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FACILITATING A VALUE TRANSFER TO PARTNERS

Foad Farrokhnia, Head of Channel & Alliance, APJ at Zscaler
Foad Farrokhnia, Head of Channel & Alliance, APJ at Zscaler

Working closely with its partner ecosystem, Zscaler ensures its customers –both current as well as potential – are well equipped to combat the cybersecurity minefield today

“Our partners are integral to our business with over 95 percent of our business fulfillment coming through the channel.”

Foad Farrokhnia, Head of Channel & Alliance, APJ at Zscaler

Cyber Security major Zscaler has been instrumental in accelerating digital transformation, so that its customers can be more agile, efficient, resilient, and secure. The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange platform protects organizations worldwide from cyberattacks and data loss by securely connecting users, devices, and applications in various locations. The company runs the SSE-based Zero Trust Exchange, which is the world’s largest in-line cloud security platform that is distributed across more than 150 data centers globally.

Foad Farrokhnia, who heads Channel & Alliance, in the APJ region for Zscaler spoke to SME Channels. In this exclusive chat, Foad discusses how Zscaler is leveraging the current hike in demand for security solutions worldwide; his key forecasts for the security market; key insights from the State of Zero Trust Transformation Report; key focus areas of Zscaler’s Channel Business; India in Zscaler’s overall global channel marketing strategy; Growth Roadmap for 2023, and much more. Edited Excerpts…

How is Zscaler leveraging the current hike in demand for security solutions worldwide?

While the current IT spending climate has been rife with concerns around macroeconomic issues, such as the impending recession, cybersecurity still remains top of mind for many IT leaders across the board. Needless to say, threat actors are growing in both sophistication and numbers – showing no signs of slowing down. Businesses can no longer afford to postpone investments in their cybersecurity solution stack.

It is imperative for IT leaders to partner with cybersecurity companies that can help them across the journey – from getting executive buy-in to deploying the solutions and providing support, where needed. Keeping that in mind, Zscaler has been working closely with our partner ecosystem to ensure our customers – current and potential – are well equipped to combat the cybersecurity minefield today. We continue to invest in our innovations and ecosystem to guide customers towards a more secure environment.

What megatrends would you forecast in the security market?

While cybersecurity remains a constantly evolving field – and therefore, hard to pinpoint the exact trajectory it is on – there are some megatrends we are consistently seeing across the globe.

From a user perspective: With the advent of mobile workforce and evolving threats coming into play, the attack surface available for hackers has increased significantly, driving a stronger need for cybersecurity to be tightly ingrained into the DNA of a company’s cybersecurity strategies. This has led to an increasing demand for more human-centric cybersecurity solutions that provides a smoother employee experience but not at the expense of cybersecurity. Certain technologies, like VPNs and traditional firewalls, increase operational friction – leading to many employees admitting to bypassing these tools to avoid operational friction points. With that in mind, more businesses are looking at solutions that are designed with the user in mind to circumvent this issue.

From a business perspective: Cybersecurity is becoming a focal point for boards, with more chief information security officers (CISOs) having a seat at the table now more than ever. It is undeniable that every business today is a digital business and cybersecurity plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the business interests. This requires CISOs to not only understand the technical elements of the cybersecurity landscape but to also frame the cybersecurity needs in a manner that the rest of the board can understand clearly. CISOs need to ensure that the board continues seeing the importance of investing and building a resilient cybersecurity tech stack.

From a technology perspective: The growing adoption for zero trust programs within enterprises of all sizes. The zero trust approach has been gaining traction as the cybersecurity approach that can help companies cover all bases – and rightly so. Zero trust begins with the assumption that everything on the network is hostile or compromised, and access is only established once user identity and business context has been verified and policy checks are enforced. With this approach, organizations are able to realize the benefits of digital transformation projects without falling into careful traps laid out by cyber threat actors.

