‘Working closely with channels on every deal has been fruitful

He manages one of the largest channel networks in the
country as the Group Product Manager of Wipro ePeripherals. Dependra Mathur, is
the brains behind the building of value added channel for the company. He
spearheads Wipro ePeripherals’s channel and business strategy and has also
catalyzed the process in establishing channel bondage and discovering a new
dimension in traditional marketing. In an interview with CI, Dependra outlines
his plans for the channel.


How big is your distribution network today?

Wipro was the pioneer in developing channels when the rest of
the country was considering channels to be a concept for amateurs. At that time,
Wipro took its first step towards this concept. That was a good advantage, which
later helped us build our channel network. Today, about 70 percent of our
business, which is about Rs 240 crore, is generated through our channel network.

We are a channel centric company and we see a lot of
interdependence between the channels and Wipro ePeripherals division. We have
grown steadily from a Rs. 40 crore turnover in 1992, to Rs 240 crore this year
in a big way and this has influenced the growth in our channel network. What
started off with a few dealers in early eighties has grown slowly and steadily
over the years. Now our first level channel partners are spread over 60
locations and we are found in multiple locations through our second level
channel partners.

How have you been able to develop this network?

Piling channels with schemes cannot develop them. We believe
that channels can only be developed with dedicated effort and by giving them
inputs on how to make the best out of business. Channels are our biggest
advantage and we believe that strengthening this network would strengthen our
product hold in the market. Our vision of working closely on every customer
accounts and ensuring customer satisfaction has been fruitful to our channel
success.

What are your expectations from channel partners?

Selling is a chain, which revolves around the manufacturer,
the vendor, the distributor, service centers and end users. Every person in this
chain has to value add. And value addition is just not picking up a product and
selling it. Our expectation from our channel partners is to look for innovative
ideas to value add every deal together with customer satisfaction.

What are the terms and conditions to become your channel
partner?

The first criteria is existence of a similar business
wavelength. We measure a prospective channel partner on the basis of his skills,
ability, knowledge, and attitude. His aggressiveness, will to succeed,
enthusiasm and fastness also play an important role in enveloping him in our
family. Our training programs, to certain extent, help channels to improve their
product knowledge and the latest happenings at Wipro.

What kind of training do you provide to channels?

Our product training help channels update their information
about latest products and technologies. This training is more aimed at the
frontline sales personnel of our channel partners. Alongside this, on the second
level we also organize training programs at periodic intervals, which would be
aimed at the top-level managers or the owner levels. This training covers
different directions of internal operations such as finance, HR and marketing
strategies.

Channels believe that valuable services like training and
support are the most important factors in home and SOHO segments. Parallel to
these programs we offer extensive training in different areas, which covers
product awareness and strategic directions.

What problems do you face while doing business with channels?
And how do you address these problems?

Geographic locations can often make it difficult to reach out
to channels and end users. Our annual meet and training programs at times tend
to bring the distances closer and encourage them at all levels to support each
other. We also rework our policies based on the feedback received by us from
channels. This strategy of reworking our policy patches the problems to larger
extent.

Also our joint program schemes like joint promotional
programs, joint marketing program draws us closer to our channels.

What are the strengths and weaknesses with respect to
the channels?

Our channels are our biggest strength. Our immediate response
to their grievances has helped us in strengthening the bondage between channels.
Another area of strength is the periodic training program that we conduct at
equal intervals. Our biggest strength has been our decade old experience in
creating our brand name in the market and our large network has added another
feather to our success.

What are your products sold by the channel currently?

The entire range of Wipro dot matrix printers, inkjet
printers, cartridges, laser printers, etc. are sold by channels.

Increasingly, the channel has been complaining of inadequate
margins in business. Are you providing satisfactory margins to channels?

We are aware of these complaints. Competition is only going
to get fiercer and a drop in margins are increasingly bound to affect channels.
Wipro’s focus on value-added services and innovation has helped in wiping out
these complaints. I feel that the main cause behind dissatisfaction is because
of the mismatch between the vendors, distributors and end users. At Wipro we
have been trying to eliminate this block from the market. And with our vision to
become the largest company in the peripherals market with emphasizes on customer
focus, our external and internal processes should make the dealing with our
channels more effective.

Sunila Paul Bangalore

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