How does CommVault stack up against the competition?
Pradhan: Our Simpana platform competes with Symantec, IBM, HP, and EMC. As a new player, we consciously choose to fight these battles, and have been successful in displacing each one of our competitors from several enterprise accounts.
The four vendors have reasonably good products, and they were relevant to the ecosystem two decades ago. But there have been many changes in storage management, and the enterprise environment. Earlier, issues like compliance were not as serious as the are today. IM and e-mail were not a part of business communication few years ago. The competitions’ products have stretched to a point where more re-engineering is not commercially viable. We take into cognizance what they offer, and plug gaps through our Simpana architecture.
Why should customers choose Simpana over competing products?
Pradhan: If an enterprise wants back up, archival (file or e-mail), de-duplication, or e-discovery, then they require five to six different storage products. In most scenarios, the products seldom talk to each other and there is a need for different admin heads (adding to overhead costs). CommVault took the bold decision of creating a single platform—Simpana— which contains individually licensable modules to analyze, replicate, protect, archive, and search data. The modules talk to one another effortlessly, making the platform an effective, organically-integrated data management solution.
Then there’s the fact that CIOs continue to spend on storage. Though it has become cheaper, it isn’t free. There’s a recurring cost associated with maintaining data as you need tools to execute de-dupe or archival to manage it. With Simpana, CIOs don’t have to worry about added costs associated with future storage growth. Today, when an enterprise’s back up window goes beyond 50 to 100 hours, CIOs want to compress data and get back up at the earliest. Therefore, CommVault becomes the automatic choice.
What is the company’s sweet spot, from an enterprise size and vertical perspective?
Pradhan: Our technology can operate across the stack, irrespective of the size of an enterprise. However, the enterprise segment is our sweet spot as their pain points are much bigger due to the size of the data they manage. That said, we also have SME customers.
Simpana has a horizontal appeal, and we have had wins in the automotive, telecom, manufacturing, and healthcare verticals. For complex ERP scenarios, which are a reality in the financial and manufacturing verticals, we become relevant to customers by providing a technology advantage.
Given the colossal amounts of data they produce, shouldn’t national and state e-Government projects be a focus area?
Pradhan: We are consciously underplaying the government sector for now because sales cycles are too long. Those accounts require lot of effort, time and investment, and we do not have the bandwidth. However, we do have wins in the space, including an elite set of organizations under CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research). We first need to build credibility and product visibility across the private segment. Right now government is on a slow burner, but we will fuel it more next year.
What is your partner approach—and experience—been like?
Pradhan: We have a 100 percent channel-driven model, and Inflow is our India distributor. We have OEM relationships with Dell and Hitachi, as they have, in a way, white labeled our products. We also work with large SIs like HCL, TCS, Wipro, and Infosys as they drive large government, PSU and private projects.
Till we came into play, tier-II partners were working with other storage vendors. Gradually, some of them cut back from selling competing products or increased their engagement with us. We are addressing this important community through our participation in various tech summits.
The most active vehicle is the tier-II channel. Last year, almost 70 percent of our Indian revenues were derived through this channel. To execute large a number of transactions and articulate value faster to customers, our dependency on tier-II channels is high. This route gives us a wide geographical reach, and the partners have long-term relationships with their top enterprise customers.
How many channel partners would suffice for a country like India?
Pradhan: The plan is not to exceed 100 partners for India and Sri Lanka, as too many partners ends up commoditizing a product. The traditional IT consumption cities have expanded beyond the top nine to places like Nagpur, Pune, Nashik, Lucknow, and towns in Kerala and Orissa among others. Hence, the roadmap is to have a geographic spread of partners.
Which revenue model is more popular with modern organizations: On-premise or the cloud?
Pradhan: On-premise is popular as it follows traditional licensing according to infrastructure, servers, storage, and etcetera. The CLA (capacity license agreement) model introduced two years ago, priced by the size of data, is finding more acceptance. Customers choose a model depending on what makes business sense for them rather than what makes business sense to us.
The managed services provider (MSP) model has been our strength as RackSpace uses Simpana at the back end. MSPs charge a subscription to their customers and we charge MSPs. The consortium of HP partners—All Time IT Solutions—has CommVault as their storage partner. With the current drive towards the cloud, both SMBs and enterprises prefer the MSP model. We proactively introduced the MSP model few years ago when most competitors were far from doing so.
Fortunately, we have a technical edge over the competition in terms of how well the product works in a virtualized environment. We also have strong mobility solutions that work from desktops, laptops, and tablets to servers. CommVault puts together solution that works in the right manner at the customer end, across virtualized or mobile environments.
How do you intend to inculcate trust across the partner community and customers in India?
Pradhan: We have three teams in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Each has a regional director, with sales executives supported by pre-sales persons. There is another team which is purely for tier-II channel partners, with sales and pre-sales executives.
We have a 300-plus team in the development center in Hyderabad, and have added another one in Bangalore. This gives customers confidence as many still believe in the ‘touch and feel’ approach. We also provide a technology roadmap to strategic customers. This demonstrates our commitment to the region, and that we are not a fly-by-night operator.