Roaming around the VAR channel

Cyberoam CEO Hamel Patel has appointed a Middle East channel head as part of a concerted effort to boost its business in the Middle East. He claims the fact that competitor SonicWall has publicly acknowledged its products is indicative of Cyberoam's potential as a serious market challenger. But the offensive, says the CEO, can only be mounted if it can build enough channel breadth.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  September 8, 2008

Cyberoam CEO Hamel Patel has appointed a Middle East channel head as part of a concerted effort to boost its business in the Middle East. He claims the fact that competitor SonicWall has publicly acknowledged its products is indicative of Cyberoam's potential as a serious market challenger. But the offensive, says the CEO, can only be mounted if it can build enough channel breadth.

How long has Cyberoam been addressing the Middle East indirectly?

Five years now. We started selling Cyberoam in India and then our prime target market was Asia, Middle East and Africa. Last year we received funding from the Carlisle Group and that has boosted our confidence.

We have grown from four people to over 400 and are now aggressively moving into the region. We plan to vigorously educate our VAR channel.

What is your current channel structure in the Middle East?

We have two distributors and about 25 partners within the entire region. This is why we have brought on board Surender Bishnoi as head of channel sales for the Middle East, who has important experience of working in distribution. Everything up to now has been done remotely from India and through the channel.

It is time for us to work in the Middle East directly and we want Bishnoi to recruit more VARs and SIs to cater to the SMB and enterprise markets. We are focusing on the UAE and the surrounding countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar. We currently have a presence in these countries but it's not huge so we are looking to secure a much deeper penetration.

How are you planning to individually address major markets such as Saudi Arabia?

We are not new to Saudi. We are already there and have a lot of customers. We already have a single distributor, Sariya-IT, in Saudi, and by creating a local presence in Dubai it is not only going to increase our efforts in the UAE market but also in other very important regional markets such as Saudi. Our forthcoming plans begin with the fact that we want to boost our VAR channel. Also, one of our successes to date in this region has been in the education sector.

We want to develop and target some marketing in this area with the help of our channel - by creating case studies, for instance, and in particular allowing the systems integration channel to demonstrate how they can differentiate with a Cyberoam offering. We will be doing some roadshows and seminars in the country as part of VAR expansion. We have a distributor but we want more VARs and systems integrators.

Would you prefer sole focus from VARs or should they carry Cyberoam as part of a portfolio?

The reseller has to make a choice between Cyberoam and competitive products. It is our challenge to convince VARs that the better strategy would be to focus solely on our products. For those selling a single threat appliance, such as antivirus solutions or anti-spam solutions, adding Cyberoam to their portfolio will bring huge value.

Does Cyberoam have an office here in the Middle East?

We're in the process of creating an office and setting up an important distribution centre here, because right now our distribution centre is in the US.

We want to shift some of our focus to the VARs because they are, at the end of the day, earning the most points in the entire chain. Cyberoam currently has roughly 20 partners at this level and we want to get this number to about 60.

We sell about 40 units a month, just in Dubai, so we want to increase this to 200 a month. We also want to pick up at least five systems integrators, which will lead to multiple sales.

Why have you chosen now to address the market? After all, some of your main competitors, such as SonicWall, have an established presence here in the region.

As I explained, we recently received funding and part of the funding stipulated plans to expand into the region. Within three to four years we want to be number one here.

We are already challenging the competition. SonicWall VARs are jumping to us purely because we offer better margins as the cost of the product is fairly low. We have strategies to win over the minds of VARs, such as training and support.

What sort of growth will you be looking for now that you have committed more resources here?

According to IDC, growth is 60%, but to be number one in four years we will have to achieve 100% growth. We want to try and achieve US$1.5m in Dubai and the surrounding areas in the last three quarters of 2008.

What are the targets that you have put in place for your new Middle East channel boss?

We were originally aiming for US$1m and his [Bishnoi's] target is another US$500,000 on top of that. Next year I want to achieve US$3m and this is not unachievable.

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