Special Feature

Leveraging Alliance Power to Create Market Impact 

B. Raghavendran, Managing Director, Partner Organization Cisco India and SAARC

Cisco’s growth lies with the growth of its partners. Over the years, Cisco has adopted some strategic aggression to outperform the competition in the marketplace and its partners have stood by it. Cisco has reciprocated this by offering them the road map, which only leads them to growth.    

Cisco is one of the largest organizations in the global technology world with the revenue of US$51.90 billion in 2019 and manpower of 75, 900 in the same period. The company’s revenue has been growing consistently year on year. Its India revenue is also growing consistently. Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco, said: “India has been one of the most consistent growth markets for the company. We are on track, in my opinion, for India to be 10 per cent of our business in 5-10 years.”

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“Our overall mantra is to ‘perform and transform.’ It explains how Cisco performs today and invests in our partners for tomorrow.”

B. Raghavendran,
Managing Director,
Partner Organization
Cisco India and SAARC


The basis of the bold statement the company’s supremo is the performance of its channel partners in India, who are the cogwheel in the entire engine of Cisco growth in the country. Of course, this situation is applicable to most of the region in the world and growth story of Cisco resonates across.

Cisco is not only gaining from the partners but also giving back to the partners by enabling them with futuristic technologies, certification, finance and profitability.

Raghavendran (Raghu) , Managing Director, Partner Organization, Cisco India and SAARC and the ace person for Cisco India partner business, says: “With the disruption we have seen, every company and vendor has realized that they need to take the channel route to scale their business. We are seeing a mutual and symbiotic relationship between vendors like us and the partners.” “We are investing in partners to enable them, and they are also investing in themselves to ensure their readiness. The partners are upskilling and upscaling themselves by participating in the various programs offered by us, like the Black Belt program. We have more than 6000 engineers, and salespeople enrolled in this program. So, the partners and we are jointly investing to ensure our readiness.”

It is no more secret that Industry 4.0, analytics, AI & ML, IoT, and cybersecurity are some of the technology buzzwords used today. Digital transformation is fueling all these technologies. Many organizations, be it big or small, are embracing digital to drive top-line and bottom-line growth, move into newer markets, optimize processes, and enhance competitive advantage. Organizations have realized that digital has to be an integral part of their entire strategy from a business standpoint. Today, digital is not just confined to the CIOs or CDOs of the organization; even the CEO talks about how digital is changing the landscape.

Narasimha Murthy, CEO and Founder, Connectivity Solutions, said: “India is transforming at scale and speed. India’s internet economy is expected to double to USD 250 billion in 2021. The business opportunity lies in collaborations with the Indian government and private enterprises to reach what is called the ‘Digital Rush’. It is going to be USD 80 trillion worth of the global economy, of which India has the potential to be a USD 6 trillion economy by 2027.”

Today, almost all the companies across sectors – financial, automobile, manufacturing, retail, etc. – are becoming technology companies. That is where the new-age competition is coming from. Technologies like Industry 4.0, AI, ML, analytics, and cybersecurity are coming in and helping organizations to rollout and capitalize on their dream or mission of digital transformation. These technologies enable them to do it faster within their organizations and get more out of the digital landscape. If the organizations have a digital infrastructure, analytics helps them in collecting the data to get a business outcome. It helps to make a decision that is right for the organization.

Atul Bansal, MD, Velocis Systems, said: “As digital transformation becomes imperative, overall IT business opportunity becomes enormous. Be it software-driven IT infrastructure, cloud or applications, analytics, and AI, there would be tremendous growth of opportunities form an IT perspective.”

Narasimha added, “As customers are choosing simplicity over complexity in technology, the focus is to make enterprises digital-ready to increase the pace of innovation. This can be achieved by helping them embrace a multi-cloud system, unlocking the power of data, building a strong, secured foundation, and enhancing both employee and customer experience.”

