Dipesh Kaura, General Manager for South Asia, Kaspersky informs how the concerted efforts for the channel ecosystem has paid off in business growth
How did Kaspersky look at balancing between retaining existing customers and acquiring new customers?
We entered lockdown down towards the end of March, that’s when the government declared lockdown in India. April was very slow because people are just adjusting and it was more than like a stay at home kind of stuff. I think from mid May onwards, we started seeing a lot of activity. Coming to the existing customer base, I am of the opinion that an existing customer is the most important customer. So it’s like they say, it’s better to have a bird in hand than having two in the Bush. So first protect the bird that you have in hand, and these are critical types. So this is the time when actually the customers also are looking up to us and we’ve covered every customer and I can endorse it in saying that every of Kaspersky was an existing customer has been protected on the renewal. We did not charge them for any extensions that we did. We have taken purchase orders three months, six months late in spite of giving them continuing services for the existing point, no purchase orders still the licenses were made active. None of the existing customers were put on state. The services were up and running 100% with or without the purchase order. In fact, that helped me the most because there were customers who were non Kaspersky customers facing year renewal challenges with their existing providers maybe from a business angle or maybe to make the best of the moment a lot of other organizations were being rigid in offering extended services. My existing customers gave me references of those customers and I gave them free licenses till the time things move. It actually gave me extra business. It gave us better Mindshare. It helped my partner community tremendously because. We didn’t think in those terms when we took those initiatives, but when we started seeing the response, it was just that sometimes good deeds help you back. I think this was an ideal case where you just help us grow our business.
How is Kaspersky’s channel ecosystem structured and how did you support them during these challenging times?
If you look at the structure, it is not different. Rather than innovating on those methods, we would rather be investing time on getting closer to them. So one of the best thing, if I could say that this pandemic brought because of this work from home situation and there was a sudden acceptance in doing anything and everything online. I’ve been in this industry for a very long time but never has been there a time where you tell a customer or you tell a partner that let’s do a video call and we sorted on a video call. Two things which work, people are willing to invest the work from home time in learning. Second, they were willing to do it on a video call the amount of reach that increased for us. If I removed the pandemic, it would have been impossible for me to do the kind of trainings who do the kind of connect and the reach, which we created. I think it is two years time or maybe three years time, the amount of work which we would have done we managed to do it in this 8-9 months. My connect with the channel went up exponentially to the limit that genuinely we were investing late hours in the night, just training people and the more we connected, the more response we got. Second thing, the incentive part for a partner, I think comes last. If you look at cybersecurity, specifically the advanced cyber, where we talk about malware detection, spyware detection, responding to alerts, which are being created by these complex tools, I think today what the channel needs most is the confidence that if the channel goes out and sells something for the customer, the first thing that the channel himself will be able to support the customer when there is a problem. And the customer believes in that channel only the one which is confident of selling what they’re selling. So when we are training that channel in such a way that we are empowering the channel, since everybody is sitting at home, they are willing to invest that time. The amount of training and certifications that we’ve done has been exemplary. Second, supporting the channel, all these channels partners, like you pointed out are small channel partners. They don’t come like those big national system integrators who have worldwide presence to do business. These are small channel partners, but if you look at the resource availability, no matter how small the channel partner is even always have the luxury of having one or two or three servers extra, which are with him in his ecosystem. All we said was just give us those servers, we will give you those licenses, we will even create small labs for you at your level so that your resources can actually physically play with the tools, Learn the tools on free basis, take the trainings from us and play with our tools. So because of that, the reach went very high, certifications of channels going very high. Since the certifications were going up, the grading of the channels kept going up since the grading of the channel went up automatic the backend rebates that they were earning with us went up. So it was like a blessing in disguise. Like I said, we gave licenses to customers who are not even our customers. So these kinds of interaction with the channel, the customer, everything coming together scaled our business tremendously high, the demand was there, we were there at the right time, doing the right things, enabling the right people and everything stitched up very in a seamless way so that channel today is so trained and so well-informed about the tools that we have and how to do and what to do with those tools that the channel is capable of presenting it to the customer themselves. So we don’t talk to our customers, the channels are pushing it all across.
What are the solutions on the consumer front from Kaspersky and how do you manage the shrinking margins when the products are so much commoditized?
