The COVID -19 crisis and subsequent worldwide lockdown, turned the global economy upside down. First of its kind, the global pandemic led to closedown of businesses across the countries. In India too, many businesses and industries severely impacted due to the sudden business closure and temporarily discontinued their operations. The IT hardware channel industry was one of the most affected industries and incurred huge losses during the initial months of the lockdown. However, the industry was quick to bounce back with new synergy. The credit goes to the channel partners who took enormous efforts to keep the business up and running. Customer connects, innovative marketing approach and support from industry stakeholders were key attributes to their victory over the crisis.
While the lockdown put several restrictions on the physical movement, channel partners focused on re-defining their customers’ relations through innovative means of communications. Partners made sure that they were in constant touch with their potential customers. “We strengthened our connection with customers through various means of communication. This helped us to do business even during lockdown”, said Mr. Mazhar Patel, Director, JBA Infosolutions Private Limited.
Partners also focused on building long term strong relationships with customers. “As not much business was happening in April, May and June, we decided to strengthen our relations with customers so that when the lockdown is lifted, they will first remember us for their requirements”, said Mr. Nichay Gupta, Director of DataForce.
Partners also leveraged the power of social media to expand their customer base.“We decided to utilise the power of digital means to tap potential customers. Social Media/Email marketing/Whatsapp played a big role in creating a buzz about our offers among existing and new customers”, said Mr. Bobby, Director of A.S. Enterprises.
Whereas, Mr. Mukesh Sinha, Associate Director, Om Sai Corporation said, “All our sales executives kept a regular touch with customers and also requested them to refer potential business inquiries to us. Also, we are prioritized after-sales service to satisfy our customers and fulfil their grievances amicably.”
“We strengthened our connection with customers through various means of communication. This helped us to do business even in lockdown times.” Mazhar Patel, Director, JBA Infosolutions
“We are prioritized after-sales service to satisfy our customers and fulfil their grievances amicably.” Mr. Mukesh Sinha, Associate Director, Om Sai Corporation
Digital is the new normal and partners are also getting familiar with the new way of business. Also, value addition has gained much more prominence during these times and hence, partners are now shifting from conventional box selling to service-oriented business for sustainable growth. Experts say the trend will continue and more partners will turn to solutions selling.
Brands/ Distributors Support
The support from brands and national distributors was key for partners to sail through the crisis. The flexibility they offered in terms of credit, payment and inventory helped partners to bring their business back on the track. “Timely material availability by brands and payment support from distributors helped us continue business during the lockdown”, said Mr. Amit Shah, Director of Technet Informatiques.
Prakash Vaswani, Director of Crescent Technologies, thanked NDs for their support in credit and inventory management. “Distributors have been very cooperative especially during the lockdown. Despite financial year-end, distributors provided huge support, though they have been under huge pressure from brands”, he said.
Adding to this, Mr. Nichay Gupta said, “During the lockdown, all targets went for a toss still NDs supported us and cleared payment in a phased manner. Their helping hand was key for entrepreneurs like us during these unprecedented time.”
Many partners said that the payment situation improved during the lockdown, which helped them to liquidate the stocks. “The payment situation improved during COVID crisis. Payment from buyers became easy and prompt. However, no credit was given by us except for corporate clients”, said Mr. Bobby.
However, a certain section of the channel felt the payment situation got worse during the crisis. “The payment situation got worst as our end customers did not receive their payments, and we were deprived of our payments”, said Mr. Mazhar Patel. Similarly, Mr. Prakash Vaswani said, “It (Payment situation) was tough. We as an organization have been very selective in selling in various Sectors. Payment cycles have been slow for sure.”
“Payment from buyers became easy and prompt. However, no credit was given by us except for corporate clients.” – Mr. Bobby, Director, A.S. Enterprises
“Timely material availability by brands and payment support from distributors helped us continue business during the lockdown”, Mr. Amit Shah, Director, Technet Informatiques.
The Corona global pandemic is the unique crisis the world is going through currently and everyone has learnt survival lessons from it. Remote working, maintaining sufficient contingency fund and adaptability are the key learning of partners from the COVID crisis and they are ready to tackle similar situation may arise in the future. “The COVID crisis was one of its kind in the recent times and people were not ready for it. But I think now after almost 7 months of challenging time, all are ready to cope up with a similar crisis in the future. Our key learnings in terms of business were maintaining sufficient inventory and be approachable to potential customers 24X7. We will surely focus on building strong and long-term customer relations”, said Mr. Mahesh Tondon, Director of Prism Electronics and Technologies.
Adding to his point, Mr. Mazhar Patel said, “Remote working is the new normal and we are ready with our technical soldiers to support customers irrespective of their location.”
Keeping liquid cash to meet unexpected expenses was the key lesson and many partners now focusing on maintaining a sufficient contingency fund to handle any unforeseen situation. “Liquidity and cash still rule no matter what expert may say. We are 100 % ready for such situation in the future, affirmed Mr. Bobby.
Endorsing similar views, Mr. Nichay Gupta said, “Keeping sufficient money liquid for us so that we are not dependent on customers on business is important to address the challenge of scarcity of funds during the slowdown of business.”
“Implementing and using the latest technology within the organization has been key to our success. Digital communication has also been very effective for us to retain customers” – Prakash Vaswani, Director, Crescent Technologies
“Our key learnings were maintaining sufficient inventory and be approachable to potential customers 24X7. We will surely focus on building strong and long-term customer relations” – Mr. Mahesh Tondon, Director, Prism Electronics & Technologies.
Considering no immediate relief from Corona pandemic, partners have started adapting to the new way of business where WFH and virtual communication are the keys to the business. “WFH has been efficient for a certain section of businesses as it cuts travel time and may increase work efficiency. Implementing and using the latest technology within the organization has been key to our success. Digital communication has also been very effective for us to retain customers”, said Mr. Prakash Vaswani.
Support from team RP tech
Partners hailed the support they received from RP tech India during the lockdown. RP tech India rolled out some of the aggressive channel campaigns to support partners during the crisis. The company launched the WFH and LFH channel incentive program for partners to help them get the maximum benefit of brands offers. RP tech team also ensured constant communication and support to channel partners pan India. Partners appreciated the company for its contribution to the growth of channel business in the last 6-7 months.
“RP Tech team is doing a good job by giving us the best services. We expect continuity of these services to have a healthy and long-lasting business relations”, said Mr. Mazhar Patel. Prakash Vaswani thanked team RP tech for the support in payments, logistics and deliveries especially in April, May and June. Mr. Nichay Gupta hailed RP tech team for on-time order leading and flexibility in payment.
Some partners also gave some valuable suggestions to RP tech in terms of new brands additions and payment support. “I suggest them to bring in FTTH products and focus on back to back deals of Government and Corporates. Also prompt reply and good pricing required to tackle cross border billing,” said Mr. Bobby. Similarly, Mr. Mukesh Sinha, said “We expect more flexibility in terms of standard terms of payment support considering our long terms business relation and bulk purchases.”
COVID -19 crisis is the second major economic and industrial crisis after global recession 2008. However, the crisis also brought several opportunities for people, provided they are quick to adapt to the new normal and find their way to progress. The IT hardware channel, which is a backbone of the multi-million IT industry in India is recovering from the crisis at a much faster rate than any other industry and the considering the current momentum, it is expected to grow multi-fold in the near future.