Pandemic has Compelled the ICT Companies to Adopt New Strategies to Survive...

Pandemic has Compelled the ICT Companies to Adopt New Strategies to Survive and Grow

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The second wave of Covid-19 has spread across the country and not concentrated in a few states or urban areas unlike the first wave. The companies need to adapt quickly to the new normal to survive and thrive. Developing new solutions and finding new tactics that suit the changing conditions and demand are key to stay in the market. NCN interacted with the top executives of some of the leading ICT organisations and discussed how they are adopting different strategies to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and plan to stay competitive in the market. Below are the comments and opinions of the executives of different companies.

Business strategies of companies to deal with the impact of the second Covid wave

Mr. Marthesh Nagendra, Country Manager - India, ME & SAARC, NETGEAR

According to Mr. Marthesh Nagendra, Country Manager – India, ME & SAARC, NETGEAR, “In 2020, the work culture around the globe in almost every sector shifted to remote working. As people started working from home, they need right WiFi devices for faster connectivity. Being an industry leader in this domain, we have been facing major challenge in terms of supplying to meet the increasing demand in the present conditions. There is a rapid increase in demand for high-end routers. Consumers have realized that they would need a good router/Mesh router, technology with enabled Wi-Fi system. But because of the international supply and cancellation of flights, our goods are taking more than usual to arrove. And this is happening in most of the industries where demand is spiking. In the current mobile working lifestyle, we have to accept that the new normal is being ready to work from anywhere and anytime, when needed. To be more productive these day, all what a user needs is a well connected device and right router that is faster and smoother.”

Mr. V.K. Bhandari, CMD, Supertron Electronics Private Limited

Mr. V.K. Bhandari, CMD, Supertron Electronics Private Limited, “On CSR side, during this pandemic time, we (Supertron Foundation) have donated Oxygen Concentrators to various IT/non-IT associations so that our partners and others can use those concentrators free of cost. Our team is in touch with partners all across India to learn if there are any more challenges due to pandemic so that we can offer support whichever way possible from our end. The same goes with our own team members.”

Mr Kapal Pansari, MD, Rashi Peripherals Pvt Ltd

Mr Kapal Pansari, MD, Rashi Peripherals Pvt Ltd, “The first Covid wave was moderate as far as its affects on health and fatalities are concerned though the lockdown has affected the business badly. The second Covid wave came down like a big shock and shook everything starting from the lives of the people to the performance of the businesses. We hope things will calm down soon and the businesses and safety levels will get back normal. I wish, with vaccinations in full swing, we will not have a third wave and the industry will have smooth sailing.”

Mr. Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, India, Pure Storage

According to Mr. Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, India, Pure Storage, “We are watching the evolving COVID crisis in India with sympathy and care. We have reached out to all our employees and partners in India and are working with them to alleviate their challenges. Most our employees have been working from home over the past 15 months and they will continue to do so until it’s safe to return to the office. We encourage them to accept vaccination where eligible, and to take time off to recover if necessary, as we are respectful of personal circumstances. Our employees and their dependents in India now also have access to 24×7 remote healthcare consultation which means they don’t have to leave their homes to see a doctor. We have also been providing all our employees corporate well-being resources for mental and emotional health through Konterra and Lyra which gives them access to virtual therapy sessions and stress management programs. Additionally, we arranged webinars for our employees with a medical professional who shared knowledge on COVID vaccinations, answered questions and reduced anxiety.”

Mr. Pramod Sharda, CEO, IceWrap, India and Middle East

While Mr. Pramod Sharda, CEO, IceWarp, India and Middle East, “We have been empowering large organizations across various verticals like pharma & healthcare, bfsi, bpo, retail, manufacturing, and more, with IceWarp’s all in one E-mail and Collaboration Suite to achieve optimum contribution to the teamwork. Our customers are leveraging services like Business Email & Team Chat for collaborative and project teamwork; real-time office document collaboration, online meetings; and more which are the need of the hour, because of the current remote working scenario.”

