Succeeding in the IT industry in this era requires just more than the mindset, flexibility and dexterity. To feel the pulse of this spirit in this enduring pandemic, CRN India had organised the Channel Leadership Summit & Awards 2020. ‘Recognizing Excellence in Unprecedented Times’ was the theme. This digital event happened on December 08, 09 and 10, 2020.

One of the panel discussions highlighted the role of ICT partners in overcoming challenges during Covid-19 and the road ahead. NK Mehta, CEO & MD, Secure Network Solutions India moderated the discussion and was participated by Vishal Bindra, MD, ACPL; Chenthil Eswaran, Practice Head of Enterprise Solutions, Aspire Systems; Pradeep Nair, Country Channel Head – Aruba India; Rinkesh Arora, Vice President & Country Lead for India, Bitscape; Siva S, Founder & CEO, Powerupcloud Technologies; Prashanth Subramanian, Co-Founder, Quadrasystems.net; and Santosh Kulkarni, Country Manager – Data Centre Business, Vertiv India.

Following questions were put forth to the panel and the views shared by Chenthil Eswaran from Aspire Systems are highlighted.

Question: Please share your experience of dealing with the customers during the corona period. How did you co-operate with them to provide unprecedented support?

Chenthil Eswaran: On March 25, when the lockdown was announced in India, Aspire Systems responded by creating a pandemic-specific, multi-stage business continuity plan. We were careful not to react but instead respond uncompromisingly to first ensure that employee health and safety concerns were addressed. We followed all the protocols to give them a safe working environment.

In turn, they were able to give customers all the support they required. Stage 1 saw us move some functions and customer projects to work from home to reduce as much physical contact as possible.
In Stage 2, we increased remote working options while ensuring only 1/3 of people can sit in a bay.

And Stage 3 saw almost all our staff start working from home securely.

The handful, who visited our premises with permission from the government, received full support– from corona testing to transportation and catering. We managed to move from Stage 0 to Stage 3 in a matter of days. There was zero downtime with no dip in productivity levels whatsoever.

This experience reinforced our in-built change management approach:

  • First, we accept the urgency in the need for change
  • Then, we realize our willingness to change and get insights on how to see it through
  • Finally, we leverage our ability to execute the change while reinforcing the need regularly.

Question: Security has been the highlight of the Corona period, given the continuous onslaught of breach events, which continue unabated. What are the customers demanding?

Chenthil Eswaran: It didn’t take an onslaught for customers to expect more security governance. In fact, that was the first and only concern customers had – considering they had other corona-related business concerns to deal with. Before they could ask, we had already created a comprehensive communication plan to keep them updated on our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) efforts.

We addressed their security concerns proactively, as we knew that mandatory work-from-home mindset was not just new to India – but to the rest of the world, as well. So, we kept them informed about the internal email campaigns we ran to educate our staff on the precautionary steps they could take to tighten data, device, or application security. Some of the campaign themes included safeguarding data assets, password protection, unauthorized data storage, virus threat management, and information security.

Across all functions, staff used our highly secure VPN to carry out their security-related tasks like completing MacAfee updates. We set up a real-time security control room through which we monitor all software updates, detect possible security breaches, and so on. Basically, we wanted to solve problems before they happened.

Question: How do you see the growth of cloud adoption during the COVID-19 period and what kind of scope does the partner community see in building customised features atop cloud platforms?

Chenthil Eswaran: The increase in cloud adoption has also been unprecedented. Businesses that previously hesitated to digitally transform were left without a choice. We see a further increase as the COVID-19 period continues to accelerate the need for enterprise resiliency.

Having said that, there has been a reality check on cloud power too. Large and mid-sized enterprises are realizing that hosting on the cloud isn’t always the right move. There’s a greater need for more collaborative technology ecosystem that allows cloud and on-premises components to seamlessly connect with each other. Different applications from different cloud providers could interact with each other to maximize growth opportunities.

In that sense, there is a lot of scope in the partner community to turn into a value chain accelerator. For instance, several small grocery stores all over India are working with the Dunzos and UberEATS. Now, if the pandemic hadn’t struck, this adoption might have taken years more. And it isn’t all about cloud-powered digital transformation. Some have taken it a step further and entered totally new market segments.

An example would be Matrix, a SIM card solution provider who has been around since the 90s. Sometime this year, they decided to provide COVID-19 items like face masks – and they’ve been doing so very successfully!

Question: What kind of support do you expect from the Oracles, AWSs and Microsofts of the world and what kind of support did you receive from them during the corona period?

Chenthil Eswaran: Recently, Oracle gave us access to their Workforce Health and Safety solution. It helps manage crucial workplace health and safety issues and offers corrective measures to manage workplace incidents.

And what we are expecting from leading cloud players is for them to help us maximize our existing on-premises technology ROI. They should promote the enablement of cloud components in on-prem servers to accelerate the evolving phases of digital transformation. That would truly empower us to combine the best of both worlds. For others, there is an ‘adapt or go extinct’ mindset.

Let’s take Healthcare or IT Services – working remotely through the cloud doesn’t take a lot of effort. But if you take retailers, switching over to the cloud can be very expensive – with zero guarantees of success. It’s why providing architectural flexibility can be a ‘make or break’ moment. And this has led to the creation of automation-led ecosystems that are cloud and on-premises friendly!

Dell Boomi is one such provider who offers a cloud integration platform to make it easy for us to connect our business applications. It is highly elastic and configuration-based – so enabling cloud, SaaS, or on-premises integration of business applications.

Conclusion: The Channel Leadership Summit brought a knowledge sharing platform to the forefront focusing on the latest technology trends, research and best practices brought to light by the Leading IT industry players, domain experts, and a global digital audience. For more info: Watch the recording of this panel discussion.

Veena Gowda