Futuristic and Channel centric approach key to Netapp’s success

Maya Zakhour, Channel Director for MEA, Italy and Spain, Netapp, speaks to Channel Post MEA about how Netapp’s channel-centric policies have helped them tide over the pandemic and register strong growth.

Maya Zakhour, Channel Director for MEA, Italy and Spain, NetApp

How would you evaluate Netapp’s performance during the pandemic?

The pandemic struck when we were still towards the end of our last financial year, as Netapp follows the April-March fiscal year. Despite that we were able to finish our last year on a very high note, compared to many of our competitors. And, the results for the first two quarters this year, since we started our current fiscal year in April 2020 has been excellent as well.

Netapp being a channel-centric company, would like to pass this success not just to our employees but to each and every Netapp partner and customers who have reposed faith in our products and have supported us right through.

 What did Netapp do things differently from its competitors for it to remain on the positive side during such challenging times?

The first and foremost differentiator is that we are specialists in Hybrid Data Cloud Services offering. The Data fabric that we build for our customers enables them to manage their data from anywhere and at any time. Given the prevailing uncertainty, the requirement for specialists like us becomes even more paramount.

The other factor that distinguishes us from others is our partners. Our partners too worked very hard to meet our benchmark and ensured that they went to the market with products that resonated exactly with our customer requirements. This enabled our customers to manage their data the way they wanted and let them thrive.

Netapp ensured that we supported our partners financially through various financial programs and instilled confidence in them by imparting the required technology, thereby making them specialists like us.

How has the channel strategy of Netapp adapted to the sudden changes and support its channel partners in this region?

As soon as this tumultuous period started, Netapp immediately sprang into action and initiated various financial programs for our partners, gave them rebates that they were able to pass on to the customers as well. These financial programs proved to be a key differentiator.
As a matter of fact, one’s channel strategy can never be a knee jerk reaction. Netapp has always been a channel-driven company. We always heard what our partners had to say. We do frequent roundtables with them, meet them every quarter, to gather feedback and adapt our strategy accordingly.

And also, as we evolved from being a data storage vendor into a Hybrid Cloud data specialist, we have been successful in taking the combination of strong solutions along with strong alliances to the customers with the help of our partners. We have also ensured that our partners are kept motivated and are abreast with the key emerging trends.

The other defining strategy is our strong alliances with hyperscalers such as Google, Microsoft. These alliances have ensured that we could provide our customers with a key to these big doors. Netapp customers enjoy the freedom of keeping their data anywhere they want and access it anytime in a seamless way. This is our key USP that attracts and retains our partners and customers alike.

In order to support our partners, we have rolled out rebate programs exclusive for partners in order to retain growth in our core business and also fuel growth in futuristic technologies such as the AI and Cloud (based on the consumption model) in addition to the usual margins that they enjoy.

 What are the key takeaways for Netapp from 2020?

The year 2020 has plenty of takeaways!! We have learnt that being a specialist actually differentiates you from others. We always maintained a great relationship with our partners and have ensured that our offerings are futuristic. The future is all about AI, cloud and digitization and that is exactly what we are offering. This outlook has actually helped us turn this challenge into an opportunity. I should say we are emerging strongly from these unfortunate circumstances and are geared up to deliver many such similar strong performances even in the future.

How would you evaluate the performance of the channels in Europe during the pandemic?

I am responsible for two southern European countries Spain and Italy. These two countries were very badly hit due to the pandemic. In spite of this, I should say they have outperformed significantly and have registered very good results. This again demonstrates how well Netapp manages its Partner ecosystem. With travel being hit, we collaborated with our Partners virtually and there was no dearth of enthusiasm on their behalf.

Can you elaborate on the Go-to-Market strategy for Netapp, highlighting on the new alliances in this region?

Our GTM for the FY2021 is Cloud and we would like to be recognized as a Cloud software vendor. This will be our GTM. We have also started off with a ‘Journey to the Cloud’ initiative with our partners.

Under this initiative, we intend to work closely with selected partners and chalk out strong sales and marketing plans, and decide how we are going to take this journey together, be it a public or a hybrid cloud. We have witnessed keen interest from several big names in the industry and some of the Microsoft cloud partners have also expressed their interest in joining this initiative.

Artificial Intelligence is another area where we are focusing and for that we are collaborating with giants like NVIDIA and Cisco to have a separate go-to-market plan centering AI. We are getting strong traction for this initiative as well.

It is primarily our partners who drive our GTM across.

What according to Netapp is still a barrier for organizations to embrace and go ahead with their digitalization journey?

I should say trust in Cloud still remains a big barrier in the pursuit of digitalization. With the advent of local datacenters built in UAE, Saudi and other countries in the region, we are now seeing that customers are more confident to initiate their journey to the cloud. Furthermore, Netapp’s offering provides ultimate freedom to keep your data anywhere and access it from everywhere, is providing more encouragement for organizations to start considering their digitization process.

We are also looking at avenues through with we can further enhance our alliances with our partners and hyperscalers to make sure our customers embark their digital journey with the required enthusiasm.

What message would you like to give to channel partners?

Future is all about going digital. I would encourage our partners who have not started thinking in this direction to start seriously considering it. We now live in a dynamic world and hence it should be their prerogative to leverage the potential that Netapp solutions could offer and ensure that they stay relevant in the future.