Customer relations, innovative marketing approach and support from industry stakeholders kept channel partners afloat during the pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis and subsequent worldwide lockdown turned the global economy upside down and Indian businesses were no exception. The IT hardware channel industry was one of the most affected industries and incurred huge losses during the initial months of the lockdown. However, it slowly started to bounce back with new synergy. Much credit goes to the channel partners who took enormous efforts to keep the business up and running. Customer connects, innovative marketing approach and support from industry stakeholders were key attributes to their victory over the crisis, believe channel players.
Redefining customer relations
While the lockdown put several restrictions on the physical movement, channel partners focused on re-defining their customers’ relations through innovative means of communications. Partners made sure that they were in constant touch with their potential customers.
“We strengthened our connection with customers through various means of communication. This helped us to do business even during lockdown,” said Mazhar Patel, Director, JBA Infosolutions Private Limited.
Partners also focused on building long term strong relationships with customers. As Nichay Gupta, Director of DataForce, mentions, when not much business was happening in April, May and June, we decided to strengthen our relations with customers so that when the lockdown is lifted, they will first remember us for their requirements.
Mukesh Sinha, Associate Director, Om Sai Corporation said, “All our sales executives kept a regular touch with customers and also requested them to refer potential business inquiries to us. Also, we are prioritized after-sales service to satisfy our customers and fulfill their grievances amicably.”
Digital is the new normal and partners are also getting familiar with the new way of business. Partners also leveraged the power of social media to expand their customer base and updating on existing and new customers.
Also, value addition has gained much more prominence during these times and hence, partners are now shifting from conventional box selling to service-oriented business for sustainable growth. Experts say the trend will continue and more partners will turn to solutions selling.
Brands and distributors’ support
The support from brands and national distributors was the key for partners to sail through the crisis. The flexibility they offered in terms of credit, payment and inventory helped partners to bring their business back on the track. “Timely material availability by brands and payment support from distributors helped us continue business during the lockdown,” said Amit Shah, Director of Technet Informatiques.
“Distributors have been very cooperative especially during the lockdown. Despite financial year-end, distributors provided huge support, though they have been under huge pressure from brands,” added Prakash Vaswani, Director of Crescent Technologies.
While for some, the payment situation improved during the lockdown, which helped them to liquidate the stocks, a certain section of the channel felt the pinch during the crisis. As Patel said, “The payment situation got worst as our end customers did not receive their payments, and we were deprived of our payments.
Vaswani too felt the payment situation was tough. “We as an organization have been very selective in selling in various Sectors. Payment cycles have been slow for sure,” he said.
Survival lessons for the Channel
Business owners around the world have learned lessons in how to survive a pandemic and channel partners are obviously not an exception. Remote working, maintaining sufficient contingency fund and adaptability are the key learning of partners from the Corona crisis and they are ready to tackle similar situation may arise in the future.
“The Covid crisis was one of its kinds and initially people were not ready for it. But now, after almost seven months of challenging time, we are in a position to cope up with a similar crisis in the future. Our key learnings in terms of business were maintaining sufficient inventory and be approachable to potential customers 24X7. We will surely focus on building strong and long-term customer relations,” said Mahesh Tandon, Director of Prism Electronics and Technologies.
Patel added, “Remote working is the new normal and we are ready with our technical soldiers to support customers irrespective of their location.”
Keeping liquid cash to meet unexpected expenses was the key lesson and many partners now focusing on maintaining a sufficient contingency fund to handle any unforeseen situation.
“Keeping sufficient money liquid for us so that we are not dependent on customers on business is important to address the challenge of scarcity of funds during the slowdown of business,” agreed Gupta.
Considering no immediate relief from Corona pandemic, partners have started adapting to the new way of business where WFH and virtual communication are the keys to the business. “WFH has been efficient for a certain section of businesses as it cuts travel time and may increase work efficiency. Implementing and using the latest technology within the organization has been the key to our success. Digital communication has also been very effective for us to retain customers,” said Vaswani.
While the disruption caused by the pandemic has created significant challenges for channel players, it has also brought new opportunities for businesses, provided they quickly adapt to the new normal and find their way to progress. The IT channel, an integral part of India’s thriving IT industry is recovering from the crisis at a much faster rate than any other industry – and considering its current momentum, it is expected to grow multi-fold in the near future.