In this sponsored 'Meet the Shortlister' Q&A series building up to the 2021 Channel Awards in November, CRN catches up with Vinod Chumber (pictured), global channel VP at Kong to talk about challenges and achievements over the past year, opportunities to come and why the channel is a key part of the vendor's growth plans
What would you say is your company's proudest achievement over the past year?
2021 has started off on a high for Kong. In February 2021 Kong went through a Series D funding round, raising $100m to drive cloud connectivity. We are also extremely proud to have been named a leader and a visionary in the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Full Lifecycle API Management Kong has seen tremendous growth (last year alone, we saw 240 per cent growth in NACV); however, none of this would have been possible without our partners. One of the biggest achievements that I have seen at Kong so far was the creation and launch of our new partner program that really underlines our investment in channel and strong belief that together with partners we can continue the momentum and drive significant growth year over year.
What have been some of the main challenges of 2021 and how have you overcome them? How have your own people/teams helped with that?
One of the biggest challenges that I have seen so far is driving the change. Traditionally, channel operates through an attach model and therefore partners are not always recognised as the key in driving the revenue. By introducing the new partner programme we have also introduced new rules of engagement between partners and Kong field organisation. We do not dictate to our sellers which partners to work with, in fact, if a partner isn't a fit for a certain prospect, we recommend not engaging partners on that specific opportunity. We want our sellers to see the channel differently and therefore we work with our partners on creating clear value cards that allow our field team to quickly understand the speciality of each individual partner and to be able to engage them on the right opportunities where both parties can mutually benefit and at the same time ensure that we drive success for the end user.
How have you managed to stay close to your partners during the pandemic?
Given today's virtual world, the key to staying in touch with your partners is consistency. Consistency in how you communicate with them, how you provide support and day-to-day engagement. Throughout the pandemic we have created a standing calendar of webinars, online instructor-led trainings and partner labyrinths to ensure that our partners feel supported and always have an avenue to ask questions about our technology or sales strategy where needed.
How has your channel strategy evolved during the past 12 months? Have you launched any new initiatives?
We have made some drastic changes to our channel strategy in the last 12 months. First, our decision to move away from an attach model and create a new, value-based partner program. Secondly, we have introduced a significantly simplified pricing structure to accelerate partner revenue growth. Last but not least, we have also introduced an internal incentive for our field organisation to encourage them to work with and through our partners. The combination of all of the above factors has enabled us to see a healthy growth in our partner driven/influenced revenue over the last 12 months.
What does it mean to be recognised for the shortlist/an award?
I feel extremely humbled and proud to be shortlisted for this award. The new partner programme that we are introducing is extremely different to what you would normally see in the market today. And I see this recognition as a confirmation that we are moving in the right direction and that the future of the channel is all about being able to create value for both your organisation as well as your partners.
How do you think the industry has changed since last year and what lessons do you think it has learned?
One of the biggest changes that we have seen is a significant shift to all digital. Many organisations today are looking to modernize and become digital businesses in order to differentiate. That had a huge impact on the technology as some of the older, legacy systems cannot support the business requirements that organisations have today. We see more and more businesses adopting modern microservices architecture to stay relevant and to be able to compete.
What has been your firm's biggest takeaway from the past two years?
The last two years forced many businesses to change and adapt to the new world we live in. And while the pandemic has certainly brought many new challenges, it has also opened new opportunities for businesses across multiple industries. It has forced many of us to embrace new technologies, digitize our businesses, become more efficient and as a result create stronger ongoing engagement with our customers by being able to quickly adopt our offerings to the market needs of today. Ultimately, the pandemic accelerated the shift to digitization that was going to happen anyway, just in a different time frame.
What do you see as the main opportunities for your firm in the coming year?
With many more organisations looking to migrate from legacy environments to microservices to create new, scalable applications and to drive speed and efficiency, we feel that we are in a strong position to drive growth as this is exactly what we do at Kong. We help businesses to create amazing digital experiences and drive tangible business results by providing reliable, secure end-to-end connectivity regardless of underlying cloud, platform or protocol. Our technology enables businesses to:
- Drive efficiency while reducing their TCO
- Gives them the ability to make frequent changes to their systems enabling them to launch new products faster
- Allows them to better align to their customers, reduce retention and drive customer loyalty
We are very excited about what the future holds and look forward to growing our channel ecosystem and enabling our partners to support their customers on their journey of becoming modern and digital businesses.