‘For better prospects, channel partners need to turn to services.’



After
starting his career  with Zenith Computers and working there for six years,
Rajesh Bakshi donned the garb of an entrepreneur by founding NetLink Business
Systems and Ranve Computers for dealing in hardware and software respectively.
Started with a modest investment of Rs 5,000, the company today boasts a
turnover of over Rs 42 crore. DQCI gets Rajesh’s insights on the channel
business and its future. 

What made you graduate from hardware to software?

The transition was a challenging job, which appealed to
me. Besides, it was easier for us to capture the international market as India
is a prominent player in the global software space. This presented an
opportunity that we could easily exploit. We had been in software development
and training since 1992, though we increased our focus in the area only in 1998.

We started the development of what I call the “industry
engines”. We chose to get into customer relationship management (CRM), IT
asset management and help desk. IT asset management at that time was very
complementary to our very own business of services and integration.

What exactly do you mean by IT asset management?

IT asset management deals with the purchase of IT assets
within an organization to cover its entire life-cycle. This includes purchase,
installation, deployment of the asset, warranty, depreciation and then
recovering its scrap value or to redeploy it productively within the
organization. Because, as we understand the industry and the IT products, it
never becomes scrap and can be redeployed.

I may find my 1 GHz notebook of no use to me after one
year, because I may be using heavy applications, but it can be redeployed for
use by a person in the organization, who uses only spreadsheets, or by someone
in the marketing department as a productive tool in making better presentations
and capturing data. So we deal with redeployment of the asset so as to increase
its life cycle.

How does it help to enhance the value derived from the
asset? 

The life cycle of an IT asset stands increased, which
means that it contributes productively to the organization for a greater length
of time, thus, saving on the purchase of new assets. And under the IT asset
management service that we provide to our customer, we have many modules that
help enhance the productivity of the asset too.

One of them is Web auditing. The application lies on the
server and whenever a user logs on to the network, the web auditing component is
activated and an audit of his machine is performed without actually disturbing
the user. What we have found out is that most of the users use memory and
hard-disk heavily, while the processor doesn’t get used to its maximum
potential.

This means that an average user never needs to migrate to
a higher processor. But most of the time a machine is replaced with the launch
of a new processor. So this kind of information will help the management take
informed decisions about IT asset purchase and upgradation.

How have you leveraged your learnings in the hardware
trade?

We were selling a lot many products from Cisco, Compaq,
Microsoft and other networking companies. Today what we do is more related to
services and software. So in a way it is a natural extension.

We have however productized the service by launching the
first service product in the industry, called the TIIMS or total IT
infrastructure management services. The product is driven by our proprietary
3DO–design, deploy, deliver and optimize–model.

Under ‘design’ we work on network planning and design,
fault tolerance planning for the network, data sizing and storage networks and
contingency planning. Under ‘deploy’ we deploy different types of processes
around asset management like standardization of IT practices, service level
agreement (SLA) negotiation and management and cover various other related
aspects.

Under ‘deliver’ we undertake network audits, storage
audits, facility management, fault tolerance management and so on. And finally
under ‘optimize’ we undertake OS optimization and migration, application
optimization and IT asset life-cycle optimization. So in a nutshell we are a
service company with a focus on IT assets.

All channel partners are selling IT assets, so how can
the channel benefit from your product offering?

The 3DO model is delivered through a powerful application
that we have developed, called the IntelliAsset. It is a complete IT asset
management application and comes with an IntelliDesk, which is a help desk. If
the partner has a system to deliver services to its customers, then this is a
powerful tool that will help them make their services quantifiable and
accountable. The services will therefore become much better.

For better prospects, channel partners have to turn to
services. You cannot think of selling a product and forget about it. You need to
be close to the customer for the life cycle of the product. And only then can
one expect a customer to look positively at the channel partner.

We shifted our entire focus to services one-and-a-half
year ago and today we have a good number of customers for our services. And they
are much more happy and delighted than they were when we were selling only
products to them. Services contribute half of our turnover today but by 2003 we
want this to be 80 percent.

Are you educating the channel partners about the
availability of such tools that can help them move up the value chain?

We are on the verge of tying up with a few distributors,
who in turn would go to channel partners and offer these tools. We will train
and help partners directly, while the logistics will be looked after by the
distributors. So we would retain our focus in the area of developing better and
more powerful tools.

We already have about 25 large corporate houses as our
clients for these tools. We will focus on them and keep increasing our
business-value for them. The results so far have been very good. And now
customers are getting educated about the concept and are asking for IT asset
management.

We put our own practice managers to work with a team of
clients’ engineers to manage the assets. Besides, the clients’ engineers are
trained to avoid dependence on us. We are planning a seminar in October this
year and hope to see about 70 channel partners attend it.

What are your future plans?

We are already present in Malaysia and planning an office
in Singapore by the end of this year. We will cater to the Middle East market
from India itself with resident engineers there. The next step would be the US
and the European markets, where we will open wholly owned subsidiaries.

Do you think there is a need for a national
association for channel partners?

Definitely, there is a need for such a forum. If nothing
else, the body can bring the partners together once or twice a year to share
different solutions and best practices. No company can be present in all cities.
But channel partners are there across the country and they can share
infrastructure and leverage each others strengths. This will help create a
win-win situation. And interaction always brings learning.

MOHIT CHABBRA in New Delhi

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