Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 183

September 18, 2023

#184 Amit Sinha Roy: How Tata Communications Co-Innovates with Partners for Customer Value

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer WorkSpan is joined by Amit Sinha Roy, VP Global Head of Strategic Alliances at Tata Communications.

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In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, Chief Partner Officer WorkSpan is joined by Amit Sinha Roy, VP Global Head of Strategic Alliances, Tata Communications.

Amit is a strategic and execution-focused business leader with 33 years of experience. He is an expert in leading high-performing teams and driving growth in the B2B space. Amit has a deep understanding of customer segmentation, GTM models, product and solutions propositions, and demand generation. He is also passionate about data and insights, and he uses these to drive performance and help customers leapfrog their competition.

Topics covered include:

  • What are the Alliance programs - 5:20
  • How Tata Communications decides where to partner - 11:20
  • What is the cadence of integration and engagement - 17:45
  • How do regional alliances work - 23:04

Chip Rodgers  00:10

Welcome. Welcome back everyone to another episode of Ecosystem Aces. I'm so excited to be talking to Amit Sinha, Roy.

Amit Sinha Roy  00:20

Thank you for having me, Chip.

Chip Rodgers  00:23

I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area early in the morning. You're in Bangalore or Delhi. Delhi. So 7: 30 pm is your time. And really happy to have you on. This is our third third attempt. We were first scheduled in July and then I had a horrible cough. And then we tried again last week and had some technical network challenges. And so this time, I think we've got everything solid, and we're ready to go. So that's fantastic.

Amit Sinha Roy  01:09

Third time lucky as they say.

Chip Rodgers  01:10

That's right. So welcome, Amit. Just a little bit of an introduction to Amit, you're VP of global alliances at Tata communications and have been with Tata for a while now, almost 13 years. And prior to that, you made the rounds in technology companies with Cisco, HP, Syntel, Compaq and the early days and I think originally started out at HCL. And so you've, you've hit all the technology highlights in your career. 

So I'm welcome and why don't we start? We're going to talk all about your role and how Tata Communications is managed as alliances and all that but why don't we start first with, what you and your team are up to these days at Tata?

Amit Sinha Roy  02:15

Thank you for having me here, Chip once again. And first, I thought I'll spend a couple of minutes setting the context of who is Tata Communications, what does Tata Communications do? And then bring in the Alliance's piece, that would make it more relevant to our audience. So Tata Communications is a part of the Tata Group, which is more than 150 years old and a global conglomerate, and operates across industries in factories to say from salt to steel or software to steel.

Chip Rodgers  02:56

Both atoms and bits.

Amit Sinha Roy  03:01

So if you look at Tata Steel, the Tata Consultancy Services, the largest group company TCS, and then Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors, Tata Chemicals, Taj hotels, it's it's incredible.

Chip Rodgers  03:15

Taj hotels too, I didn't know that. Wow.

Amit Sinha Roy  03:21

So zooming into Tata Communications, the Tata group actually acquired a stake in a public organization back in 2002. And then, over the past 20 plus years. Now, of course, the government has divested, and so it's an organization that is pretty much in the focus of doing, what we call as digital, we call ourselves as a digital ecosystem enabler. 

Working together with enterprise service providers, media entertainment companies, for example, you may be aware of the Formula One races MotoGP, these are some of the sports that we enable. Now, in terms of what we do, our focus is on the core network where we started from, so that's our legacies, the core network and then moving forward to various services that the digital platforms areas, such as UCaaS, CCaaS, CPaaS. I'm throwing some acronyms here, but understand-Security cloud. So we call this our journey from product to platform. And then from the platform, taking the combination of platforms and solutions to the digital fabric. That basically provides end to end visibility, manageability and intelligent easy to consume services for our enterprise customers, through API's. So if we look at this through the lens of our customers, they are actually moving from a connected world to what we call a hyper connected world, where everything is always connected in real time anywhere, connecting people and things, and intelligent devices and learning about it on the go. 

So that's about an organization at a high level. So now, if I may talk about the alliance program that I'm associated with, and what is it that we're trying to achieve? First, if I could define the alliances, I would keep it simple. There are two types as I put it, one is the outbound if I may, or the traditional distributor channel value added reseller model. And then the other model that I talked about is more the inbound or the alliance is the technology, OEM relationships which are there. So the part that I focus on is actually what I term as inbound or the technology alliances, and where we work with leading global organizations, on enabling our stack, together with their services. 

