Dell EMC merger opens colossal opportunities for HPE Channels: Barun Lala
The market uncertainty of tech OEMs is gravitating channels to our rock-solid partner framework and well-grounded GTM, says Channel Chief Barun Lala of HPE India.

HPE is addressing the digital transformation wave as it moves into FY17 with an overall gamut of channel infrastructure, partner ready framework and enhancing skillsets for the company’s four transformation areas.

HPE India has an active partner network of 150 plus partners including 13 platinum partners, 40 gold partners and the remaining in silver category. ChannelWorld India spoke at length with Barun Lala, Director – Indirect Sales, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) India on company’s strategy, technology blueprint and channel roadmap. More than 75% of HPE enterprise business happens through partner ecosystem that makes it an extremely important route to market, said Barun responsible for Channel and SMB business for HPE India.

Edited Excerpts.

This September HPE global conference and the launch of DELL EMC barely had a week’s gap. What is the channel community's reaction to the diverse GTM of two tech giants?  

The HPE global partner conference in September this year, conveyed three key aspects on accelerated growth, innovation and profitability. Out of 1330 global partners and 129 partners from APAC, there were 18 enterprise partners from India at the event. We also had two smart choice partners from India from competition (like IBM, Dell) partners.

Also Read : HPE's new offerings aimed to help channel partners accelerate their growth

The conference theme was unleashing the refreshed version of partner ready ecosystem. HPE Partner ready framework was in place. The earlier partner ready framework limited to traditional partners has been expanded to new partners like solution providers, service providers, technology providers and OEMs under same framework.

HPE has stuck to its core of storage, networking and server which is the infra transformation demand by every company. HPE has the complete story including hyper converged infra and seventeen skillsets to compete against the combined DELL EMC. HPE smart choice partners program has evoked good response from DELL EMC and other OEM partners.

How would HPE channels compete on the ‘Device to DC’ story with Dell EMC? Do they possess the arsenal to beat this gigantic competition?

I sincerely feel that DELL EMC merger is a huge opportunity for HPE channel partners. EMC was a strong storage brand on its own with a presence in enterprise space. In the past nine quarters, EMC is only vendor who has lost market share in storage. Also their stock price is hovering around 52 week low whereas HPE price is around 52 week high.

I see opportunities for us due to both companies’ strategy that are starkly different. We are downsizing and focusing on core competencies while Dell has acquired EMC as an end to end company. It looks difficult for Dell EMC to innovate and increase R&D spend as they might collapse many of their product lines (like common areas of storage) into one.  

Dell has never been a major successful partner led company. Many Dell EMC partners are unsure of the joint company’s final channel policy. As per few partners, some money making programs of Dell have been withdrawn and replaced by EMC programs.

The fact is that net NPS (Net Promoter Score) actually increased dramatically this financial year. Majority of Lenovo partners want to tie up with us too. HPE partner framework is rock solid as the market uncertainty is pushing more channels towards our well-grounded GTM.

How different is HPE partner framework than other tech OEMs' partner ecosystem in the marketplace?

The first fundamental building block to HPE partner framework is Partner loyalty framework which cover NPS, Overall satisfaction, Volume Anticipation, Competitive advantage, Ease of doing business and partner program compensation. These are evaluated on bi-annual basis by third party.

The second is Partner program performance that covers 18 areas like product offerings, deal registration, special pricing, leasing, communication, rebates, T&C, partner portals and other rules of engagement. The partner programs are consistent with quarter on quarter visibility and business opportunities aspect. These have been the building blocks for past 30 years as the programs and processes at HPE is largely independent of people.

More than 75% of business comes from partners and that is important. The ratio from direct and indirect route for most of our competition varies quarter on quarter.

Are channel companies in India actually ready with HPE Ready partner Program for new technologies like IoT, cloud, hyper converged?

We conducted partner agility workshop wherein the partners’ feedback was taken based on their prime area of interest their skillsets and their future roadmap. On scale of one to four, they were benchmarked. The majority of partners (platinum and gold) are in phase 2 and phase 3. There are few partners that have reached Phase 4 in countries like US and other mature markets. Based of agility practice index, most partners have initiated steps to get into transformation areas like solution sets etcetera.

This is clear change of landscape with SMAC coming into force. HPE will launch partner enablement model from November 01 this year in India for all HPE partners - platinum gold and silver partners. It will revolve around the four transformation areas HPE focuses on: Transforming to on-demand IT infra, Protecting digital assets and security, empowering a data driven enterprise and Enabling most productive workplace (BYOD).

We will create 17 practices like DR, data management infrastructure and architecture, intelligent workplace, digital collaboration, IT automation and orchestration to name a few. Partners will be asked to acquire those skillets to make transition journey and we expect them most of them to graduate from phase 2 to 3 over the next six to nine months.

What about channel partners not riding the transformation wave? Will they perish?

In the next three years as per industry reports there will be no challenge for India in that aspect. 85% of IT business will be traditional. Cloud adoption will be small and not have major impact on channels’ legacy business.The impact on IoT will be more beyond 2018 and hence the partners starting now on IoT journey will be able to leverage that trend.

We also introduced few product lines like edge line servers for IoT framework and solution sets around it. Some partners have adopted these solutions and further created GTM for the hotels industry. There will be 17 micro verticals in India which will have major influence of IoT and IoT related services.Some partners are already leveraging the 'first move' advantage on IoT.

There will be 17 micro verticals in India which will have major influence of IoT and IoT related services.Some channel partners are already leveraging the 'first move' advantage in hotels industry as of now - Barun Lala,Director – Indirect Sales, HPE India.

What will make channels stay loyal to HPE in India? Is profitability the top-of-the-rung’ priority?

Profitability is definitely one key area but not the only one. We focus on fundamental building block in terms of resolving partner disputes, lead generation systems, fair and transparent deals etcetera.

We have formed HPE EPAC (Enterprise Partner Advisory Council) which conducts bi-annual meetings.  EPAC chaired by channel partner includes twenty channel companies in the platinum and silver categories that meet face to face with HPE India management team on customer feedback, competition landscape etcetera. The meaningful discussion helps us gauge market sentiment, partner involvement and formulate our overall GTM for India.

Amidst so much disruption and M&A in technology space, what is your top message for channels in India?

We need to make partners ready for service provider market. The second priority is to effectively develop HPE partner framework across the industry. We are ensuring the partners in categories of platinum, gold, silver are competent with right skillsets to address the new ecosystem. Like - storage market is moving to flash, are partners moving to Wi-Fi world, do they have skillsets around hyper convergence etcetera.