Microsoft: A Trusted Partner for SMEs in India : By - Rajeev Mittal Group Director, Small and Medium Enterprise, Microsoft India.
It is believed that India’s SME number is growing aggressively to touch some millions in 2008. These millions of units contribute substantially to the economy of the country. They also spend substantially nearly 24 per cent. Last year, the SME spend was US$8 billion. And, they are growing 100 per cent year on year. The characteristic of SMEs is very much different from large enterprises. So, the way large enterprises are viewed should not be the same with the SMEs. According to a recent AMI Partners survey, there are three stages where SMEs adopt IT. For example, the first stage involves access to basic technology, including core infrastructure such as PCs, LANs, Servers. The second stage is a collaborative phase where companies begin to invest in VPNs, Intranets Mobility, CRM, etc. The third stage involves IT needs which result from business extension and growth, for example implementation of Supply chain, ERP or even chalking out Partner integration programmes.
In every stage of the SMEs growth, Microsoft is there to handhold them. Rajeev Mittal, Group Director, Small and Medium Enterprise, Microsoft India, says, “Yes, Microsoft software is extensively used across SMEs.” But the point is that still the products are believed to be pricey. As per Microsoft, it is the capability, not just cost that drives adoption and usage of a particular product or service. As consumer awareness about PC usage increases, and they start appreciating the value it can add to their lives – cost perceptions will start getting altered simultaneously. We believe that if customers see value, they will be willing to pay a reasonable price for it. Having said that, we at Microsoft endeavour to bring some of our best-of-the-breed products, to consumers, in editions which are extremely economically priced – for example, the Windows Starter Edition which provides an affordable and relevant computing option to first-time users in India. This also forms part of our strategy to help bridge the digital divide in India and bring more people into the computing fold.
The recent study by Frost & Sullivan on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) revealed that the Microsoft Windows 2003 environment across enterprises has close-to 15.9-per cent advantage over Linux and constitutes lower TCO in 80 per cent of the instances encompassing application servers, network servers and mail servers.
For easy availability, consumers and small businesses can order original software either on the telephone or online. Additionally, Microsoft’s Get Genuine Solution (GGS), a unique offering from Microsoft, enables SMBs to legalize their counterfeit or unlicensed Windows XP Professional PCs. With GGS, customers can access important original software updates and downloads to valuable and premium add-ons. With the original software, customers can reap the benefits of Windows Advantage Program such as enhanced product features, security updates, clip art, templates, etc. Customers who opt for GGS have the option of enrolling into Microsoft’s Software Assurance Program which also allows them the option of upgrading to Windows Vista, Microsoft’s next-generation desktop operating system that is witnessing wide scale enterprise deployment in India. Moreover, all our products are constructed in a manner which makes them conducive to changes of scale of business
To increase affordability of IT and improve access, Microsoft has looked at new ways to help the SMEs. To this end, Microsoft recently offered its Dynamics Suite of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications as a hosted and subscription service which will allow businesses to use these solutions without the need to install it within the company’s own premises. Mittal added, “We believe that this new offering will allow a much larger set of SMEs in India to adopt and benefit from ERP services. We have also recently launched Microsoft Office Professional 2007 Prepaid Edition in India, which allows users, typically SMEs, to use the productivity suite in subscription mode, and therefore pay per use, as opposed to making heavy initial investments.””
He maintains, “We also have several licensing models that can be leveraged appropriately to deliver the maximum return on investment to the customer.””