 Mr. Navdeep Narula, Executive Director, Mobility and Compute, Ingram Micro India

Mr. Navdeep Narula, Executive Director, Mobility and Compute, Ingram Micro India, “COVID-19 has become a constant feature in our lives for more than a year now, both in India & abroad. India is fighting a tough battle against the second wave which has impacted several businesses & industries including the country’s mobility and IT markets. With various restrictions and lifestyle changes, the overall industry has been forced to adapt and get going. We’ve been following industry trends very closely since the first wave last year and there have been multiple lessons from the first wave that we have been able to apply this year. Mobiles phones – the largest segment of our Mobility portfolio was significantly impacted last year due to the manufacturing and supply chain challenges. However, the segment has seen a strong recovery in the aftermath of the first wave. Due to the adoption of WFH (Work from Home) & LFH (Learn from Home) – we saw a stupendous growth for Consumer Laptops, Tablets, Hearables, and Consumer Routers. There has also been an almost perpetual shortage in most of these categories due to component shortage. A few segments like printers and the Wearable category comprising of smartwatches, fitness bands, trackers, etc were also adversely affected. The decline can be primarily attributed to a shift in demand towards new essentials that enable WFH & LFH. Our strategy for the second wave has been on building preparedness in line with the insights acquired last year and we have been working closely with our vendor principals and reseller partners to have optimal participation, promotion and inventory management in the respective categories. As per our expectations, the market is trending well to support the sale in these segments and will continue to grow even faster, as we move towards the end of the second wave. However, we will know if our hypothesis is proven correct only in the aftermath.”

 Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia, MD at R&M-India

Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia, MD at R&M-India, “A task force was set up at headquarters in Wetzikon in the early stages of the pandemic. It ensured the supply of materials as well as the ability to produce and deliver. R&M was able to supply customers and projects worldwide on time and in full. After handling the uncertain times for nearly a year, we have been able to transition through the second wave that India is facing currently and are also confident in facing any challenges ahead. All Covid-related protocols have been followed in our production facility in Bengaluru and our offices. We have also allowed remote working wherever possible keeping in mind the health of our employees and their families. With a planned and sustainable work strategy initiated by our headquarters followed by all the R&M units across the globe we have successfully been able to keep our production and supply chain active and balanced, which has led to R&M’s strong sustenance even during the second wave.”

Mr. Sudhir Goel, CBO, Acer India

According to Mr. Sudhir Goel, CBO, Acer India, “As a channel-friendly company, we at Acer are bringing programs to educate our partners in the areas of understanding and accommodating the changing consumer behaviours during the ongoing pandemic.”

Mr. Sachin Sharma, Country Manager, India, ADATA

Mr. Sachin Sharma, Country Manager, India, ADATA, “There have been lockdowns that have resulted in the downfall of the business.  There has been a huge demand, but the supply chain disruptions had made it to a bare minimum.  With the lockdown coming to an end, we are quite certain that things will change.”

Mr. Atul Gaur, DIrector, Savex Technologies

Mr. Atul Gaur, DIrector, Savex Technologies, “We anticipated the lockdown and took many remedial measures to help facilitate the WFH (Work From Home) needs and requirements for our teams. Not only we made sure that almost every individual of the company was given a laptop, but also ensured remote workable secure connections. Every problem in life also presents a window of solution and opportunity.”

Mr. Vinay Shetty, ASUS Regional Director – Components Business, India and South Asia

Mr. Vinay Shetty, ASUS Regional Director – Components Business, India and South Asia, “The primary objective of the organisation is the employee’s wellbeing and safety – Asus is a people’s company, and the key point is to ensure zero risk to the team and complete adaptability to transitioning the business and communications, and exchange of ideas via online mediums. We adopted a zero presence in office except when utmost needed.”

