Jaya Mahadevan, Director – Distribution & IT Channel Business for Secure Power, Greater India, Schneider Electric outlines the dynamics of the company’s partner ecosystem and how it plans to re-strategize.
What are the specific products, solutions and services in the Schneider portfolio in the Indian market both for enterprises and SMBs?
We offer all kinds of solutions and services that span from buildings to industry from cities upto data centers. These drive everyone to do more or less every activity and the fundamental is to ensure that life is on for everyone, everywhere and at every moment. This core practice from Schneider extends across technologies, across office models, across value chain and even our culture.
What is the structure of Schneider’s overall partner ecosystem?
Our mission for 2020 as we have announced in January was a very specific mission that we wanted to take in this year. This was to create the best of autonomous, scalable and a very modern channel ecosystem that has two very large priorities, viz., growth and profitability. This mission has been very thought through because it encompasses partners who can represent Schneider. We want partners to be autonomous because we want them to bring business to themselves and to Schneider independently. We want them to be able to scale across different offers and different segments. We also want them to be modern like digital today is a common thing.
We also looked at our partners as an ecosystem which means it was not just resellers but resellers, distributors, alliances. We have two very specific objectives of growth and profitability. It was that excellence where we have looked at across four pillars. One is technical and sales vitality, all our programs picture an umbrella of it that sets to cover everything, the digital channel management and partner experience. What it does is it helps partners improve their position in front of the customers to become a very trusted advisor. It improves their relationships with Schneider through partner experience, and it also supports timely introduction. These are the four pillars which encompass our channel ecosystem policies.
How critical is the digital channel in the overall scheme of things for Schneider?
Digital channel is very large, important and core to the growth. We encourage partners to have their own e-Commerce websites. In the recent past digital seamless has been across all aspects not just for business but even for experience. Everything including enablement, our partner programs, rewards, webinars, everything happens on this digital platform. Digital seems to be an underlying bed on which everything is getting created, everything is scaling up, and seems to be growing exponentially.
What are the different types of partners Schneider has? How are the traditional partners leveraging the digital channel or is it mostly the new-age partners?
Digital channel is both modern as well as traditional. There are many traditional partners in our vast ecosystem of approximately 10,000 partners or even more that embrace digital very emphatically. The traditional ones have scale because they understand that their web presence, there way of doing business, their interaction with Schneider digital becomes a very necessary component.
This whole ecosystem comprises of new channel partners as well as alliances with new channel partners. It is also with the B2G as well as scaling the existing ecosystem of partners and moving them into modern and digital channels. This is an ongoing activity very core to Schneider and we looked at it with a very serious concern if a partner is unable to scale up the digital maturity curve. But that said, Schneider through its partner programs also offers several incentives, several scaling programs and enablement programs to help partners move up the digital maturity curve.
What are Schneider’s programs or initiatives to help partners scale up? Did you devise any specific incentives or relief packages during the pandemic?
We never had an example of lockdown of this scale. Innovation for Schneider, like many other company, becomes extremely critical to navigate during this complex period. What is unique about the situation is that it has fostered innovation both for people safety as well as overall well-being of our channel ecosystem. During the lockdown we have seen a very staggered manner of reopening of our economy and our objective at Schneider has been to constantly empower partners. We help them identify, implement new business, resilient business practices. We have been sharing with our partners monitored customer trends as well as buying behavior patterns. We have been impressing on our partners through our communications how to build a profitable business, how to build a sustainable business. We are constantly curating our partner programs as well to support it.
Every partner in the ecosystem strives for differentiation. Our partner program helps partners differentiate from an industry-specific offering perspective. This includes how do they articulate technology, how do they articulate the superiority of Schneider’s technology, and how do you build solutions using adjacencies. All these have helped their digital maturity improve, and given them a sort of edge to become a differentiator and to rise above the normalcy of being a generalist.
How are you supporting partners with their cash flow challenges and in remotely supporting customers from a WFH mode?
When we look at the stimulus that we announced to partners the digital processes have now became even more important than ever. Through the digital process, we were able to provide clarity on partner claims, the process of claims, exactly where the growth of incentives supported the partner growth, and where the incentives were augmenting the customer buying behaviour. These are very critical areas of stimulus as well as digitisation coming together and the partners appreciated it.
