Hi SMBs! talk to IBM directly : By - Ramesh Narsimhan Director – General Business, IBM India/South Asia
The small- and mid-sized business segment is just like the youngest child in a family. The youngest child is either a spoilt brat or highly creative and productive. Therefore, they require a lot of pampering and handholding. Their requirements are also discrete. Like the rest of the world, India also witnesses the upheaval of SMBs, which change the economics of the country. And, technology vendors including HP, IBM, Sun Micro, SAP, Oracle, etc. all have devised strategies to enable the SMBs to grow. And, IBM in particular is really aggressive uncharacteristically to nurturing the SMBs.
Recently, VARIndia has had an interaction with Ramesh Narsimhan, Director – General Business, IBM India/South Asia, who is also responsible for the SMB solutions at IBM. The first statement he made “I completely shatter the myth that IBM is for large enterprises” justifies the intensity of IBM to look after the SMBs.
According to him, the large enterprises want large solutions – very stable, ability to scale up, ability to grow, and they are worried about integration and they have the time and effort to buy the best-of-the-breed solutions. When it comes to mid-market, what happens is that mid-market customers face a very different set of
challenges. The biggest challenge is to cope with growth. Today, the mid-market customers are almost doubling their revenue–– growing 60–80 per cent year on year. For them, in order to accommodate the growth, they need to deploy technology – and technology never comes cheap. Secondly, in order to manage technology, they need to have the skilled manpower and, finally, they need to have a vision in terms of technology deployment as to how to scale up with growth. Secondly, in the SMBs technology, the needs of 100-seater enterprise do differ from a 200-seater enterprise. So, SMBs require adequate knowledge while choosing a solution because when they assume sudden growth the technology can actually support being scaled up seamlessly, and in the growing situation also it can be deployed easily. To cope with growth, SMBs require finance for acquiring technology also. Therefore, IBM these days has fine-tuned its offerings and removed all the appendages and weeds which were distracting the SMBs. Besides, to help them relieve of their burden, IBM has a finance option, which is very closely integrated with consulting as well. So, investments of SMBs are likely to go to safe hands.
IBM has developed a terminology to identify itself as the real patron of SMBs, which is called “express advantage”. This is, of course, a strategy within which lie a variety of offerings which could be solutions, consulting, finance and support as well. So, the customers can buy hundreds of solutions and can even talk to experts at IBM. There is, of course, a call centre, which proactively takes care of the customers’ needs and redirects the lead to the partners to fulfil.
Another typicality of SMB is that it is dispersed across the country. So, reaching them is one of the big challenges. Therefore, IBM is expanding to various geographies – even smaller to smallest townships, which, of course, offers tremendous potential. Besides, the company’s partners are quite evenly spread out across the country as well.
Ramesh says, “Last year, we have opened our fourteenth office and all the offices are located in tier-II cities, including Bhopal, Chandigarh, etc. in the North, Jamshedpur and Bhubaneswar in the East and Coimbatore and Vizag in the South. So across geography, our effort is to get closer to our mid-market customers and create confidence among them.” Secondly, at times, the channel partners decline to offer managed services to the customers because of their inability or some other reasons. At this point, IBM takes over and tries to create a bridge between the partner and the customer.
Imagine a vendor who is not only rich with a wide range of hardware solutions for systems and storage but also software as well, alongside consulting and finance, to enable a partner or fulfil a customer – whatever might be the size. So while IBM opens its Santa Claus backpack it carries, Tivoli like middleware, Database software, mail messaging and collaboration solutions – Lotus software, Integration and application infrastructure – WebSphere, Rational Software, etc., and on the OS side, the company has all the flavours of products starting from Windows platform, Linux and Unix as well. The company has its own power processor also. And, All these products and solutions are offered either as a standalone solution or as a packaged solution to the SMBs through the ecosystem of IBM. This is not enough, IBM’s contact centre can be contacted through a toll-free number as and when required, and, on the other side, this centre also takes stock of the situation from time to time. So, this is what is called Express Solution of the vendor.
Besides, SMBs have a fair treatment from IBM as various solutions are built grounds up for them, which are either of low footprint or affordable and scalable.
Despite huge capability, IBM has actually not won the hearts of some factions of SMBs. Its capability is going against the company’s benignity and humbleness. SMBs think IBM is too pricey and big in size to be sensitive for them, which is actually a misapprehension. Ramesh maintains, “I shatter the myth that IBM is for large enterprises and pricey. It is equally sensitive and proactive for the SMB segments.” This very statement from Ramesh actually removes all the misgivings. Though, with humility, Ramesh says that there are challenges from SMBs, but the advantages are innumerable. The first and foremost is that the customers get end-to-end solutions from a single window. They need not move from place to place and evaluate solutions.
The SMB market in India like other geographies is growing immensely disproving analysts’ reports. Therefore, the channel partners and the ecosystem, which are chasing this community should have faith in their efforts and should not ever think that they are after a flock of wild geese. Ramesh adds, “IBM is growing and succeeding in this country. We depend on the channel partners, who are the important link between our customers and us. Their healthy relationship with IBM on the one side and with the customers on the other is important for both of us. We will keep on investing in the partners towards their empowerment and health. We will also wish to grow their number.”