Raghu said, “Regarding AI, it is about using the existing data and analyzing it and providing faster solutions. Cisco is using AI extensively across various solutions like security, collaboration, network platform, and the data center platform so that we become faster in terms of decision making. For instance, Industry 4.0 is enabling a platform that is transforming traditional manufacturing infrastructure by incorporating sensors. I believe that the technologies that are emerging, such as RPA, AI, and automation are all going to fuel the pace at which digital transformation takes place for our customers, partners, and the ecosystem.”

“When you look at the partners’ landscape, we need to understand how they are looking at this transformation; how they can become relevant and build products and offerings that will differentiate them in the marketplace. This will drive their top-line and bottom-line growth and help them become more profitable,” he added.

As an OEM, Cisco’s job is to help its partners visualize this digital transformation, help them to understand the dynamic needs of the market, enable them to build solutions, and invest with them to co-develop solutions, and take these solutions to the marketplace. Keeping in mind the changing landscape of the market, Cisco embarked on a journey of business transformation.

Raghu maintained, “Our overall mantra is to ‘perform and transform.’ It explains how Cisco performs today and invests in our partners for tomorrow.”

In line with that mantra, Cisco has embarked on a business transformation exercise with its partners. Raghu added, “We first did this in the APJ region, and now it has been taken globally. Currently, we are doing a 17-week business transformation exercise where we are engaged with a third-party consultant and looking at every aspect of the partner’s business. When we look at this transformation, it is not only about the technology or building a solution and taking it to the marketplace, but bringing all of it together- the technology, the solution, the people, the process, and the financials.” Therefore, the company’s focus is to transform all the pillars of business and help them scale up. Cisco works closely with the partner and prepare a plan to transform them from being just a system integrator to a value-added solution player in the market.

Since Cisco cannot do a 17-week exercise with all its partners, the company shares a BX slide with its bigger partners who already have these capabilities within their organization and help them embrace their strategy with Cisco from a marketplace standpoint. Cisco also has a program called ‘Practice Development’ wherein the company looks at specific architectures and capabilities of its partners and explore the kind of offerings they can build together.

“For instance, if we look at an active partner in the hospitality segment and our Wi-Fi collab based solution for the hospitality sector, Cisco finds out how we can marry their vertical capabilities into our architecture and create an offering,” Raghu added. “To create this offering, along with the partners, we also look at the ecosystem around our partners and then help them build a solution that they can take to the marketplace. That is how we address the hospitality industry from a technology standpoint. Therefore, the partner will be able to offer his solution to that particular vertical in a recurring, CAPEX or an OPEX model. So, in this practice development, we are currently working with ten partners and will scale it up as we move forward.”

For its larger set of partners who understand the commercial model and have the capabilities, people, and processes, Cisco will be launching a self-paced offering. All the information on its business transformation journey is laid out there, so the partner can go through it, understand what he can do or take to the marketplace. Cisco endeavors to work with a partner to make sure he can address this digital transformation in a much better fashion.

He added, “Additionally, Cisco has moved into customer experience where we are not just implementing the solution with the customer but also ensuring that the customer is using, adopting, and loving the solution.”

‘Loving the solution’ means the customer is utilizing 100% capabilities of Cisco technology infrastructure as well as the solution and is seeing the outcome. This implies, Cisco is not only implementing the technology but are correctly aligned with the entire lifecycle of the technology in the customer place. This practice started almost two years ago, where the company built specific processes and tools internally. Over the last year, the company has started getting its partners onboard with it.

Raghu added, “Currently, we have CX specialization for partners where we are mirroring the capabilities of Cisco in terms of structure, process, and tools. This is done with the support of our customer success executive, a customer success manager, or renewal manager so that our partners can undergo the CX journey with their customers as well. Today, we have identified close to 8 – 10 partners who are undergoing CX specialization.”