So it's about joint service creation. And then looking at specific areas where customers have needs, where we could be relevant in taking these joint service offerings to solve customer problems. So these would be in the areas of SD-Wan SSE, SASE, Unified Communications, Contact Center as a service, and so on, so forth. What we do in the service creation phase is work closely with these global organizations, we create an offering together with their product service and our service capabilities, to create a complete end to end stack that can be delivered to our organization.

So let me give you an example. In the space of say, unified communications, we are partners with Microsoft for their teams. And we are a team's direct routing partner, which enables us to connect back into the Microsoft ecosystem to give a very, very, I would say seamless experience for our enterprise customers who are deploying Microsoft teams across hundreds of sites to 1000s of employees. 

So what are the services that we bring in over there? It's not about license resale. It's about enabling that infrastructure with global Session Initiation Protocol, or Global Session Initiation Protocol  G-SIP, as we call it, which is the backend technology, which actually connects and makes video and audio calls happens simply put, beyond that, we have services such as global repeat, which come from Tata communications, which enables us to get our customers global deployment managed seamlessly, be it the rollout, the license management, the enablement, different countries have different regulations, in terms of voice video connectivity, so we manage that across the globe for them. 

So I just thought I'd give you an example of one solution. There are several solutions like this, where we work with leading organizations and deliver this. So from the perspective of Tata communications, it's about enabling our customers together with the partner stack. And having a more holistic solution that is available for the enterprise customers to deploy their use cases through the Tata communications ecosystem. 

Now, if I may continue down that path, what is the strategy and why does an organization actually look at this model? Typically, the reason is, customers are asking for services and solutions that go beyond our specific portfolio and how is right so plus plus, right? Also, there's technology, there's a rapid evolution of services solutions that are evolving. And, sometimes, we're, we're not there everywhere. Also, competition may be providing a more holistic solution end to end. So these are some of the reasons and that actually sets companies like us to start thinking about, should we build the solution in house out. And we do that. 

So, in our edge computing, we have built a solution, we have solutions in multiple areas, but then it would either be built by a bot. And depending on the use case, and the importance of the solution, if we have to really differentiate all that space and have the IP, we would build it. We could buy it, if there is a capability that's available. And you may have seen some recent acquisitions, that Tata communications, has announced. In the US, we acquired a switch in the media entertainment, a part of business, and then for our CCaaS solutions. 

We are in discussions with Galera that's also in the news, not yet finalized. So there are situations where we would buy and in several situations, we partner, where we need a rapid speed to market. And the solution is adjacent to our current offerings rather than capabilities. And it allows us to have one plus one equals three. So let me pause over there. Because I know I've been saying a lot.

How Tata Communications decides where to partner

Chip Rodgers  11:20

No, and I appreciate you laying that all out. That's, you've done a really nice comprehensive job of both the context of Tata communications as well as Tata. But then also your partner strategy and why Tata communications is doing these kinds of partner activities with partners, the whole, built by partner concept and some of the things that drive it in one direction or another. That's terrific. 

Tell me a little bit about how you go through that process of deciding where you are going to partner? What are some of the things that you think about? Where did the ideas come from? Do they come from your own teams? So they come from customers? Do you have a strategy group that thinks up things on that? Or maybe all the above? But where did they come from?

Amit Sinha Roy  12:37

All of the above. And let me throw some light on that. So we have a corporate strategy function, we have presence in the Bay Area, where we are working with startups incubation, looking at cutting edge solutions that are a little, way out, not mainstream, but we are over there, very much so. So that's one aspect of it, where we are working with them on the incubation side. But coming back to the mainstream business, it happens both ways. We have customers who are interested in specific solution areas, where we see that there is a demand in the market. 

That's a signal for us. On the other hand, we are constantly looking at our portfolio and enhancing the capabilities to stay ahead of our competitors, and to be able to serve our customers in the best possible way. And that is where we work closely with large technology firms with OEMs with alliances and then work with them on their roadmap, technology roadmap, how that could potentially complement ours, and together we have a synergistic relationship. 

So, it all starts in that case with the solution area strategy.  Looking at clarity around building the overall strategy for each solution area, which would then enable us and with who, which will enable us to expand the capabilities of our offerings. Beyond that, we will of course, have a common framework that we apply across different product hours, but beyond that, we would also look at these companies in terms of how they are doing in the market. Obviously, there is success in terms of what Wall Street is saying about them or whichever stock exchange they trade on, but beyond that, what are the analysts saying? 