This is a transparent process on Schneider platform and the partner registers opportunities online again on a digital platform and Schneider would jointly support the closure of these prospects that were getting generated. During this time partners have curated ways using digital methods to showcase our technologies through webinars, through interactions digitally to show customers the value of solutions that they pick. In terms of keeping continuity most of the works are done with our partners as well as Schneider so that joint engagements support customers with their continuity as well.
How did you balance between retaining existing customers and acquiring new customers in the current situation?
We are spreading our net wide because we brought in the concept of holistic solutions. This itself gives us the advantage of covering a lot more customers than we traditionally did because the net is cast wider. While we deepen our engagement with existing customers we are also expanding with the new ecosystem. Similarly we asked partners to go on deeper engagements with their existing customers because they are now offering new solutions and adjacencies. Because the new digital is the new norm they are attracting new prospects as well. You can see that the existing is protected and we are going deeper as well as the new norm of of digitisation is bringing for Schneider new partners as well as for partners, new customers.
How did the nature of the deals change in terms of SLAs or in more upselling and cross-selling in times of this pandemic?
The fundamental of this is an attitudinal transformation about rescaling and upscaling. This is going to be the focus both internally as well as through our channel ecosystem for the time to come. The whole objective for Schneider has been to create an ecosystem of partners who mirrors Schneider’s capabilities. It is an insurance to the customer whether he buys from Schneider or he buys from any of our channel partners, the experience remains the same and the value remains the same. The whole enablement exercise in the last few months and in the coming months will be to create that ecosystem which is able to scale this requirement.
There is a methodical enablement program that supports this transition. It has been for a few months now and the journey will continue as well. At the end of this journey we would like our partners to become trusted advisors to our customers so that the experience is exceptionally good for customers when they buy through our partners. We have done gap analysis, we have customised enablement calendars of of any gaps that each partner brings, we provided certifications and industry authorisation and what we are going to focus now is how partners can monetize the skills. We are very clear that skill is the new currency, and so how can we digitally augment this and help partners realise that they have new currency really is about upscaling and invite them to this journey of attitudinal transformation.
How are Schneider’s partners classified?
There are four pillars. The first one is to help the partners through all the stages of of the same cycle whether it is identifying, whether it is validating, whether it is qualifying or even a knowledge transfer for that matter. We are currently using two methods; one is a digital method but more importantly we are really enhancing our telemarketing. How do we transfer the knowledge, how do we transfer it faster so that the partner can reach the customer with value as quickly as possible using digital as well as tele.
The second area is how do we give partners in debt not just sales enablement but techno- commercial enablement. This should be in the area of improving that technical vitality because we all believe that technology is a differentiator. It will stand in good stead for times to come with the customers and we want partners to use technology to be a differentiator and technology will support this cause.
The third one is the partner experience. It should not be challenging for partners especially in remote locations where they find it difficult even to comprehend. Through the digital means such partners are exchanging views with other partners and we are providing that platform for them.
What have been Schneider’s priority initiatives from marketing and communication side in the current situation?
The structure has been that this year we look at technical sales vitality, generating leads, passing leads in a digital manner to partners, looking through the entire sales process, and supporting the yields so that the funnel is created for partners. How do we create a program that covers partner’s during this time and is not diluted to our core? The third area is about being transparent, having a medium through which partner interact with us and we interact with them where everything is visible and partner gets the confidence.
What will be Schneider’s overall priority initiatives in the next 2 quarters?
It is very important that the partners understand the road map that we have for the next coming months. We will continue to skill, we will continue to reskill, we will continue to upskill and it will be differentiated because getting the right skill at this time is more important than ever before. We also want to give the customer an assurance that whether they buy from Schneider or from channel partners, this autonomous ecosystem will only support Schneider’s mission of the partner program.
What will be your message to partners going ahead?
I want partners to mirror Schneider and that is our sincere endeavour. We want to give customers the best of experience and not differentiate whether the customer buys directly from Schneider or from our ecosystem. We want to be able to generously share knowledge and the whole endeavour is to build an ecosystem which is technically vital. We want partners to be modern and we are doing everything to support that digital maturity growth. We definitely want partners to scale, solve customer problems and become trusted advisors for us.