Catch Minhaj Zia, Managing Director – India & SAARC at Polycom in a conversation with Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst & Group CEO,Greyhound Research on Greyhound Research’s knowledge sharing series ONTrigger.
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Sanchit Vir Gogia: So you have been here for 18 months right? Help me understand two to three things that you have really done differently from your previous life that has helped you achieve your numbers.
Minhaj Zia: First and foremost eighteen months has been a really good experience for me joining Polycom. I came from Cisco and Avaya, during that phase I learned about communication industry and also about how the customers are consuming what the trends are etc. When I came into this role, this is the first role that I took over where the buck stops at me and the muck of course along with that. Here I had to rethink about the entire strategy of how we are approaching customers.
First of all, I had to think if this is the right approach or not. The second thing was if this is not the right approach or if this is the right approach then what improvements we can make and if it’s not then what is the right approach for it. We built a three year plan out here which was looking at the customer scenario, the market, what does the customer look at, how do the different customers perceive collaboration or buy collaboration technology, deploy collaboration technology in different ways as such. We segmented these customer segments into four broad categories and we defined our own go-to market, out team structure so that we can align with each of the different segments that have a different kind of need as well. So that was the first initiative that I took, re-structure the entire organisation, then our route to market, our channel ecosystem. The way we were discussing and dealing with our customers, there was a lot of old style of selling where it is push-push-push the boxes kind of scenarios in many cases. We were looking at changing that by first of all having gradation of partners and making sure that the partners who have the right skill sets that are required for this job are positioned to the right customers who are looking for those skills.
SVG: But is deal making still happening on discounting?
MZ: Not to a very large extent. Discounts are still something which customers obviously want.
SVG: Is there an average percentage?
MZ: I would say the prices have actually improved in comparison to two years back.That is reflected in our overall results. We are able to stabilize the price. Of course, in general in this industry the prices have been lowering in the last few years and they have gone down so much that there is hardly any room for any other player also to further bring it down except that you could do some new innovation to really cut down on the wastages or have some technology which is much cost effective to be deployed as well.
What we have to realise is that price is one piece that the customer is looking at. To my surprise customers love discount when you want to give them only discount or when you want to only sell them the discount. In the end when the customer has really bought it, what they look at is the value that the product is going to deliver. If you just sell the product at the lowest cost possible and walk away, the customer is not going to be happy and that is my experience in wherever we have done very heavy discounted deals. The partners have not been very interested in serving the customer and in the end the customer is not a happy customer even though he has bought it at the cheapest possible price but customers who have done their research well, who have focused on the value they were looking at and the bigger picture and they realize the value and they are more focused on who is going to give me the right experience. So I’m not going to look at two cents coming less from this partner if he is now really going to be able to deliver what I’m looking at because in the end those two cents that I have saved is not what I was here for. I wanted to deploy this technology so that I can improve my business processes. I can make life easier and better for my employees so that they can be more productive. In the end what I got was spending that X dollars and none of the things where the aim was. So am I the winner or am I the loser?
SVG: So can I say you are the master of selling a big picture. You are from Lucknow so let me call you the nawab of the collaboration industry. So tell me what is the nawab’s plan for the next twelve months?
MZ: Next twelve months, a lot of things. If you look at the last eighteen months, earlier also I was selling collaboration technology, in this role it is more focused on visual collaboration so experience is the name of the game. Any customer that I meet all the time talks about making it simple, making it better, sexy experience. The user should come in and want to use this technology and that is the kind of experience they are looking at and they are getting some of that experience from consumer grade technology.
Over the next twelve months my whole focus is how do I make my sales and my partner community really trained on implementing, deploying, giving that experience that we promise to the customer. Yesterday only I had a customer meeting. I met the group CIO of a very large company and he was telling me, “you guys are telling such a compelling story to me and I am your user for the last six years but when it actually gets deployed I don’t get that same experience that you have told me”, and that is a fair comment and I would not say the customer was wrong. He was absolutely right. The issue that was happening is between what we innovate and what product we bring out from engineering and production and when it is actually sold to a customer and is deployed, there is whole chain of people who will touch this transaction and even the weakest link in the chain can destroy that experience. So you sold the same product but it could be deployed in various ways. But we have seen that customers are not getting that experience because somewhere either Polycom or partner has not ensured that the deployment happens the way it was envisioned. That is what I want to plug. I want to make sure that my partners have as much of easy guides or cheat sheets of check lists as to how do I go through it and deliver that experience, am I missing out on something and get that check list verified from the customers as well that they have gone through all those processes and they have signed it. If they have done it, believe me, they will get at least get ninety percent of what they were wanting.
SVG: Change management will be plugged as an issue.
MZ: So enablement of partners to give that experience that our customers were actually wanting and that is the reason they bought this technology in the first place.
SVG: Thank you very much Minhaj. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Wish you the very best for the next twelve months.
MZ: Thank you very much.
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