It will be remembered that Microsoft solutions are taken to the customers through 3,500 strong partner network. Mittal says, “Our partners functions as advisers to the customers to help them choose the solutions most suited to their business from among the wide options available from Microsoft, and help customers avoid unsuitable investments.”” Both for Microsoft and its partner network, customer interest is at the core of Microsoft products and services offering. The company has recently announced the availability of the Dynamics Suite of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications as a subscription or a pay as you go service. This allows businesses to use these solutions without the need to install it within the company’s own premises and is expected to increase the affordability of ERP solutions by eliminating upfront capital expenditure and also eliminating the need for in-house IT resources and additional infrastructure. In line with the evolving customer needs, Microsoft will introduce several modes through which customers may be able to gain an easy access to technology. Towards that end, the company is expecting to bring under the software plus service strategy several other offerings, going forward. With the changing customer needs, partners too will be expected to shift to solution selling rather than a transactional approach to product sale, build services around both hardware and software, and overall step into the shoes of a trusted adviser to the SME customer, more than ever before.
Microsoft also has a Small Business Portal www.merabusiness.com or Microsoft.com/India/SMB.
In a long-term commitment to this community, Microsoft has set up Project Vikas which it runs in association with the National Manufacturing Competitive Council (NMCC) Project Vikas is meant to help the Indian SME sector address its “soft” challenges and gear up to effectively face global competition. Microsoft hopes that this programme will not only enhance efficiency and competitiveness, but foster growth in the local software ecosystem.
As channel partners play a key role in reaching out to its customers and delivering products and their services around them, Microsoft understands the need for the partners to have the capability. Mittal says, “We have primary two ways to ensure that we reach out and train our partners: Face to face/classroom training and Self-paced learning using the Partner Learning Centre.”
The face to face/classroom training has been broken into three broad sub-categories. The foundation series is run using video conferencing and reach out to 25 cities through this effort. As the next step, the company trains its partners on server technologies and under this the partners are given Gold certification to be able to sell solutions. On top of this, the company has advanced solution selling training for serving the customers better. As this is the launch year for Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008, the company has exciting partner readiness and training programmes for partners this year. In the second phase of training, Microsoft delivers web-based self- service readiness training. And, a lot of them come free of cost.
Besides, Microsoft has recently launched The System Builders Business Club, a unique first-time opportunity for System Builders, Integrators and Value-Added Resellers in India to be part of an exclusive business club.
Microsoft offers to its customers the best-of-breed products which serve as a future-proof foundation for all IT investments. According to Mittal, the company has products that are tailored to meet the unique needs of the SME community – for example, Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2, Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 which have been designed to meet the needs of small businesses and medium businesses, respectively. Along with its partners, Microsoft creates solutions that have been built ground up to meet the business needs of SMBs and are easy to implement, use and support.
In order to address the issues of affordability and easy access, the company now offers new ways to access technology and several licensing and payment models. Among them is the hosted model which allows SMEs to access technology in an affordable manner. The company has also recently launched Microsoft Office Professional 2007 Prepaid Edition in India, a productivity suite for home users and small businesses at a very affordable price. These strategies have gone a long way in making the access to state-of-the-art technology easy and affordable for SMEs.
It is believed that software piracy is a far-reaching and serious problem not only for India but also for economies around the world. Mittal says, “We are consistently working towards helping SMEs overcome this challenge. In fact, in the past few years, through concerted efforts by the government, judiciary, software vendors and channel, we have seen a steady growth in customers purchasing original software. It was rewarding to see that piracy dropped two per cent in India in 2005 and one per cent last year, reducing the piracy rate to 71 per cent (Source: BSA-IDC Piracy Study 2006). Microsoft understands that a significant section of software users are using pirated software due to lack of awareness about pirated software. To help consumers access the best products, the company engages in an extensive education programme and some industry bodies are actively supporting the vendor in taking the message of using non-pirated software forward.
IDC (India) recently stated that India’s entry into Growth Phase 2.0 this year will represent a’“coming of age” of the Indian IT segment, which will further push the demand for more evolved IT infrastructure across businesses. The small and medium businesses will emerge as a clear business driver for the IT industry and therefore for the Channel community, far exceeding the home user segment, though that itself would have shown good growth. As vendors look for new ways to support this growing demand, software plus services look all set to emerge as key strategy that will accelerate the pace of IT adoption in the SMB market. A process that has already begun, 2008 is expected to be a strong inflexion point.