Cisco has also looked at a more extensive set of partners and has developed a lifecycle advantage program. It has trained close to 200 partners and 300 individuals from these partner organizations as a part of this program. Depending on the size of the organization, the kind of customers they have, and the technology they are selling, the company ensures that they help the customer understand the lifecycle program and build the right skillsets and capabilities. Once they are CX specialized and complete software selling and renewals, they get a rebate. Raghu adds, “We are investing time and effort in this program so that our partners understand the CX journey and get CX specialized. With this, we want to ensure that our partners are ready for the future.”

Additionally, Cisco is also investing with its partners to develop Centres of Excellence (CoE). To date, there are 20 CoEs in the country. Cisco, along with its partners, has created CoEs to demonstrate vertical solutions, technology solutions, security solutions, etc. Looking at the whole gamut of technology from the digital transformation standpoint, the company has CoEs on DNAC, ACI offerings, connected manufacturing, retail, and warehousing, among others. Raghu explains, “We build these COEs based on the partner’s technological and vertical solutions so that they can bring their customers and demonstrate the solutions. If required, they can also co-create solutions with other partners in the ecosystem.


Cisco is concurring territories in order to expand its business opportunity and adding channel partners to its partner engagement. As per Raghu, Cisco is covering around 249 cities and towns through its partner network. He concluded, “Our geographical expansion is clearly through our distribution channel. Especially when we moved into this Small Business segment, we aimed to touch the length and breadth of the country. Now, we plan to work with our distributors to ensure maximum presence across tier III and IV cities. We are driving programs to ensure that we cover those partners.

Last financial year, the company had close to 2600 registered partners, and worked with 1500 partners. The charter is to continue to grow its partner network. Therefore, the company is coming up with multiple promotions and programs that will allow Cisco to reach untapped partners as well as cities. The goal is partners growth which ultimately leads to the growth of the company.

Cisco Channel Partner Programs 

  • Entry Level (Registered Partner) – Cisco Commercial Xcelerate Program, Not for Re-Sale Program.
  • Top Level (Select, Premier & Gold) – Value Incentive Program (VIP), Cisco Services Partner Program (CSPP), Opportunity Incentive Program (OIP), Perform Plus Program, Lifecycle Incentive program, Joint Marketing Fund & Not for Re-Sale Program.

X-sell and Black Belt programs

  • X-sell Program – It is a partner program focused on reseller partners, to drive SMB sales in whitespace territory. The reseller representative becomes an extended arm of Cisco & the partner will earn rewards on quarterly basis.
  • Black Belt Program: The Cisco Black Belt program is a simplified enablement framework. It is built to help partner sales and engineers learn Cisco’s competitive advantage and how Cisco solutions stack up against the competition – delivered in a virtual environment to provide scale, agility, and is on-demand for a self-paced experience.
  • Number of data centre partners – 36
  • Number of SD-WAN partners – 52
  • Number of partners registered in various programs are
    • Multi-cloud (15)
    • DNAC (20)
    • Security (65)

Briefly introduce your company and its USP?

Velocis delivers integrated business solutions aimed at the customer’s digital business transformation. Our solutions and service offerings are created with the motive to help our customers in their digital journey and, at the same time, bring value to their business. In this multicloud era of ‘any device, any platform, anywhere’, the customer needs unique and differentiated scalable offerings comprising of hardware, software, and value-added services that Velocis provides on a turnkey basis.

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“We have grown at over 30% YOY with Cisco technologies for the last six years continuously.”

Atul Bansal,
Velocis Systems


What kind of opportunity do you see for Cisco technologies?

Cisco is the clear leader in Multi Domain Architecture. Cisco has a composite strategy for data center, intent-based network, and end-to-end security. With this, Cisco is well-positioned to capture a large chunk of the upcoming opportunities.

Being a premium partner of CISCO, what is your advantage?

We are working with Cisco closely to transform our organization to address the new IT landscape and demand. Be it outcome-based offerings, or API integrations, Cisco has been working with partners like us closely. Today, we feel capable of addressing the new IT demands and challenges of our customers.

