Interview Security

Manish Alshi, Head of Channels and Growth Technologies (India & SAARC), Check Point.

Considering the geopolitical situation that India cyber security threats are significant across industry verticals.

We have seen that security as a service is a very attractive proposition to customers.

How is the channel business?

The channels have been the backbone of our go-to-market strategy. There was a brief period wherein COVID did hit all of us, even as we were trying to kind of mitigate the threats and also really trying to figure out the best way possible.

But over a period of time, all of us have matured and have found a way of working, including our customers, partners, and ourselves to keep the interactions going. Business doesn’t stop, so what serves the business also doesn’t stop. Over the last 4-5 months the flow has been steadily increasing and we have seen customers starting to reinvest into some of these critical aspects of threat prevention, and building up the security walls within the organization.

Technology has seen a sea change—new technologies coming to counter attacks and ransomware looming large. What do you have to offer and how are channels aligned?

I will break it down into two or three different elements. Considering the geopolitical situation that India cyber security threats are significant across industry verticals. With the proliferation of mobile devices across end-users, the surface area is expanding. There has been a consistent rise in the number of cyberattacks, and most are ransomware and Check Point has always stayed ahead of the curve with futuristic solutions.

From the channel perspective we revamped the channel program in 2020 focussing upon three key tenets. First was to ensure deeper collaboration with partners. Second, ensure higher profitability and we took a lot of initiatives. And the last important element was customer stickiness where we ensured that customers had better implementation experience with us. As we got into 2021, we spruced it up and doubled down our investments to ensure partners complete necessary certifications and stepped-up demand creation activities. We have onboarded more than 125 new partners this fiscal and conducted a partner trust survey which has really helped to fine tune the strategy.

Can you walk us through with the state of the market and a glimpse into your competitive positioning with regards to partner strategy?

We are seeing a normalized work culture that existed in the pre-pandemic era, and we are seeing increased traction amongst customers. We have intensified our engagement on the back end of the revised program and doubling down on our investments with partners and pumping in a lot of money to assist in demand creation. We have an extremely strong technical base of resources and we are diverting a lot of towards partner certifications aiming to train at least 100 partner technical professionals across the country.

The third aspect of our partner program rewards extends to the partner sales rep. For example, we had launched a new customer rebate program wherein for every new customer that the partner brings on the table, we have a backend rebate program to reward efforts.

The market has evolved from a traditional one to more dependent on the cloud, cloud security, SaaS, zero trust and stuff like that. Now, are you seeing similar kind of evolution among partners? 

We are seeing loads of customers moving towards the Cloud and it’s a continuous journey for customers. Majority of customers are in a hybrid structure with a part of their infrastructure still residing within their own premises. Check Point has also evolved its product portfolio to have a very specific set of cloud security solutions including network security; coverage for cloud deployments; posture management.

A lot of applications are being developed for the cloud and our effort is to shift left and work with organizations to embed cloud security solutions into the application itself. Check Point’s CloudGuard comprises a suite of security solutions in the cloud domain.

Partners have evolved in several directions around cloud. MSSPs who have jumped into the fray, starting with co-location services and expanding services; value-added resellers have been evolving to offer a mixed bag of solutions. The third stream of the partners are born in the cloud. So in terms of the partner programs, we have tried to embed ourselves into the business strategies of different partners.  Each of those partner segments are tweaking their business strategies to ensure that they are not left behind.

MSSP are becoming a preferred option amongst customers. What initiatives have you taken to help other partners graduate into the MSSPs.

We have seen that security as a service is a very attractive proposition to customers. Customers can also take advantage of a strong technical capabilities of a partner organization to manage threats and prevention strategies, which means partners need to enhance technical skills and capabilities. And that’s where an MSSP model starts evolving. From an adoption perspective, we have seen cloud service providers and telcos get into the MSSP model in the first phase, and now we are seeing some value-added resellers are trying to get into the MSSP domain.

Recently, we have signed off with a telecom provider for MSSP services and are in talks with about five to seven other partner organizations. As we get into FY 2022 MSSP is going to be one of the key pillars of our go-to-market strategies.

Often partners lack technical capabilities when customers are challenged are not responsive enough. What are you doing to bridge that gap?

I think challenges get amplified as some of these solutions are at the heart of the customer’s IT operations. So servicing has to happen immediately. To address that we have created an ongoing learning path for partners, we also have a services module conducted by our TAT team, and Check Point support is always there for customers.

We are also creating a tier of a collaborative support model with a dedicated set of partners who are as strong and technically qualified as our own TAT organization. We are sprucing up our partner support organization within Check Point with a battery of security engineers, to work as the extended arms of partners.

We remain a 100% channel-driven company and investments in the India are growing and we are looking to expand our workforce by more than 20% over the next six months.

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