We actually replicated this channel model with the consumer model as well. The way our consumer model works is we have a master distributor and he has regional distributors in every state. And those regional distributors have their respective sales guys who go out and sell to the small time resellers and the end users. The first thing, we did one session every 15 days and three sessions or four sessions in two months with the regional distributors with the product. So this was hardcore product training that why they should sell Kaspersky antivirus then selling some other antivirus. If you look at this market, an antivirus is just being sold as an antivirus. The fun part is today we talk about child protection selling antiviruses, we talk about VPN protection, we talk about how an end-user can save passwords and keep his passwords protected by using an antivirus tool, how gamers will benefit by using typical Kaspersky because Kaspersky speed has almost gone up 15% in terms of detection and all that. So gamer is CPU hungry because they pay a lot of high-end graphic games. So any utilization of CPU actually creates a lag in the game. So these kind of informative sessions we did with our regional distributors and resellers. So today my reseller market is I can proudly and very confidently is very informed about my product and can sell my product by positioning the features rather than just sending an antivirus.
How is Kaspersky’s verticalized approach towards customers both on the B2C as well as B2B fronts?
We are definitely trying to use a different method for consumer and the focus is on awareness and the focus is on features, antivirus is his legacy. What more can you get from a particular brand of antivirus which is going to give you protection over and above the antivirus that you are going to buy, that is where the focus is. Because the customer or end user today or a normal citizen was not a techie and is exposed to cyber threats, these are things which are not exciting for him. At that point in time, if he has to pay a premium to get those services, I think you’re doing better on that.
What is the correlation between the B2C and B2B part of the business in the current context from Kaspersky perspective?
When you look at B2B the investments that have gone in are in different technologies, which have scaled my business higher. When I’m looking at my B2B business my overall antivirus business has actually become a commodity for us. It’s not that the antivirus businesses has gone up. My services business of incident response, compromise assessment, consulting that has gone up, which clearly shows that there is a different method that the enterprises are investing today. All my SMB business and enterprise business on the licenses part which were using my end point licenses, I think a majority of them have upgraded their licenses from the previous versions that they had.
What was the vertical wise traction specifically amongst SMBs?
I think the acceptability of the overall enterprise space has gone up drastically. In enterprises, if you look at businesses that are a lot of businesses who are already at a mature stage, well aware, well-informed, well equipped but a lot of manufacturing and the non-typical IP space kind of investments have gone up. OT discussions are going up a lot but obviously the decisions will happen over a period of time. The IT/ ITES and BFSI has invested has invested a lot on predictive technologies. Ready-to-go platforms, threat intelligence, dark web monitoring, and all those kinds of stuff. The other, if I can actually pinpoint on certain aspects of the technology, which we do, I have seen a major surge and a real major surge in people focusing on encryption based technologies in the large enterprise space because I think finally there is a realization and acceptance that encryption helps them the most because in the situation of a data theft or a breach or a data exfiltration happening unknowingly from someone’s machine, if the data is encrypted or the machines have been encrypted, a lot of information becomes meaningless when it gets breached. So that particular part of technology in the technology driven enterprise verticals has seen a lot of surge. A lot of large business opportunities have moved in that direction where they bought the entire tool just to ensure that the encryption piece is taken care.
What are the key focus areas from a Kaspersky perspective for the next 12-18 months?
From a Kaspersky perspective, we are continuing and we been heavily invested in the threat intelligence capabilities and empower asset intelligence more. OT security again is going to be the prime focus because a lot of investments, because that is a rather untouched and unexplored area, and there is not too much expertise in the market right now in that area and if you pick up the history of last two years, major power grid has been heavily attacked. So there is definite threat which is in that direction, which we know we can cover and cater. So those directions are going to work. IOT is something we’ve been focusing a lot. So I think 2021, we see a lot of IOT coming from our side and of course anti-drone, given the need of the hour I think anti-drone is something that we are going to look at a lot. We see sustained growth and consistent business opportunities coming to us in the EDR and the anti APT. So I think from the IOT perspective is something which we will be talking about. In my perspective, I think EDR is going to be the new normal from an enterprise perspective. I think everybody will move with the EDR direction and it is just going to be a must have from the endpoint perspective. Server security and security on the cloud are a few handful of technologies, which will be the main point of discussion for 2021 and we’ll extend it to 2022 as well.