COVID-19 situation?
We had the opportunity to talk to various kinds of partners, from large value-added resellers to small value-added resellers and system integrators. Based on my interaction across the spectrum of partners, I find that channels that were large ‘box pushers’ suffered quite a bit because COVID-19 halted their delivery schedules. People couldn’t deliver and could not bill or get paid on time. On the other end of the spectrum lie our cloud partners who are into remote infrastructure management and ready to capitalize on this opportunity. COVID-19 came as a blessing in disguise to some of these partners and they have done quite well. Much better than what they would have done otherwise. But the answer lies somewhere in between these two extremes. In general, I find that the profitability of partners is largely dependent on the amount of hardware they sell – the more hardware they sell, the less profitable they are.
Which territories in India have penetrated through partners and how much did it help you in generating business?
We have broken down the country into multiple geographies and in most of these geographies, we have our own sales representatives. Our direct sales team engages only with the enterprise market. Mid and SMB markets are left to our channel partners. This gives our partners and distributors a lot of headroom to engage with the mid-market to create opportunities.
What are the various training programs for Forcepoint channel partners?
We started focusing on partner training programs in the months of May and June when COVID-19 was starting to attain peak. We knew a lot of our partners were going to be locked up and working from home. Still, we reached out to them and successfully completed about 1200 partner certifications online. This helped skill our partners better who could then talk to their customers about additional features or licenses or seats. At the end of the day, these training were very fruitful for us.
What is the criterion for selecting partners?
We believe partnership is a two-way track where there is no one-way traffic. We like to engage with partners who like to invest their time and effort with us. The first thing we evaluate is how much time a partner can dedicate to us. We don’t monitor investments by our partners, but we look at time and effort that they’re put in with us. There are ways and means to measure this. Once we know a partner is serious and willing to invest his time and effort, we reciprocate. We invest an equal amount of time and effort in building that relationship. Once we see partners have started serving a couple of customers, things begin to roll in an independent way. And these are the partners who eventually become very successful.
What are the different schemes/ incentives programs for partners?
At Forcepoint, we have a lot of incentive programs. We are offering trainings, which are at no cost, to our partners to equip themselves better. These trainings were charged earlier. We are doing channel sales plays, which are enablement tools for partners to sell deeper into our existing mutual accounts. Then there’s a milestone-based incentive scheme (in dollar value or redeemable gifts) for partners to bring in new opportunities and create a pipeline. Finally, we have selected a few partners for our one-rupee-for-one-dollar program. In this, for the number of dollars of business a partner brings in, we give them back that many rupees as an incentive. So, if you get a $20,000 deal, then the partner rep makes 20,000 rupees as an incentive. It depends on the deal size.
What are the future plans for Forcepoint India in the coming years?
We are super excited at Forcepoint and have planned a lot of things. We believe users and data will be the two fundamental building blocks. Users can be anywhere, and data can be everywhere. Users can access data irrespective of their location in a secure way. Our plan for Forcepoint India is to bring in human-centric security tools and technologies in a very simplified way. Most of it would be cloud-delivered so our customers won’t have to invest in hardware and resources to run these solutions. These are simple to use and simple to consume technologies. It’s like a complex phone that looks simple and easy from outside but inside the mechanism to make that happen is quite complex. Our solutions operate similarly. As we continue down the path towards a SASE, cloud-powered future, we are extending the platform to offer products and services (like Dynamic Data Protection and enabling risk adaptive security across the portfolio) via the cloud. Cloud Security Gateway and Forcepoint Private Access represent our initial steps toward this future. Cloud Security Gateway and Forcepoint Private Access represent our initial steps toward this future.