Cloud Brings In Twice The Revenue For Partners: Gavriella Schuster Of Microsoft

Gavriella Schuster
GM, WorldWide Partner Marketing And Programs, Microsoft, Microsoft
Have India’s channel partners taken to selling cloud services, or are they as traditional ‘product sellers’ still wary? It’s still early days for cloud services adoption in India, says Gavriella Schuster, general manager of Microsoft’s WorldWide Partner Marketing And Programs. But she adds that channel partners who have made the jump from selling traditional software products to transiting to cloud services see increased revenue and profits.

Excerpts from the interaction with Channel Times:

You head the partner marketing program. Who all are ‘partners’ for Microsoft?

We have segmented our partners four ways: Traditional reseller partners, Partners who are into project services; Managed service providers, and IT service delivery partners. Managing our partner ecosystem is not just about servicing our customers, but about creating an ecosystem where our partners play together and build complementary services with Microsoft to deliver more value to the market. We deliver specific training to partners providing different services to customers and endorse our high level partners to our customers. We have also identified 28 areas of competence where we certify partners, measuring performance at two levels: Gold, where they receive our full endorsement, and Silver, below that level.

Does the partner program include the hardware products?

Yes, everything including the Surface devices, Microsoft’s phones, to cloud services is covered by our partner portfolio.

To which types of customers does Microsoft sell direct?

We have always been more of a partner company. Where a customer wants Microsoft’s consultation directly, then we will frequently subcontract with our partners to deliver that service. Even if we transact with a customer directly, we still bring in a slew of partners to help them in the adoption of that technology.

What’s your plan for Surface devices in India?

The Surface has just launched in India and we intend to target the enterprise space in the first year of its launch. We have roped in HCL and Team Computers as our distributors for Surface devices to cater to the enterprise segment, while end consumers will buy them from Amazon.

How has selling cloud services changed things for your partners?

India is an emerging market for cloud services. Our cloud partner portfolio is in a nascent stage here, compared to other countries where most partners are driving their businesses deploying cloud services. We conduct regular training and workshops for our channel partners in the country to facilitate their transition from regular software products to cloud-based services. Our partners who have made this transition to the cloud now generate 1.8 times more revenue, compared to partners offering traditional services.

I believe Microsoft has changed its enterprise volume licensing program. Will customers now pay more for services?

No, and anyway that change you refer to doesn’t apply in India. Elsewhere, we tweaked the enterprise licensing agreement: in many parts of the world customers largely go in for services delivered on a SaaS model: in fact that shift is sharp, like a hockey-stick, at the lowest and highest ends of the market. So it’s more cost effective for them to pay as they go, rather than having annual contracts at a fixed price. It was overhead for us to have a licensing model which wasn’t very well utilized. As I said, this doesn’t apply here yet.

Does Microsoft have a target for the number of channel partners in its partner program, say by this year end?

Our focus is not really to increase the number of channel partners, as our skill lies in managing all of our partner ecosystem. We aim to get the right capacity to address the requirements of customers, as they are our focal point.

Since most of your partners have traditionally sold products…what do they need to do to bring more to the table, for selling services?

They need to first understand the business model they intend to be in and what is the area of specialization they want to focus on: whether it Internet of Things, Business Intelligence, etc. They also need to think about what kind of investments they are willing to make in their business. We also help them with resources, workshops, best practices, and then we help skill up the individuals in the organization so that they can be more successful in this emerging space.

Any plans to tap e-commerce channels in India?

Surface and Xbox One are clear examples of how we are leveraging the online channels for our products. Xbox One was exclusive to Amazon for some time and now it’s available across different e-commerce platforms. It’s an area we are looking at aggressively because we know that there are many customers out there using online shopping platforms. An another note, we also working with e-commerce companies like Snapdeal to help them scale up their operations.

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