TP-Link targets aggressive SMB expansion

China headquartered TP-Link has been in the Middle East and Africa market since 2011, and has of late been heavily investing in growing its SMB business in the region.

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TP-Link targets aggressive SMB expansion Jiang says a key element of the programme is the training component and reseller partners will be required to undergo training and get certified.
By  Manda Banda Published  November 28, 2016

Although the IT market is experiencing challenges in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), the networking segment doesn't lack for competition. In fact, count TP-Link Technologies Co Ltd, a global provider of SOHO, SMB networking products and wireless LAN solutions, among a growing class of Asia-based IT vendors with eyes set on MEA customers and channel partners with SMB networking needs.

To bring focus and value to its channel partners and their end user customers, the vendor recently unveiled a new SMB Partner Programme for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Burj Al Arab in Dubai, which saw more than 60 systems integrators (SIs) from the UAE market attend the event.

At the unveiling of the programme, TP-Link outlined its go-to-market strategy, competitive advantage and, the company's research and development (R&D) commitments to its business and the broader partner ecosystem.

According to the vendor, the launch of the SMB Partner Programme paves the way for it to recruit and develop a select number of SI partners who will resell its SMB products and solutions in the region.

TP-Link said its move to target the SMB segment in MEA is quite a step for a company that has had a full-time Middle East presence for fewer than four years. And while it already has a strong focus on consumer and SOHO networking markets, it is also eyeing greater influence among VARs that serve SMB customers - a move that pits it against competitors D-Link, Netgear and Linksys.

Lucas Jiang, general manager, TP-Link MEA, said the launch of the SMB Partner Programme will see the company work closely with its distribution partners to identify and on board the right systems integrator partners for the SMB business across the region.

TP-Link's burgeoning SMB Partner Programme is aggressive. There are three tiers - Authorised, Silver, and Gold - with quarterly purchase thresholds, rebates, incentives, training and certifications.

Jiang added that TP-Link is seeking to recruit, train and certify new partners that will be tiered in the three categories according to their investment in training and the number of certified staff they have for pre-sales and sales, and technical skills. "We are delighted to have finally unveiled a partner programme that will support the development of our SMB business in MEA," he said. "We are hoping to replicate the success that TP-Link has enjoyed in the SOHO and consumer segment."

He explained that a key element of the programme is the training component and reseller partners will be required to undergo training and get certified.

Systems integrator recruitment for TP-Link has been steady, stated the company, and will continue into the new year. Right now, the important thing is to make networking-focused, SMB-centric SIs aware of a vendor option they may not have considered, TP-Link added.

TP-Link is offering two certification programmes for pre-sales and sales, and technical personnel.

According to the networking solutions vendor, the sales and pre-sales training will see partners that go through the programme and pass an online exam get certified as a TP-Link Network Associate (TPNA).

On the technical front, partners that take their employees through the technical training initiative and pass the online exam will be recognised as a certified TP-Link Network Professional (TPNP).

Jiang explained that the partner tiers are linked to training and TP-Link has already started the process of identifying SIs it would like to engage in the region. "We are looking for partners that are not doing business with us," he said. "We have already created a dedicated partner portal, where interested partners can register to start the engagement process. In addition, all the course materials to help partners prepare for the TPNA and TPNP certifications are already available online."

He added that once a partner has been engaged, they will be guided on the training and certification paths.

According to Jiang, Gold partners will be expected to have two certified TPNAs and one TPNP to maintain the partner status in addition to agreed sales targets both in terms of volume and quality of projects implemented.

He added that Silver partners on the other hand, will be expected to have one certified TPNA in sales and another in pre-sales. "We have also developed a scheme that will incentive the individual (pre-sales, sales or technical staff) and rebates that will go to the SI that has achieved strong sales and invested in training and growing the share of the SMB business in the market," he said.

Jiang pointed out that the initial focus with the new programme will be in the GCC before extending the initiative to other countries in the broader MEA market. "We are upbeat the programme will offer the much needed support for our SIs to grow their share of business with our solutions in the SMB segment," he said.

Jiang said the company is expecting a lot of interest from SI partners that are not doing business with the company and it's preparing to host a few road shows in the GCC to raise awareness and promote the new programme. "We want to see more partners come on board," he said. "We have identified the GCC as the priority market for us and we will be introducing the programme there first before extending it to other parts in North Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

Product-wise, some of TP-Link's focus is on JetStream switches (which include managed switches, smart switches, easy smart switches, and unmanaged models and accessories), Auranet businesss WiFi with software managed apps and Pharos wireless broadband (with outdoor radio and antennas and accessories), though it also specialises in wireless access points, routers, ADSL modem routers, IP cameras, print servers, range extenders and other tools. Its three Middle East and North Africa commercial distributor partners include Asbis Middle East, MES Technologies and Business Land.

Antoine Liu, technical support manager, TP-Link MEA, said the company is aiming to build a strong vertical focus and ecosystem of partners who will target the education sector, shopping malls and the hospitality segment. "We have a comprehensive product array to meet the expectations of the partners we are on boarding," he said. "The plan is to get them up to speed quickly on the technical front as soon as they join the programme."

On the channel front, TP-Link is aware that it is a very crowded market on the

networking side, especially for routers, so it's mapping different ways to look at the opportunity for its partners.

Sony Mathew, channel manager, SMB at TP-Link MEA, said part of the broader initiatives that partners will enjoy once they join the programme will be the enhanced pre-sales support, professional services support, proof of concepts (PoC) and a dedicated call centre for the SMB division.

Mathew said the company has decided to enhance its support to partners as that's one sure way of ensuring that stock is readily available to them. "Stock availability is one of the major reasons we have been in the SOHO and consumer segments in the Middle East," he said.

"This is just the beginning of our foray into the SMB market in MEA with this targeted and focused channel partner programme," he said. "We have a lot to do to build the initiative in the GCC and broader MEA geography and make small businesses and the channel embrace our offerings."

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