How have you grown with Cisco technologies?

We have grown at over 30% YOY with Cisco technologies for the last six years continuously.

Tell us about the ethics of Cisco from a partnering point of view?

Cisco conducts a large portion of its business in India in collaboration with partners. Cisco’s ethics in partnering are the best in the industry. We have seen Cisco add value tremendously in building partner capabilities and also being focused on partner profitability.

Do you have any advice on Cisco’s leadership from the partnering point of view or any other standpoint?

Customers look for a lot of guidance and consulting in defining their future IT roadmap. Cisco can help us develop these capabilities.

Briefly introduce your company and its USP 

Since 2003, we have empowered and inspired novices as well as many of our contemporaries to compete in IT on a global platform. With deep expertise and end-to-end capabilities, we help businesses run smarter. Our vision is to be a transformation partner for our customers, enabling business leaps in the connected age by offering intelligent and sustainable IT solutions.

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“Partners are the Primary Way in which Cisco Goes to Market.”

Narasimha Murthy,
CEO and Founder,
Connectivity Solutions


Data is the new currency, and securing data is the primary concern for any organization. We enable businesses to get enterprise-grade security through the deployment and management of Cisco’s security solutions. At our Centre of Experience in Bangalore, we showcase integrated Cisco security solutions and associated managed services in a simulated real-time and use-case-specific environment for various customer verticals. Also, with our ‘Customer Experience’ practice, we enable unprecedented visibility into the adoption of current technology and highlight underutilized solutions through proof of value workshops, on-going metrics, and reporting.

What kind of opportunity do you see for Cisco technologies? 

The world is changing faster than ever, and the pace of innovation will continue to accelerate. Over the past three years, Cisco has undertaken a journey to transform from a hardware company to a leader in the delivery of software, subscription and hardware products and services.

Two of the business units at Cisco that could further move the needle for the company are services and security. Cisco recently announced new ‘Business Critical Services’, which are designed to help its customers make the jump to digital transformation. We are expecting the uptake of these to be strong and for the services business unit to lead Cisco into its next era. Also, security presents a massive opportunity. Cisco is the largest enterprise-focused security vendor and is enabling the network to be a sensor and enforcer, coupled with threat intelligence from Talos.

Being a gold partner of Cisco, what is your advantage? 

As a gold partner, Cisco has helped us in building broad expertise across enterprise networks, collaboration, data center, cybersecurity, and next-generation intent-based networks. We are now able to demonstrate a high level of confidence and customer satisfaction with the lifecycle services which we provide to our customers.

The Cisco Gold Partnership has not only made our company more reliable and consistent but has also opened a catalogue of resources that can be used when and where they are required. This has helped further our reach and technological capacities with a range of Cisco partner programs and support services.

How have you grown with Cisco technologies? 

With around a decade-long strategic relationship, Cisco’s holistic approach has helped us with global exposure in building our market identity and transforming for the future by enhancing our internal efficiency, portfolio, and resources through comprehensive training and award-winning programs like Partner Plus, Value Incentivisation, and Digital Marketing.

Recently, as a part of the ‘Partner Transformation’ program, Cisco enabled us with new strategies like “Perform, Transform and Adoption” to strike a balance that helps us perform and reach our business goals effectively. This will allow us to invest our time in transformation and to develop the core and functional capabilities required to solve complex business challenges for our customers in the future.

Tell us about the ethics of Cisco from a partnering point of view? 

Partners are the primary way in which Cisco goes to market. Despite being in the midst of great change, the company’s commitment to the channel partners has been unwavering. The partner route-to-market for Cisco is at an all-time high, working alongside partners as it continues to evolve into a software and subscriptions-focused company. With the best channel partner and enablement program in the world, Cisco encourages open communications by providing multiple ways to share concerns and proactively follow up on raised concerns, inquiries, or feedback.

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