Two factors that influence technology adoption by SMEs are capital and resource crunch, and Cisco will bring world-class solutions to its SME customers, says Arun DharmalingamBANGALORE, INDIA: Like any other technology vendors, Cisco, too, believes in working with channel partners to reach out to more customers with its myriad IT solutions. This very strategy is helping this networking giant to remain a top player amidst a stiff competition from its peers.
Having garnered quite a number of small and medium enterprise (SME) customers in India, Cisco has intensified its focus on the sector by increasing investments to accelerate the partner-led model in India by 300 per cent. In a chat with CIOL, Arun Dharmalingam, vice-president, Partner Led Velocity and Distribution Sales, Cisco India and SAARC, talks about its SME offerings and growth prospects in the country.
CIOL: What is the adoption rate of your solutions among SMEs in India?
Dharmalingam: Today, SMEs in India are looking to adopt technologies that will help them scale their business and give them a competitive edge, especially in a global arena, and they view IT as a strategic investment.
While a significant number of SMEs are still at a basic technology adoption level, others are fast moving to more mature levels and new-age technologies like collaboration, specially video, data centre and virtualization. Cloud and cloud-based services are fast becoming preferred investment options for them. For Cisco, globally as well as in India, the SME market is one of the fastest growing sectors. In fact, this segment is growing at 45 per cent CAGR over the past three years in India for Cisco.
CIOL: What is your investment in the sector and are you planning huge investments in future?
Dharmalingam: We have increased investments to accelerate the partner-led model in India by 300 per cent and introduced several new channel engagement and enablement programs to help our partners fuel sales among SME customers.
In addition, we have made an investment of approximately $100 million globally to develop products for small businesses. These products are designed to meet the SME needs and also offer flexibility to scale up when required for SMEs.
CIOL: Which are the verticals that you are focusing on?
Dharmalingam: With the array of products that provide comprehensive technology solutions, ranging from network connectivity, security, video, storage to unified communication tools that enable seamless collaboration anywhere and anytime, Cisco is a one-stop shop vendor for SME-targeted technology infrastructure across verticals. SMEs require IT solutions and we cater to all the verticals by offering customized products and solutions.
CIOL: What are the challenges that you have faced while installing your solutions? How did you address these challenges?
Dharmalingam: Given the diversity and fragmented market in India, it becomes very difficult for any technology vendors to reach out to the core audience to understand their needs and requirements. This is where our partner-led model comes to play. Our network of partners enables us to be on ground and speak the local patois, giving us an intimate understanding of regional sentiments/attitudes.
Another problem that we face is that SMEs are still largely unaware of the ROI (return on investment) that they would get by implementing IT solutions. This problem is again addressed through our channel partners, who help us by creating awareness among the SMEs about IT implementation and its advantages.
CIOL: What are the pain points that you have observed in these SMEs?
Dharmalingam: Two factors that critically influence technology adoption by SMEs are capital and resource crunch (internal IT managers). Cisco and its partners understand this and are committed to bringing world-class solutions to our SME customers. Our smart financing schemes such as the Easy Lease program are helping SMEs progress by financing their technology adoption.
To counter the problem of quality IT managers, the key feature that we try and build in our products is the 'plug ‘n’ play' capability. It is not only easy for our partners to install and manage customer premise equipment, but it makes it easy for SMEs to manage their own networks and infrastructure, too.
CIOL: What is the next level of IT implementation for you?
Dharmalingam: The next level of IT implementation in the SME market that we foresee is the transition to cloud solutions. Cloud services would adopt the pay-as-you-go model which helps customers keep a tighter lid on the cost of doing business and their expenditure on a service. This consequently enables them to lower costs and be more efficient with their technology use.
Besides, SMEs have less-complex IT needs, fewer legacy applications, and less IT support than larger enterprises, making it easier for them to transition to cloud services.