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“We are in a Smart Recovery Mode after Chapter 11”

Vivek Singh, Director, Sales, Enterprise and Global, Avaya India, spoke to Amit Singh over the organizational changes during and after the company emerged from the bankruptcy period. According to him, Avaya is now a start-up focused on growth and execution with its renewed focus on partners and customers

Vivek Singh, Director, Sales, Enterprise and Global, Avaya India

How has spending a year in Chapter 11 bankruptcy impacted Avaya and its partner organization? What have been the major changes in Avaya?

Honestly speaking, we didn’t see any significant impact on our business during the Chapter 11 bankruptcy period. In fact, during the last three years, we have grown our business by over 30-35 percent.

Although, a few large decisions were deferred (which are now coming back), we didn’t see any loss in focus or momentum from our ecosystem partners as we kept them updated on the developments. Constant communication was our strong point as we remained close to our channel partners and customers, and that’s the reason they believed in Avaya.

I must say that while coming out of the Chapter 11 period, our focus on channels has evolved and our GTM is in line with changing industry requirements. And, Chapter 11 has given us a time to work very proactively with our customers and to identify the right roadmap for digital transformation. In fact, we are in a smart recovery mode and the partners are all enthusiastic.

From the channel standpoint, we have adopted faster to the changes happening in the market, as we evolved our channels in-tune with the technological advancements. While we started our transformation journey from being an aggregator and built up our own intellectual property, now we are adapting to the new business model focused on channels.

The new business focus on our partners is allowing us to build effective channel relationship programs. We are working with thousands of authorized partners globally and are developing them through comprehensive training programs. In addition, we are supporting partners through professional services and implementation tools.

These initiatives have indeed provided us a significant edge over the last 12 months.

What should partners know about Avaya’s financial condition today and how the company might position itself going forward?

After emerging from Chapter 11, we have an additional $300 million in cash because of the reduced interest payments and pension obligations. This will definitely allow us to double our current R&D spending and induce additional investments in our ecosystem of partners. This will also allow us to bring new solutions faster to the market.

As an organization, we are actually like a start-up focused on growth and execution. Our focus is completely customer and partner-centric.

For partners, we are building new channel relationship programs, while expanding the availability of solutions incorporating new trends like AI, IoT, Blockchain, and analytics. In addition, we are developing our partners to build and integrate next-generation technology solutions to enhance their customers’ digital experience. In fact, these new technologies integrate well with Avaya’s Oceana.

Further, we are adopting a federated business application development model. Currently, we are working with 8-10 application development partners for developing solutions on our platform. At the same time, traditional partners are hiring software developers to create their unique differentiation. Hence, the partners who were selling stand-alone products are now transforming into application development partners.

Moreover, I am seeing Avaya’s acceptance increasing tremendously among the customers as we give them the flexibility to integrate any application across the existing infrastructure. Even in case of the heterogeneous environment, we are making our solutions co-exist with that environment.

Avaya has always been one of the leading business endpoint vendors in the world. For this new Avaya, what are the main focal points?

We are focusing more on solutions. While India is an extremely important market for Avaya, we have the benefit of having a local R&D team in India. We are augmenting our partner ecosystem in areas like cloud and AI. For instance, we have integrated AI capabilities in our solution to deliver a mobile virtual CX for a customer in Dubai. We have also announced the first CX solution on Blockchain.

Further, we have embedded workflow automation into our UC platform through Breeze, which offers (end-customers/partners) a developed toolkit in which they can embed the workflow automation.

How do you see the competitive landscape of the business endpoints market evolving? What’s the Avaya’s value proposition against the competition?

We understand that it’s a transitional phase. It’s not completely on mobile and people still buy end-points; hence there must be flexibility for people to use end-point whenever they require.

Our focus is on real-time collaboration with embedded video as an end-to-end solution. The biggest advantage with Avaya is that our end-points can co-exist with any video solution. That’s a flexibility which customers demand. We have engaged with new partners in the end-point domain and are expanding opportunities for partners to receive more benefits.

What is your channel strategy over the next 12-18 months?

We have launched Avaya Edge program in FY2017-18 and have recently built on it with enhanced differentiation.

We have simplified the structure of Avaya Edge program with Emerald, Sapphire, and Diamond levels. With the digital transformation and growth in the cloud we are focusing on cloud specialists as partners, and distributors as cloud wholesalers. Further, we are engaging our existing partners, including enterprise VARs, SI, and solution providers, capable of rendering services across the cross-section of industries as Avaya delivery partners.

We are helping partner ecosystem with implementation tools that are re-designed and re-developed as per new requirements. So far, our journey has been impressive: we are augmenting our partners, enhancing our partner programs and taking them to newer areas with vertical industry solutions, IoT, AI, analytics. We are helping our partner build capabilities in these new areas and integrate them into Avaya Open System technology stack. And here, we are not only working with value-added resellers but also with managed service providers, cloud partners, ISVs, development platform partners, and technology alliance partners.

On our part, we are providing a bridge for partners’ transition to the cloud. We are making them specialize as application delivery partners, cloud specialist partners, and cloud integrators. They all work with our VARs; hence we are providing a framework to take them to the next level.

In addition, we have launched new rebate programs depending on the complexity of the integration. New incentive programs are launched for mid-market and SMB segments. So we have kept our framework ready for our partners to grow.

While our revenues are growing 15-20 percent YoY, we expect growth of over 30 percent over the next 12-18 months riding on our renewed focus on the market and channels.

In fact, India is among the top-10 markets for Avaya. Over the last two years, we have added over 1000 net new accounts including Bharti Airtel, Xiaomi, PayPal, and various customers from BFSI, BPOs, internet service providers, and e-commerce, with a total of 3000 customers. We are also engaged in Smart City projects. Further, we implemented the Dial-100 project including integrated emergency services across the entire UP.

Overall, we are the leaders in two market spaces: contact center and unified communications.

How important is it for partners to break out of being traditional partners and become cloud-savvy providers?

We see the cloud as one the leading business proposition for Avaya partners and actually make a significant contribution to the Avaya business. Some of our partners are in a faster transition mode and are offering not only capex-based solutions but also managed services on opex model. Most of the customers are appreciating this.

Further, many of the traditional partners are moving to become cloud partners. In fact, the customer moving to the cloud will not happen overnight; it will be a mixed approach of on-premise and on-cloud. Hence, traditional partners have a large scope as we augment partners with professional services and implementation tools.

Further, Avaya’s expansion of the Edge program structure to add a new set of partners as well as motivating existing partners to get into the cloud domain is a remarkable step forward. In fact, few of the partners are creating their own COE labs to showcase Avaya Breeze and Oceana technologies to their customers.

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