So there are, Gartner magic quadrants and various others, well established papers, where we know who is ranking at the top, so there is that aspect as well. So we would look at the technology, we will look at the credibility, we will look at our customer needs. And then we will also look at the synergy between the two organizations, there are situations where, whilst we collaborate and partner on one front, we may compete on another front. And that's very common these days.. And that brings complexity into these relationships. But that's how it is right. 

And same with the technology providers, they work with other organizations similar to us as well. So, we look at choosing the ones which would be more frictionless, less competitive, but more collaboration. And then once we have the solution identified, then our product teams product engineering, product management would work towards the service creation, the joint service creation. And that would mean a blending in integrating the capabilities from both sides to create the plus offering, which we will take to market. 

And that's when my role actually kicks in, to work with our region teams, our front end teams, to create aligned plans together with them, and the partner field teams, right the alliances field teams in the regions for a seamless go to market. And that go to market would cut across regions segments, depending on where we are targeting all the use cases, and then build joint account lists, together with the Alliance organization, have joint marketing wherever it's relevant and effective. And then of course, have the customer engagement starting off. 

So that's the end to end cycle from product right through to a go to market. Now in between there are many discussions and engagements in terms of the contracting, pricing, where our legal finance teams will also chip in and work together with from both sides, work on the thing, and so on and so forth. But that's how we would work with an organization in doing a joint service creation and then go to market around that.

What is the cadence of integration and engagement

Chip Rodgers  17:45

Wow, you just laid out the whole process. That's terrific. How often does a large strategic alliance like that, how often do you see that occurring? And are there small, large, big rock kinds of alliances like that, and then smaller things that plug in here and there that might be more frequent? Give me a sense of the cadence.

Amit Sinha Roy  18:20

So typically, when we are looking at this level of intake, service integration and engagement, it's not something which happens on a quarterly basis. It is a multi-year kind of relationship. Because both sides invest significantly into this. So I know I mentioned Microsoft, but we weren't for not mentioning other partners like Cisco, Versa, Fortinet, HP, we work with the likes of all of them. And we have joint service offerings together with these and more. I'm not mentioning all the names, but basically, these are with large, global organizations who also have multiple product portfolios. 

So at any point in time we could be engaged across, there could be a multi dimensional engagement of the product. So it's not a one off, having said that, there are smaller organizations who may have a specialized solution that we would embed into our stack, maybe white label. And so that could be a single product kind of engagement, single engagement. But even then, when we get into this level of service integration and creation, they are all mid to long term. And clearly, more than two or three years we'll be looking at, of course, depends on the roadmap that the company has. 

Now, having said all of this, there are other situations which are opportunistic in nature. So we may be in a specific customer deal or customer situation where there is a specific endpoint or a specific technology that a customer needs or wants, because of their business reasons or their technology stack. And they would want to prescribe that they would like to just work with one partner. So it's a TATA calm you manage this end to end for us in such a situation. And if that even requires an integration into the stack, we would take that off.

And if it's strategic in nature, I don't want to say but a one off of what could be a single opportunity relationship, but that is really not something that happens too often. It can happen when a customer has a requirement, a specific requirement for a specific device, or specific technology that completes their stack of the solution.

Chip Rodgers  21:11

Right. You haven't may not have to apply to other customers.

Amit Sinha Roy  21:14

Yeah, but that's the opportunistic one. But we are focused on the programmatic . Strategic when you say strategic, it means programmatic it means long term, it means both sides investing into the relationship into the service creation into the go to market to be successful together.

Chip Rodgers  21:33

We do have a question from our friend, Roland Wartenberg, who's with Fortinet. And he actually says, Great to hear you're talking about Fortinet. 

So Roland's question is, around AI? And how does AI impact alliances and ecosystem strategy for Tata communications.

Amit Sinha Roy  22:02

We have built AI into our service capabilities, be it from a delivery capability, be it from a service assurance, and into some of our products, where we are looking at the AI to supplement and complement what we do in terms of the ability to serve customers seamlessly. So absolutely, we have AI capabilities in some of our products. But having said that, we are always open to and in fact, just earlier today, we were discussing in terms of AI quantum, and how some of our partners have been investing in those areas, in their specific stacks, and how we could potentially cross leverage some of those capabilities together with what we have to give a more value added solution to our customers. So that's where we are on AI.

