Channel Post speaks with Manish Punjabi, Channel Manager, UAE & Oman, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise about the current state of the channel and how partners can drive success in this crowded marketplace.
What is your career history to date and key career achievements?
My career includes experiences across Europe, Asia and the Middle-East and as a result, I speak French and Russian and dabble with Spanish and Arabic. I’ve been associated with the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise family for nearly 10 years. Interning with the parent company in 2003 in Paris, France, I’ve worked for an ALE partner in Dubai for four years and finally returned to the fold in 2013. In the beginning I managed channel marketing across Middle-East and Africa, and moved to a channel sales role in 2016.
In 2015, SiriusDecisions, a global marketing consultant, recognized my marketing approach as EMEA Program of the Year for delivering measurable channel partner success. Partners improved end customer awareness of the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise brand and enhanced effectiveness of their channel marketing funds. As a result, the number of attendees at partner events in the first three months of 2015 exceeded the number in all of 2014, and the partner pipeline has increased significantly for the first half of 2015.
What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
As a channel influencer, I motivate partners on a daily basis to spread the ALE message to customers. I am involved with all the aspects associated with any channel partner – sales training, technical enablement, pricing support and supply chain management. Not only do I accompany partners on client visits but also match customers with the right accredited partners.
What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
Partners need a proactive and dynamic channel influencer who can capture mind-share of the channel. An influencer needs to wear multiple hats and adjust accordingly to the audience – sales, logistics, finance, technical etc.
What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
Often vendors rely on channel partners to leverage their existing relationships to sell the vendor’s products. However, on the other hand, channel partners are looking to vendors to contribute with leads that generate additional product and maintenance revenues for partners. Therefore, it is my advice that great success is possible when vendors generate profitable leads (marketing inbound, cold-call, etc) for partners. This will not only help vendors to control the customer conversation but also negotiate margins rather than leave money on the table.
How would you assess the current state of channel?
There is a constant flux in the channel – a state created by new players, regulatory changes, ripples caused by payment cycles, technology advances etc. Despite this fluidity, there is plenty of opportunity for all involved to make money, whether in new projects or refresh of existing infrastructure.
What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
Payment cycles remain the biggest challenge facing the regional IT channel. Vendors have strict payment terms while partners need to have deep pockets to withstand the customer payment fluctuations.
If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?
Channel partners are often quick to enter into a vendor agreement but often hesitate to invest in demo equipment and training. There is a belief that training and accreditation investment should happen only when concrete business arrives. However, a partner’s commitment to invest in certification and lab equipment at the beginning sets the future tone for a long-term relationship.
How can partners work effectively to generate growth in the channel?
In this crowded market space of systems integrators, smaller and often un-accredited partners offer services at lower prices. To continue to drive growth and higher margins, partners have to explore new business models. Examples include On-Demand or Pay Per Use revenue models, Cloud Infrastructure, Managed Services etc.