Mr. Sanjay Zadoo, Country Manager, Channel Business, Vertiv India

Mr. Sanjay Zadoo, Country Manager, Channel Business, Vertiv India, “The past year has been full of uncertainty for everyone due to the social distancing norms and nationwide lockdowns which the pandemic demanded. Companies had to ensure they were equipped with the right infrastructure to support this transition and adapt to the new way of operating businesses. We, at Vertiv, worked continuously to support our customers during these challenging times. Safety was and continues to be the number one priority at Vertiv, and with the rise of COVID cases in India, we immediately followed COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. Even through the nationwide lockdowns, we have been providing services to customers that fell under the Essential Services Maintenance Act i.e., Data Centres, IT & ITeS, Telecom, Banking, etc. Through our dynamic solutions and services, we provide essential digital infrastructure to ensure smooth functioning and continuity of our customers’ businesses. With business dynamics making a drastic shift in recent times, we are more focused on developing solutions around new business needs that have emerged as an outcome of the recent and ongoing digital transformation. We have invested heavily in R&D to develop new and innovative solutions that are customer-focused and those that address new business needs. This will also help us foray and expand into new markets. We have to adapt and evolve from our existing ways of doing business and create new business strategies that can address any untapped market potential. We conducted frequent webinars and refresher trainings and workshops since the start of this year. We ensured customer connect through partners especially after the 2nd lockdown announcement, as we had to effectively utilize the available time for business continuity. This helped to enhance our reach to customers which was further complemented with continuous digital customer calls through various e-tools.”

Mr. Avneet Singh Marwah, Director and CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd

Mr. Avneet Singh Marwah, Director and CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd (a Kodak brand licensee), “The second wave of the pandemic has been difficult for India, the industry and the people, as we have suffered a great loss. The industry was just recovering from last year’s slump with March 2021 being one of the best months for industrial output. But since April, second wave of covid-19 has brought in another sharp decline.”

Mr. Gurpreet Singh, Managing Director, Arrow PC Network (Dell Technologies - Titanium Partners)

Mr. Gurpreet Singh, Managing Director, Arrow PC Network (Dell Technologies – Titanium Partners), “COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst towards enterprise cloud adoption both for business continuity and workforce enablement. Organizations across the verticals are limiting customer walk-ins by augmenting their digital capabilities and extending new online services. For example, Arrow PC has helped in implementing HCI (Dell VxRail) for GLA University improving their data center scalability and flexibility with faster resource provisioning, thus helping the university function with little or no setbacks. We are advancing towards a digital age, which is not just a solution during the pandemic times but also for the future and the pandemic only gave us an urgent push towards achieving it.”

Mr. Muneer Ahmad, Business Head – AV, ViewSonic India

According to Mr. Muneer Ahmad, Business Head – AV, ViewSonic India, “Due to the severe COVID-19 second wave, the industry is again going through a difficult phase. The current lockdown imposed in several states has again forced everyone to work from home. However, we at ViewSonic, consider this as an opportunity to focus on our existing products by innovating and enhancing their embedded features. Also, our hybrid learning solutions are paving their way in the transformation of the education sector. ViewSonic is dedicated to creating cutting-edge technologies and is committed to providing fully immersive and optimized solutions for hybrid learning. We are constantly educating and training our partners on the new features of My ViewBoard as well as the new products that ViewSonic has to offer for the new normal.”

Channel strategies and the support brands are providing the channel

Mr. Sanjay Zadoo of Vertiv, “Our channel partners are the key drivers of our business growth and continuity, especially in a vast and diverse market like India. With digital transformation and automation of business processes at its peak, our partners play a critical role in our go-to-market strategy. We look forward to continuously growing and expanding this network across the country. We have always believed in empowering our channel partners and addressing their needs. We offer them 360-degree support through the Vertiv Partner Portal. This portal enables our partners with dedicated sales support, sales selectors and configurators, marketing resources, marketing development funds, online partner trainings, content syndication, and eligible partners can apply for rebates, information about PAYBACK schemes and deal registration and incentive programs. Our partner training program ensures that our partners have access to all the necessary information whenever they need it. The program also helps partners identify new opportunities in the market, diagnose customer problems and provide customized solutions, and gain thorough understanding of Vertiv’s solutions.”

Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia of R&M-India, “Channel partners have a prominent responsibility in creating and expanding business opportunities. R&M has strengthened its regional distributors across India to make sure that our products are available everywhere in the country. The great resilience of our employees played a major role in this being successful. We also used the time freed up by the cancellation of trade fairs, events, roadshows, and customer visits to provide network technology training in the form of a series of webinars. In the 1st week of June, we are held a virtual event where the cabling specialist showed how FTTH suppliers can use and expand their distribution hub units in a more variable way. The German R&M subsidiary also presented its solutions at the ANGA COM DIGITAL virtual congress. Such virtual events have strengthened the performance of our channel partners.”

Mr. V.K. Bhandari of Supertron Electronics, “In the current lockdown situation where IT requirements are not added in essential requirements in some states, there are challenges when it comes to supporting partners in terms of requirements. However, we are trying our level best all across India to support deliveries to partners/customers.”

Mr. Pramod Sharda of IceWarp, “Our channel partners are the backbone of our business. We are jointly working with them to help our prospects and customers seamlessly communicate and collaborate.”

Mr. Atul Gaur of Savex Technologies, “We realized that channel is a central factor in all of our activities. Relationship, Support, Enablement and Credit facilitation have been the key drivers in our channel management strategy. We kept our focus on bringing cutting-edge technologies and are providing whatever help we could to enable the channel community to prosper and progress. Ups and downs are part of every business and the reasons could be external or internal reasons, but it is necessary we remain supportive and encouraging.”

Mr. Navdeep Narula of Ingram Micro India, “The e-commerce market grew by a huge 84% in the year 2020 and is expected to grow another 40% in 2021, this is clearly led by the shift in consumer behavior in favor of contactless purchasing. In line with our observations, our channel strategy has been to work with our partners to enable their omnichannel capabilities. To enable this, we’ve been working with our offline partners to build their online stores and host their websites out of our warehouses. Omnichannel is the way to go, and this creates a strong ecosystem for our partners to cross-leverage multiple channels. Our contribution in this initiative is inventory-as-a-service, fulfillment & last-mile logistics services, and just-in-time inventory management as well as facilitating much-needed working capital optimization for our partners. The ongoing lockdown has led to market disruption, revenue reduction, and financial stress across all the tiers of our channel partners. We have made significant efforts to provide extended credit support by working closely with our vendor principals and provide financial relief to all our partners during this difficult period. Furthermore, we also guide our channel partners on demand forecasting and inventory planning across various regions in the country. The core idea is to optimize their inventory & working capital so that they neither lose a sale opportunity nor come under working capital stress.”

Mr. Avneet Singh Marwah of Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd, “Vaccination is the only long-term solution. Apart from the frontline workers, the vaccination needs to be rolled out to the larger community so that we all can resume work and continue to contribute to the society.”

Mr. Ramanujam Komanduri of Pure Storage, “We are supporting our channel partners with the resources they need to continue serving their customers remotely. Pure’s technologies are designed from the start with simplicity and ease of management in mind. We have a ‘virtual global executive briefing center’ where partners can do remote proof-of-concept installations. Pure is also able to support remote installation of products.”

 Mr. Marthesh Nagendra of NETGEAR, “Our business model is absolutely focused on the channel partners and solution partners to enable us to strengthen our engagement with our partners. We focusing equally on Retail, Business & Home security systems segments and have been working on to strengthen our offerings across all the major locations in India. Netgear conducts regular training programs to empower the channel to integrate and expand our market and product offerings. Our Netgear solution partner certification program is a 3-day training that enables partners to install and support our high-end switching storage and wireless solutions. Over a decade, we have been regularly participating in tradeshows and exhibitions to showcase our offerings and work closely with our channel partners.”