Please elaborate on the State of Zero Trust Transformation Report 2023. What are the top insights from the report?

While the report illuminated many insights across the various markets, there were two key insights that stood out for the India market.

Firstly, India is far ahead of its counterpart when it comes to leveraging the full potential of cloud computing. Compared to the global average of 22 percent, more than half of Indian IT leaders surveyed (55 percent) stated that they were “fully confident” of their organizations ability to fully leverage cloud infrastructure. This isn’t unsurprising given that India has been at the forefront of tech innovations for some time now.

Secondly, there is an explosion of interest around zero trust amongst Indian organizations.  Over 96 percent of respondents that are migrating to the cloud have implemented, are implementing, or are in the process of implementing a zero trust architecture. The research shows that against a backdrop of rapid digital transformation, zero trust is the ideal framework for securing enterprise users, workloads and IoT/OT environments in a highly distributed cloud and mobile-centric world.

Which areas do you want to focus on in the channel – skillsets, sales & marketing, vertical and technology development, or service capability?

Our partners are integral to our business with over 95 percent of our business fulfillment coming through the channel. We have a strong network of partners composed of value added resellers, system integrators and service providers that our sales team collaborates closely with to engage new prospects. In fact, driving stronger synergies with our partners from the onset of finding prospects all the way to deployment and servicing of the clients has led to immense success for us – evidenced by Zscaler’s net promoter score of over 80 against the SaaS industry average of 30.

Our Zscaler Summit Partner Program is designed to scale and help partners promote the Zscaler platform collaboratively and appropriately based on customers’ needs. The program is centered around co-sell activities to foster deeper collaborations with partners. Some of the sales tools we provide to our partners consist of an asset library with sales and enablement resources, marketing resources to create co-branded collaterals, social syndication and email nurture campaigns to drive sales opportunities as well as training and certification programs to help partners ensure relevance in the market.

Many of Zscaler’s partners are operating in a multi-protocol label switching/traditional network space which is changing exponentially in today’s data age. Retaining and growing a customer base requires modernization and innovation for all our partners. Through our partner program, Zscaler is facilitating a value transfer for our partner network by supporting them in protecting their existing install base. Our partnership has helped many of our partners offset a decline in revenue for traditional revenue streams.

The top-tiered Zscaler partners also get dedicated headcount from our partner teams as well as co-branded marketing collateral. Zscaler also regularly invests in our partner-led events. Each partner is at a different maturity level when it comes to marketing strategies and our partner program provides increased marketing support to help their business growth and drive pipeline.

Are there any new product additions to the channels market?

As a primarily channel-led organization, all of the Zscaler solution offerings are available to our channel partners for co-sell engagements.

Where does India stand in Zscaler’s global channel marketing strategy?

India is a key market for us when it comes to our global channel marketing strategy. At Zscaler, we are committed to growing our partner ecosystem by enabling our partner’s go-to-market approach. We want to continue building synergies with our channel partners to develop the confidence in our technology, people and world-class channel program. Aside from impactful business tools and applications, a truly unique advantage of Zscaler’s partner portal is our easy-to-use, automated marketing platform – Partner Demand Center. This platform, which was recently launched at our ‘One True Zero Mumbai’ roadshow for India channel partners, is packed with effective digital marketing tools and turnkey zero trust campaigns that empowers our partners to take control of their demand generation strategies to rapidly engage with their customers and prospects.

What’s your geo-spread? Do you plan any major investment for channel expansion in India?

As a partner-led business, we have channel representation across all of the markets Zscaler operates in. As far as Asia Pacific is concerned, we have a strong channel presence in markets such as Australia-New Zealand, India, Japan, ASEAN, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In terms of investments, we are expanding our channel focus – both in breadth and depth – by investing in our partners to expand their capability as well as developing solutions that deliver positive customer outcomes. We see that partners with a good balance of pre- and post-sales capability are increasingly more successful and we want to continue building this growth momentum with our partners.

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