‘We provide flexibility to our partners to move up or down the scale of programs.’

With over nine years of experience in IT and telecom, Joy Ghosh has been instrumental in setting up Symantec’s operations in India. As country manager, his responsibilities include business development and expansion. He also manages distribution, partnerships with reseller and OEM channels, and marketing operations. Before joining Symantec, Joy was business manager at Comsat Max and had earlier worked with Wipro Infotech’s marketing team. He tells DQCI why Symantec wants to go strong on partner programs.

Why does Symantec want to go strong with partner programs at this juncture?

We are now the only security company to offer end-to-end solutions in all the four categories of the security market viz. anti-virus, firewalls, intrusion prevention and vulnerability assessment. The Internet security market is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry. As per IDC, it will go up to 15-16 billion dollar in the next two-three years from five billion dollars today. 

There is a shortage of internet security professionals worldwide and so we would like our partners to get the expertise on Internet security concepts, products and solutions so as to capture the market. For this purpose, we have started training programs for our partners.

What are the important features of these programs?

First, these are globally consistent programs, meaning customers all over the world, will see the same sort of expertise being brought to them by our partners. 

Second, these programs are based on a revenue generation model. Through these programs, we want to enhance and leverage on our partners’ skills, who would go and tap a 15 billion dollar market.

Third, we are launching training and certification programs to ensure that partners and customers carry the Symantec stamp on their expertise. 

Which different partner programs do you have today?

We have a total of five programs. The first is the enterprise security partner program where we look for the highest level of commitment from the partner in terms of the kind of people he/she employs and revenue generation. 

Then we have the security partner and the solution partner. They have access to all Symantec products while the other channel partners do not have the same kind of access. This ensures that the mission-critical products are handled only by those who have the expertise in security.

At the third level, we have the enterprise sales partners who take our anti-virus and firewall products to the market. The fourth and fifth category of partners focus on the consumer market and these are Symantec premier software partners and Symantec software partners. 

What terms and conditions have to be met by Symantec partners?

We look at the basic profile of the organization, the number of years they have spent in a particular business and their financial stability.

We know many of our partners since we have worked with them in the past. So we have our own qualitative measures to assess them. We definitely look at the vision of our partners to be in the Internet security area. 

If what they want to do with us is high on their priority, then yes, we are interested in them as partners. Our partners have to be a very close fit between what we want to achieve in the market and what they want to achieve. 

Do you demand financial commitments from your partners?

Revenue commitment yes, but there is no fee for joining any of the programs. 

With your new programs are you trying to increase the number of partners? 

I’ll not call this an attempt to increase the number of partners. We are actually reducing. We have five different profiles instead of one and in each profile, the needs are different and so are the commitments. We want to put more focus on relationships and make them manageable. 

So far we had 18 or 19 partners in the enterprise space, which we want to reduce to 15. At the channel level, we had around 60 partners, which we have presently reduced to 40. Though we may keep adding partners to this profile down the line, I don’t see drastic increase in the numbers at the top three profiles over the next 12 months. 

What are Symantec’s strengths vis-a-vis the channel?

Worldwide and also in India, our greatest strength is the transparency in our dealings with the channel. The days of exclusivity are gone. Our channel partners are not exclusive to us and vice versa. In this situation and with the market pressures being what it is, it is very important to maintain honesty in our relationships. 

The other strength we have brought to the market is our infrastructure. We came to India in a big way, with pre-sales training people, post-sales centers, and a sales and marketing team and have grown over 150 percent in the last seven quarters. 

We have supported our channel to ensure that they feel excited about doing business with us. We have run a lot of marketing campaigns and introduced good rebate programs apart from providing technical and sales support.

And weaknesses?

We are not as flexible on pricing as some of our competitors. Some channel partners see this as a weakness to which I don’t necessarily agree. For me, it is a position of strength. If I have got the leading market share selling at a premium, then we are not over-priced. We are also slightly firm on policies.

What is being done to train channel partners?

The training will be available at authorized training centers. The certification is valid for 18 months after which partners have to be re-certified as products keep changing. 

Will training be free or partners have to pay for that?

That is still not decided, but in all probability partners will have to pay and they don’t seem to be having a problem with that. We will keep the fee at realistic levels in line with general training and certification in India. 

Partners keep complaining about shrinking margins. How much money are partners making on Symantec products?

In the license business, a partner makes anything from 25 to 30 percent, which is big money. And in box market, which is is very competitive, money is made more on volume sales, which again is quite reasonable. 

How are you tackling piracy?

We run anti-piracy campaigns with BSA and NASSCOM and have done direct mailer to few thousand corporates in India along with Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk, educating them on the risks of pirating software. 

We do a lot of programs for creating market awareness on piracy. The response has been good. But there is still a long way to go before piracy is brought down.

How much of your business is affected by piracy?

The piracy level is different from country to country. In China it is higher than 90 percent, in US it is around 25 percent. For India, NASSCOM puts the figure at 60 percent. My personal feeling is that the figure is slightly higher for our business specially in the consumer market. 

Sylvester Lobo in Mumbai

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