According to Mr. Sudhir Goel of Acer India, “To survive during the second wave of COVID, we have introduced an innovative Omni-Channel experience for our partners and customers. Our retail partners can sell the entire range of Acer products to their customers without holding stock while still enjoying the benefits and margins using the Acer e-store which serves over 20,000 pin-codes. We help them offer unique and safe shopping experiences for their customers, during the pandemic. We are also generating leads using digital platforms to help retail stores to fulfil the requirements of Work From Home, Learn From Home, and Gaming From Home segments.”

Mr. Sachin Sharma of ADATA, “In this situation, the winner is the person who has stock. We keep on motivating the partners and our sales team is in constant touch with the partners. Currently, it’s the payment to be received from the market is the major issue. During tough times also we have tried to maintain an extremely healthy relationship with partners. Moreover, the health of the partners is a major concern for us.”

Mr. Muneer Ahmad of ViewSonic India, “ViewSonic is continuously working with channel partners by conducting one-on-one virtual meetings and teleconferencing to understand their requirements in terms of schemes or payment. Alongside, we are gearing up our channel partners with new and innovative techniques and programs that will help us to maximise profit and sales. Customer satisfaction & partner’s profit are ViewSonic’s maihn focus, and hence, we want to support them as much as possible. Channel partners play a very important role in business growth. Developing strong and trustworthy relationships and being supportive to them enhances the company’s business. During this hardship, it is more important to maintain and understand relationship to work and grow together. “

Mr. Vinay Shetty of ASUS, “This certainly has been a challenging time for our partners, and I sincerely appreciate their hard work in these trying times.  We ensured the product supply chain is maintained since in today’s times it’s not about price, it is about availability and if the partner can get enough stocks, he surely is going to improve his profitability.”

Mr. Gurpreet Singh of Arrow PC Network, “Customers will look for partners who can help them in the digital transformation and those partners with the capability to handle end-to-end solutions for the customers will prefer hybrid cloud giving it a big opportunity in the marketplace. Arrow PC being Dell Technologies Titanium Partner has always strived to be on par with the latest technology trends and provide the same service to the customers. This is the time to unlearn and relearn. Our teams need to learn new technology solutions and take them to the customer to reap an early mover advantage. We try to improve IT practices that are next-generation and future-ready. We aim to reach PAN India while improving business efficiency, optimizing cost by leveraging the latest IT infrastructure. Our selective approach assures we maintain deep relationships with our partners through extensive technical training, support, and interoperability where multi-vendor solutions are developed.”

Key messages companies want to give their partners and customers

Mr. Ramanujam Komanduri of Pure Storage, “Safety is first for Pure when it comes to dealing with our employees, customers and partners. It is a challenging period for everyone, but we also know our customers need to continue to digitalise their IT infrastructure. Pure’s global sales, supply chain and support infrastructure are designed to continue supporting our customers’ needs while ensuring the safety of Pure and our partner employees.”

Mr. Muneer Ahmad of ViewSonic India, “At ViewSonic, we value our partners’ contributions by making ViewSonic the No. 1 IFP brand, and the world’s leading DLP projector provider. It is only possible because of the assistance we have received from our esteemed partners. ViewSonic will remain at the forefront of complete visual solutions, introducing new-form factors of innovative products with cutting-edge features, making them a must-have choice for India’s technology sector and preserve the No. 1 tag in the future.”

Mr. Gaurav Ahluwalia of R&M-India, “The year 2020 saw a disruption of a scale never seen before in our lifetimes. Innovation in our marketing activities has been a steady constant in the last few months and we intend to stay focused in the year ahead. We will continue to have a healthy mix of ATL and BTL activities, but with a dash of digital outreach. With the second wave and talks about the third wave possibly hitting us sometime soon, we need to be more careful with our pandemic measures and help the governing agencies in controlling the pandemic. With most of the workforce now accustomed to remote working, we can help our organizations and our surroundings with responsible behaviour. This will not only help in business continuity but will also ensure safety for one and all.”

