India completes 65 years of independence on 15 August 2012. In all these years as a free nation, India achieved various milestones in technology and got itself placed among world's most prominent IT economies. These years of IT uplift in the country gave birth to a Channel Partner community that is today a crucial part of IT growth in India. These partners work as a channel between technology vendor and customers. The vendors usually have an upper hand in their business decisions, however, the channel partners always strive to make their own identity and space and become vendor-independent. What do they mean by vendor independence? Why is it crucial for a partner? Have they achieved it, and if not, then what is their struggle for freedom?
Purna Swaraj: Complete Independence
In January 26, 1930, Congress resolved to fight for Purna Swaraj, complete self-rule independent of the British Empire as it felt that partial independence does not make sense. Partners think on the same line. Although The vendor-partner relationship is complex with strong and healthy association running the business for both parties, partners strive for complete vendor independence in their business decisions.
Vendor independence is when a channel partner can deliver his products and services entirely based on customers' demand without any compulsion of selling particular product of particular vendor, i.e., being vendor neutral. Vendor-neutrality is something that most, if not all, partners aspire to. However, it is not as easy as it seems.
Roop B Raj, MD, Zener Systems says, "We attempt to do customer-specific business, and for that, we need to be completely vendor independent. We want all vendors available so that we can pick and chose the best product and deliver to our customer. But it is not very easy. In today's business scenario, you need to be loyal to your vendor, and due to this, at times, you are forced to sell a product that you can't justify to the customer."
"Self dependency is urgently required today. Our business model has become such that we cannot act independently, we cannot put up our conditions in a deal, we cannot bargain for better margins. It is a great challenge for us to become independent at least on the technology front so that we can recommend the best solution to our customers and garner better profits," says Debashish Dasgupta, Marketing Manager at Kolkata-based Computer Exchange.
No True Independence without Education
Mahatma Gandhi rightly said that there could be no Independence in a country without education. Partners share this belief and find that education is what required to get freedom, however the major source of education is still the vendor.
Just as the British Government provided education to Indians to meet their own purposes, same is the case with the technology vendors. Gaurav Mathur, Managing Director of Hyderabad-based Filix Consulting believes that independence is quite not possible as the source of education is still a technology vendor. He says, "To become vendor-neutral in decision making, you need to be well educated about what product or services you are selling. Only education can give you the power to recommend solution. However, this is not possible without a vendor because the vendor is the only source that provides us the global scope of technology. Partners in India still do not have enough bandwidth to generate their own sources of knowledge; it is always cascaded through the vendor."
Ashim Bhasin, Director of Jaipur-based BB Professionals agrees that situation is worse for the small city partners. "Lack of education is what makes us completely vendor dependent. Partners in metro are relatively independent because they have some bandwidth. But in the upcountry market, we have to be dependent on our vendors for any technology update or learning."
Partners also believe that their community needs to develop stronger associations, and a common forum to discuss new technologies, especially one which includes small partners, could go a long way in helping partners improve their knowledge and skill sets without vendor's assistance.
Struggle for Freedom
During the freedom struggle, India went through different phases of protest such as Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence, violent resistance movements by revolutionaries, and religion-based struggle by Muslim league and Hindu Organizations. Similarly, partners are adopting several different ways to become self-dependence. They are focusing on innovations and self-development on the line of Gandhi's Swadeshi and Swawlamban (self-dependency) movements.
Filix Consulting is creating its own Intellectual Property (IP), which is helping it to differentiate itself in the market. This is a revolutionary step by Filix that enables it to have its own brand identity in market, which it markets at its own prices and conditions. The company has also been recognized internationally for its innovation. Mathur at Filix informs, "Creating our own IP leads us to the way of Independence. We have our own IP in real estate domain named Filix Cream Solution -- a complete real estate application model. We were also awarded in an international event for this IP as the Best Partner for Innovation. We also have loosely held IPs in automobile, textile and chemical industry," he adds.
Another 25-year old company, Computer Exchange, has developed its own Centre of Excellence (CoE), especially for Virtualization technology, to innovate and bring the latest technology on board for its customers. This is helping the partner to become self-dependent technologywise. Dasgupta explains, "In our CoE, we have created an environment where customer can come and see the virtualization technology with different products of different vendors. Now we are a Virtualization player and we talk virtualization technology regardless of the product or the vendors. This was not the case earlier when we were relied on a particular vendor. CoE has empowered us."
Dasgupta is now trying to create company's own IP because he feels that having your own brand is must for becoming vendor independent. Though he feels that it will take time, he is confident that the partner community will come out of vendors' domination eventually.
Like all other struggles, partners, in their quest for vendor-independence, too, have a long road to travel. To quote Robert Frost's poem with which Free India's first Prime Minister concluded his autobiography:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.