We are seeking partners with servicing capabilities

DQC News Bureau
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Since he took over the reins of Novell India, Sandeep Menon is clear that

he is looking for partners who have requisite interest in Novell's solutions and

the structure to support a services delivery model. excerpts from the interview


How did you change this perception of Novell from a Netware company to one

which provides open source enterprise solutions?

In late 2005, Novell came into India with direct presence and later acquired

Suse Linux. This was a visionary acquisition because the management had figured

out that we are in the infrastructure software space and Netware was extremely

popular. But as a product, Netware had also matured. It was bringing in cash but

it was not a growth engine anymore. About the same time, the Linux market was


Thereafter, Novell spent couple of years coming to grips with the open source

business, which is very different from the proprietary software business. There

was a period where there was a lot of change and flux. However, within a year it

stabilized and then with the help of the new management, we began rebuilding the

business using Suse Linux brand as the foundation.


Is this when Novell decided to opt for a channel transformation?

Earlier, if you had a huge MNC with a flagship product, you went out and

sold it yourself. But now one has to build a sales ecosystem.

This is very complex game as you have to juggle six to seven distinct players

at the same time. Our ecosystem comprises of large SIs who fulfill government

projects. The second is solution providers or tier-I partners. Unlike the

traditional shrink wrapped products for which we would look at resellers, we

sought those partners with service capabilities.

Keeping that in mind, how are you tapping the indirect channel?

Our Indian operations have been given green signal to invest in all our

go-to-market channels. We have been given hard dollars to establish a complete

channel ecosystem development program. It is interesting because in the past we

were building reference cases where all our guys were spending time with

end-customers. Now, we are hiring dedicated resources and and restructuring our

team. We are also appointing global business managers who can work with global

SIs for international business as well. Then we look at the tier-I partner

network-for every four or five partners, we will assign a partner manager, who

makes his money by getting his supervisees business. He can't sell to any other



Having A Life Outside of Work


Menon is one of the few yuppie professionals who have found the mantra for a

good work life balance. Unlike most high-flying executives whose lives

revolve around boardroom battles, he has lot of interests outside the

office. These include trekking and other adventure sports.

His passion, however, has been

for biking as he is avidly into bike touring. He was one of the founders of

the Bangalore Bullet Bike Club called the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club,

which has almost 100 plus members. Often his club members and he hit the

road in complete biker gear, which includes imported armoured jackets and

riding outfit. They then take off for cross country trips, which include

exotic locations like the Himalayas, far flung villages in Bhutan and

Arunachal Pradesh. He usually provisions for one such week long trip every

year. This according to him is a great way to learn about India. In fact a

lot of insights he gained during these traipses have helped him realize

cities of potential for Novell's business.

An interesting aspect of Menon

is that he wants his own subordinates to cultivate similar passions in life

and therefore he hates calling them after 8

unless there is an emergency. He believes that an executive should have a

well rounded personal life with many interests because only a relaxed person

can come up with creative solutions and ideas in business.

How will you identify the right services solution provider, because

majority of them are still hardware sellers?

The average reseller profile in India has been of pure reselling even when

it comes to software. We had an intensive exercise where we identified 20

players in India. We went to some of the traditionally reselling names. And

because their entire business was a large volume set up, it was difficult to

adopt a services approach. The top management was willing but below that layer,

the field staff is oriented differently.

We hired a consultant who designed a framework on how to select partners and

he came up with a map on partners we should invest in. Of the 20 names we

finally picked up, most were emerging players who were clear that they want to

be in the service delivery space and infrastructure software is a component of



Isn't this strategy risky?

The good part of this is that their mindset is in the right direction. The

downside is that they often need a lot of hand holding as they are smaller

engines. So we have set aside budgeting only for this. Our marketing budget has

gone up by 300 percent and 80 percent of this has to be spent on channel

co-marketing programs.

I don't think this is a risky strategy because the risks are spread. On one

hand we have the large SIs like IBM and HP who are big cash engines that

continue to run. At the reseller level we have taken a conscious decision to say

that this partner has a great account control. If he does not have the interest

and the structure to support a services delivery model then we may not want to

work with them.

Vinita Bhatia