Mr. V.K. Bhandari of Supertron Electronics, “Partners should stay positive and patient until the pandemic situation settles down. Looking at the growth in PC shipment in JFM’21, it looks like the demand for PCs will continue once the current situation stabilizes. Since India has the lowest penetration in PC segment, the demand will continue to increase both in the consumer & commercial spaces due to the increasing trends of Work From Home & Learn from Home. Once the pandemic is over, there would be huge opportunity in the infrastructure deployment in the education & healthcare segments. Also the government investment is expected to grow in these two segments along with other infra projects. We are one of the fastest growing IT distributors in India and we always look at growing more than the industry and  our growth is distributed well across consumer and commercial segments.”

Mr. Vinay Shetty, ASUS Regional Director – Components Business, India and South Asia, “Stay safe, wear a mask whenever stepping out and maintain social distancing. Business will surely grow but we need to ensure we are healthy. We also need to increase our product portfolio and the range of products – that will help attract more business opportunities and increase our revenue and profit. Last but not the least – product selling has to be more technology and solution based so the need to improve on the product knowledge is vital.”

Mr. Sudhir Goel of Acer India, “Our channel partners are an extension of us and the message we want to leave is that we are in this together and we will come out of it stronger just like last year and Acer will be with them in every step.”

Mr. Navdeep Narula of Ingram Micro India, “The second wave has been very tough on most of us, and nobody really expected the market to take such a negative turn. The first wave was a lot more uncertain, however, this year has been far more critical. We believe that consumer sentiments will bounce back. Dependence on the mobility devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. is very high and the need to remain constantly connected has also led to the unprecedented demand for multiple & backup devices in every household and organization. As the usage of these devices remains high– the demand for the large replacement/upgrade market is expected to grow as well in the near future.”

According to Mr. Marthesh Nagendra of NETGEAR, “In this mobile working lifestyle, we have been indoors for almost 1.5 years now. We have to accept that the new normal is being working from anywhere and everywhere, when needed. Indeed, this time has been much productive for many businesses, and all what those working from home need is a connected device for faster responding Internet and smooth user experience. So choose the right Internet router for your needs, in order to be productive and profitable than ever.”

Mr. Sachin Sharma of ADATA, “We should follow government restrictions and stay safe. I am sure that the IT industry will boom soon.”

Mr. Gurpreet Singh of Arrow PC Network, “Business Continuity and Digital Transformation are vital for organizations to continue their work and ensure productivity during these uncertain times. While cases in India have started receding, it does not guarantee a safe environment until 100% vaccination is achieved. Only the right Covid measures, healthy work-life balance during WFH and priority for safety will help any business succeed in the current environment.”

Mr. Pramod Sharda of IceWarp, “The key message we would like to give in these uncertain times, organizations will have to adopt hybrid working environments with the best of technological solutions as it is the need of the hour. Hence, in order to meet the business demands, let us adapt to these changes and make our world a safer and productive place to be in.”

Mr. Sanjay Zadoo of Vertiv India, “These are really trying times for both the businesses and the individuals. As we all grapple with the current situation, it is extremely important for the businesses to step up and ensure the safety of every employee and their families at large. In this battle against the pandemic, we need to unite and help each other as we try to overcome this global crisis. At Vertiv, we ensure that we have a high-level touch with our customers through our partners.”

Conclusion

During these unprecedented pandemic times, companies are focusing on strategies that enable them minimize losses and maximize their productivity and returns on investments within the prevailing conditions. Work From Home and Learn From Home have become new normal. Companies are trying to make the best use of the free time now available to closely interact with their channel, train the partners and employees through remote communication via webinars, motivating them with new schemes and incentives and so on. The last but not the least, they are encouraging everyone to be secure by following the Covid safety protocols. With the possibility of third wave looming large, taking stringent precautionary measures is critical, both on how to keep safe from the pandemic and on how to survive, sustain and grow in terms of business. At NCN, we wish we all will win in this struggle soon and come out successful!!