How do regional alliances work

Chip Rodgers  23:04

Interesting. So it's a well, it's a hot topic for everyone. But you're talking about just today. So you've taken us through the whole sort of process of, the strategy and looking at where there are some needs in the market, maybe coming from customers. And then, going through that whole process of, building the solution to getting the product teams together going to market let's talk about the field side, aligning, a global organization like Tata communications, some of your partners who have their own global organizations, how do you get everyone working to get them enabled, get them introduced to each other and get the flywheel going, if you will, and a global organization like Tata communications.

Amit Sinha Roy  24:12

So you're right. It's not something which is easy. It's not something that we can have a cookie cutter approach. It's really custom. And the way it works, if I may just I'm going to be oversimplifying it, but the way it works is we have of course, we have regional alliances teams in every region in America and Europe and APAC in India, and Mecca. And they hold the relationships with the the regional organizations of the alliances. Now, having said that, depending on the geography, there are multiple dimensions, in some of the geography we are focused on specific customer types. 

And there are relationships or technologies that are solutions that we would need to provide to them. And therefore, based on the prioritization of the service stack, our alliances prioritization syncs up to that. So, if we are focusing on say security, SSC SAASE, in a specific market with a specific use case, there would be one or two players, our partners who would be in that, in the priority list. 

Similarly, we respect that, in some of the geographies, our alliances may have stronger relationships with other players. And therefore, in those geographies, we would look at an alternate, so from both sides one is the services and the customer segment that we're going, segments that we're going after the relevant services that we're offering, and therefore the solutions that map on to that and therefore the partners. And then on the other side, the relation, the software aspects of the relationships capabilities, that let me not takeaway also the capabilities in terms of the ability to solution deliver, and service. 

I know, I'm not giving you a very easy answer. There are these dimensions, which are there. And then we basically at the end of this, we have priority list of alliances in each of the regions which may be slightly different, because the custom for that region, the priority partners in Europe may be slightly, up or down by one or two from what you have in the Americas from what you have in the in the APAC region and India. And that's the regional go to market. That is then the focus for that. And that's all the prioritization.

Chip Rodgers  27:11

As you're talking, I imagine like a four dimensional chess board, product region, industry solution capabilities, they're probably five or six dimensions. So not an easy thing to get your arms all around.

Amit Sinha Roy  27:32

And let's not forget the competitive relationships. Both sides have.

Chip Rodgers  27:37

This has been fantastic. Before we, wrap up, I'd love to hear you've been in partnerships for many years working with working with partners, a lot of our listeners are in the partnering space as well, do you have any advice or something you've picked up along the way or learned early from a mentor that has really stuck with you and helped you along the way that you want to share?

Amit Sinha Roy  28:18

At the end of the day, it's about delivering customer value. Now, if we are able to do that, then we will be successful. And customer value is delivered when there is relevance in the market. Differentiation, the ability to differentiate the solutions, and also have the strategic engagement. So from that perspective, an alliance is not just for the want or for the sake of creating a partnership. 

Because if we do that it's not going to work. We have to ensure that together we have a market that we will be successful, that we are aligned in terms of the direction and culture, that is there is full trust from both sides in the relationship. And like I said, there's a level of competition as well. So that's something that needs to be kept in mind that we would collaborate and there would be situations where we would compete and that is we need to be totally transparent, to have a solid business plan in place, and to measure the success as we go along and celebrate wins. I think that's t the secret sauce for making this work.

Chip Rodgers  29:48

Keep a customer focused, celebrate wins. Make sure you're aligned and you understand you're transparent about where you're competing versus working together. Those are some really great pieces of advice.

Amit Sinha Roy  30:03

Customer Value at the end of the day and delivering customer value. Incremental customer value.

Chip Rodgers  30:11

I'm gonna thank you so much for sharing some time and your evening tonight and we made it happen.

Amit Sinha Roy  30:19

We made it happen. It's been a pleasure really.

Chip Rodgers  30:22

Likewise. So I think with that we'll sign off and thanks, everyone for joining another episode of ecosystem aces and for Amit Sinha Roy, I'm Chip Rodgers. And thanks again for joining us and we'll see you next time.

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