Catch Milla Ikonen, Director, Corporate Channel Marketing, F-Secure in a conversation with Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst & Group CEO,Greyhound Research on Greyhound Research’s knowledge sharing series ONTrigger
Sanchit Vir Gogia: Aslawalekum and Nihao. Hello to all our subscribers across emerging markets. Thank you once again for taking time out to see the latest video of our efforts around Greyhound Research ONTrigger.
Greyhound Research ONTrigger which can be searched on twitter with the #ONTrigger is an interview series with the movers and the shakers of the IT industry and today we have the good fortune of meeting Milla Ikonen who happens to be the Director, Corporate Channel Marketing at F-Secure Corporation.
Milla, welcome to India.
Mila Ikonen: Thank you
SVG: This is your first trip, really?
MI: It is. Yes
SVG: So from -2 to 30 degrees. How are you coping with that?
MI: I am ok. We have warm summers in Finland.
SVG: What’s warm for you?
SVG: 23. In India, for Delhi it’s 50 degrees. So it’s like double the heat. Is it really heating up in Channel Partners in India as well for you?
MI: It is. It is. Exciting moments. We are living really exciting time in India.
SVG: What’s exciting for you?
MI: We have a recently established team here. Really business oriented team led by Amit. Really professional people. I am so excited to work with the local team here.
SVG: Really, ok. So let’s talk a little bit broader about emerging markets and I would love to get your perspective as to how do you really look at emerging markets at F-Secure because in your role in B2B it’s a very important channel. So how do you look at emerging markets? Is it a big ticket opportunity for you?
MI: It is a big opportunity definitely. At the moment, F-Secure is working in more than twenty countries. We are looking for new business opportunities all the time, emerging markets being the one. So we are looking for new partners, practically in all the regions around the globe and depending on the market size, depending on the business potential there, we define the business model how we work there. Either it’s through the distributor or F-Secure make agreements with the local resellers.
SVG: You gave a perspective about emerging market, thank you very much. Let’s say if we were to target a few countries, say your top five priorities in emerging markets, what would be these markets?
MI: We practically greet or welcome all the markets where we see the potential so we don’t target specific markets at the moment. We keep close eye on every market at the moment. And depending on how our existing business model is and then again where our portfolio fixes to the market, that’s where we head.
SVG: You know I learned from Pekka, I learned from Amit that F-Secure is changing its business model. Today you are offering Security-as-a-Service, you’re aggressively venturing into managed security services. I would love to understand, you know partners, as per our conversations with them, feel very insecure because they believe that they are going to lose money when they start selling SaaS (Software as a Service). Is that a fallacy?
MI: It is. Let’s say all the partners around the globe feel the same, but when they enter the security as a service market they understand that their stickiness towards the end customer gets hoarier. So it’s much easier to keep the customer in the future.
SVG: How are you preparing your partners for this change?
MI: It’s all about educating. Educating the partners, giving examples from the other markets, sharing experiences from successful partners all around the world and usually that’s the best way to market, so a partner telling to a partner, we really succeeded with security as a service.
SVG: Has that change from the on premise to the cloud world also forced you to make some changes in your partner program? What are these changes?
MI: Yes, we need to put quite a lot of effort to train our partners, educating them, giving them all the needed information that we have about the market.
SVG: Let’s break this down. You said training twice over. What do you mean, training? Training on what? Can you break this down for our audience?
MI: Training the market opportunities, training the business models, then of course how our product portfolio fits to that business model and of course then technical training, technical aspect as well.
SVG: Has your requirement from partners changed over time, for example, do you want two dedicated resources or do you want three dedicated resources, has that changed over time?
MI: Yeah it has changed quite a lot. Our partners are the first point of contact to the end customers so we need to make sure that our resellers are technically qualified to help the end customers. So we recently totally renewed our global partner program and we set certain amount of requirements to our partners. Nowadays all partners need to be technically certified in order to reach certain level in our partner program. Of course they get benefits when they certify themselves.
SVG: You know partners always been an area where conflict management has been a huge problem. The entire deregistration has been a pain point. I’m sure for you as well deregistration at some stage was such a problem. How are you solving that?
MI: We are really performance driven company so for the partners that commit to us, we commit to them. So whenever we have a lead or a deal, it’s the committed partner who gets it.
SVG: How do you define a committed partner?
MI: Committed partner who brings us a certain amount of business before, then keeps their technical certification on a certain level.
SVG: Okay and you invest back into them?
MI: Yes of course.
SVG: Can you give me a random number? How much you invest in them?
MI: Depending on the business we do with the partner, we set a new sales target to our partners and in case they reach that target we pay them back by marketing with them. Of course we also do core marketing with them.
SVG: So I’m assuming you’ve got the typical partner marketing budgets which you sort of send back over to them. So the sense I get is that F-Secure as an organisation is investing a lot into the partner base. Now let’s boil it down to the small and medium enterprises. We are here in Asia and the broader emerging markets as well. Sixty-seventy percent of the business happens with the SMEs and the way they function compared to the larger enterprises is very different. Now how are you segmenting this opportunity in Asia? Are there any specific special partners that go to the SMEs or how are you catering to the opportunity?
MI: Usually we want to identify those partners who focus on a certain size of end customers because it’s easier for us. They understand the end customer’s needs. They usually also know the end customer itself so there is a relationship build between the partner and the end customer. So first we need to identify those partners and now with them it’s easier for us because we are heavily focused also on SMBs to introduce our offering, our business to them.
SVG: And that leads me to my next question that because it’s SMEs, softer pricing or discounting is the name of the game. Is that the name of the game at F-Secure as well?
MI: Yes. We have recommended discount levels on global level but then again each market is different so we play the rules of each market.
SVG: So I’m assuming higher discounts for Africa. Okay we won’t go into too much detail. It’s business specific but let’s come down to India, today you are in Delhi. While you are in Delhi can you help us with what’s the plan for India?
MI: The plan for India, like I said we have recently established a team here, really performance driven team.
SVG: Twelve months old team?
MI: Approximately twelve months old. So with this new team here we see huge opportunities in the market. Me personally, I have learned a lot from Amit. He is a star. So we’ve learned a lot, we see the opportunity, huge amount of work to be done. F-Secure is not known in the market, that’s the biggest issue of course. There’s a huge amount of competition in the market.
SVG: If I’m not mistaken till now you were only white labelled via telcos and now you’re all of sudden going for channel partners and that’s why you are not very well known.
MI: So in India we are now known from telco business. As F-Secure we’ve done corporate business, reseller business for more than twenty five years already. In UK we have partners who have done business with us for more than twenty years already.
SVG: Wonderful. So India is a priority market for you.
MI: Yes. We are looking for huge growth here.
SVG: I wish you all the best. India is at the cusp of growth and lots of these newer start-ups, there maybe about five thousand start-ups in India. Is start-ups a part of your plan at all?
SVG: I wish you all the best. I hope you get great returns from the country. Thank you again everybody for watching. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and once again if you will like to learn more about OnTrigger, please go to twitter #OnTrigger and just follow our YouTube channel. Thank you very much for your time.
MI: Thank You