January 24, 2013, 1:37 PM — Dharmendra Kumar, President, India and SAARC, Aruba Networks, talks about why BYOD is the single largest focus for the company.
CW: You had noteworthy stints at Cisco and Force10. Was the role at Aruba equally challenging when you came onboard eighteen months ago?
Kumar: Aruba was a very exciting assignment because it more or less has the market position in terms of mind share of a Cisco. But in terms of country operations, it was something like Force 10, and had to be built up. Aruba has a good connect with partners and customers. Wireless is a lesser understood technology compared to wired LAN, security etc. So, IT managers are keen to listen.
I came in with a three- pronged deliverable agenda. Increasing the footprint in the country was one of the important goals for us. We, more than doubled our headcount, and our revenues have increased more than 100% year-on-year. We added a lot more channel partners, including the top players like Wipro, AGC, IBM, and Dimension Data apart from many tier-2 partners. So the last 18 months have been about partner education and customer touch points.
CW: But vendors generally build partnerships with most of these tier-1 players at an early stage...
Kumar: We already had partnerships with some of these players, but the quantum of engagements has increased in the last 18 months. As we grew our team size, the number of transactions with these partners increased. In fact, we are part of the business plan of one of these tier-1 partners and they are very selective in terms of where they position other WLANs. So their primary offering is around Aruba.
CW: If you look at the wireless LAN market, though you are placed second, you are far behind the top player Cisco in terms of market share. Why such a huge gap?
Kumar: In order to understand the market better, we will have to dwell deep into the usage patterns. There are companies who buy couple of access points (APs) and are not really bothered about the management part. Cisco plays in that segment, but Aruba does not. Then, there is the SMB and mid-market which typically buys 30 to 50 APs. It is a very price/performance metrics driven market. The gating criterion is pricing. That's not our sweet spot, but Cisco again has an offering for this segment. The enterprise-class customers, on the other hand, are looking at exhaustive and feature-rich wireless LAN solutions. These customers are very demanding on security, performance and application awareness. That is the market segment that Aruba plays in, and that is where we are most relevant. And in that segment, if you do a technology versus technology comparison, we will be better placed compared to Cisco. Our focus is to move away from the centralized hardware-centric access controllers and APs to a controller-less architecture.