Lenovo has been a fine partner, says Rajesh Kalra, Director, Sterling Infoway. The trick is to ensure all channels work in tandem, and have growth plans that are in sync, he says.
Tell us something about sterling’s business – conception and growth through the years?
Sterling was started in 1995, almost immediately after my college. When we started expanding in 1998, we tied up with IBM for PC products and Servers. This was our major growth impetus.
During our relationship with IBM, we created a bigger team for solutioning, and with our business, the team also grew. From there, thereafter we signed up multiple vendors, driven by increasing customer demand. After three years, we went in for bifurcation – we had enterprise solutions offerings and we forayed into distributorship of various brands as well. Currently we are successfully managing both segments.
Today we have a team of about 140 people across India, and last year we had a turnover of Rs. 130 crores.
Your business started with IBM. And the natural move over with Lenovo, do you find any difference between those times and now, that Lenovo has such a big play in the market?
As a business partner we did not feel much change in the time of transition because the team and processes were same, the process was same and we carried that business forward. So from the point of view of business partnership, I would not say there was any change. From the brand perspective, when IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo, there were definite doubts among business and partners and customer was also not sure of buying products from a Chinese brand. Lenovo worked hard to gain confidence of the partners and customers, improved processes and gained market share, and it helped, today Lenovo is No. 1 PC player in the world.
From a different perspective, With Lenovo the processes was much easier, it was much more flexible than IBM, the business operations was much faster, and we were able to close things much faster than IBM. It really helped us.
Today, which product from Lenovo is selling best in the market and what is your role in promoting it?
From a product prospective, Lenovo has two product lines. Think series and Lenovo consumer product line. Think has a larger market as a brand and is probably one of the most respected brands across the globe for a PC product line. With time, lot of innovation happened in Think product line, especially in the ThinkPad series. ThinkPad, of course is the largest selling product and iconic brand.
Since we are in a customer oriented business, we primarily work with enterprises, so sending them information about new launches and innovations, doing demos, providing premium services and activities, acquiring new customers for the Think range- all these are activities we continue to do.
How do you think Lenovo stands as a support for channel partners like Sterling?
I am a happy Lenovo partner. When you work for a brand like Lenovo it’s like extended family, and that is how we work together. Problems are always there, timely resolution is what matters. Lenovo has given multiple opportunities to Sterling and we responded to best of our ability and that is the reason we have large product portfolio within Lenovo.
From our business standpoint, almost 70% of our wallet share is with Lenovo. So more than Rs. 100 crores of our revenue is through Lenovo only. That’s a clear indication that the support from Lenovo is extremely good.
We work with multiple verticals with Lenovo. We work with Small Business Group (SB group) for distribution of PCs, Commercial channel and Named Accounts for complete product line. We are national distributers for a number of their products- so we cover all verticals. Every quarter we have a business discussion on all the verticals and there is a plan put in on how we can grow better together and what more can be done. That’s a continuous process, and we always discuss that and exchange ideas.
How has Lenovo been a beneficial partner for Sterling? What more do you think can be done there?
Our association with Lenovo is quite exciting and that is the reason we have grown with them and expect to take this further. The new Lenovo Commercial channel organisation has opened up a lot more opportunities and is clearly taking right steps on channel engagement front.
Does Sterling have a network of partner distributers as well? How do you keep them motivated?
Yes, we also have a channel partner’s network. We are national distributors for Lenovo and have our own network of partners. We work with more than a thousand partners as of today. Every quarter we have multiple schemes from Lenovo that we share with partners along with our own schemes as well. Many of these ensure huge benefits to our partners
What are Sterling’s focus areas for 2016, and is Lenovo a part of it?
This year, we are adding few new product lines to our portfolio that is one of the initiative.
Within Lenovo the growth we see will be coming from three channels- commercial channel, S&P group and X Series Services. These are the areas where we think growth will be coming from.
Currently we are headquartered at Gurgaon and have branches in Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Bangalore & Hyderabad. This year will be adding 2 more branches, Chennai and Kolkata.