Channel Chief

“Our channel partners have helped us to build a newrelationship with customers”

— Ashutosh Vaidya, Director, Business Development, Microsoft Corporation India

As director, business development, Ashutosh Vaidya of Microsoft focuses on genuine software initiatives, working closely with industry associations like NASSCOM and Business Software Alliance. He joined Microsoft in October 1996 to set up Microsoft operations in SAARC countries. In 1998, he took over the additional responsibility for the consumer customer unit for Microsoft in the Indian subcontinent region. He is also involved in various state government activities related to technology. Ashutosh speaks to Channels India on how he has built a close relation with channel partners.

How long have you been handling channels at Microsoft?

I have been with Microsoft for about three-and-a-half years. Microsoft is very popular among channel partners. Almost everyone in the network wants to sell Microsoft products. But my role in the company is to ensure that genuine products reach our customers.

How do you reach out to channel partners?

We reach out to channel partners by addressing them through advertisements, contacting them on a one-to-one basis, conducting seminars, and sending direct mailers.

How serious is the problem of software piracy?

It is unfortunate, and many of us turn a blind eye to piracy. We tend to make compromises and in the bargain spoil everything — our business, the market and ultimately, the economy. It might start off with just a friend or colleague requesting for a copy of the software.

Piracy results in higher prices for licensed users, reduced levels of support and delays in funding and development of new products, causing software quality to suffer. It hinders legitimate software sales which results in lost tax revenue and decreased employment.

What are the different types of software piracy?

There are five basic forms of software piracy and all are equally damaging for both software publishers and end users. They are:

End user copying – wherein extra copies of a program are made within an organization.

Hard disk loading – when dealers load unauthorized copies of software on to the hard disks as a sales promotion.

Counterfeiting – illegal duplication and sale of copyrighted software, often in the form designed to appear genuine.

Online piracy – providing software on the Internet without the permission of copyright owner.

License misuse – distribution of copyrighted software outside the restricted legitimated channels it was designed for.

What steps are you taking to overcome software piracy?

Overcoming software piracy is proving to be a huge challenge for us. We have special programs to educate channel partners about the benefits of using genuine software. We are adopting the 3-E program. The three Es stand for ‘Educate’, ‘Enable’ and ‘Enforce’. Through this program, we reach out to channel partners and update them on the latest developments in the industry. We also come out with anti-piracy newsletter called ‘Sentinel’.

What is NASSCOM and BSA’s contribution in curbing software piracy?

National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) and Business Software Alliance (BSA) are two bodies that have been playing the Cyber Cops.

NASSCOM is working towards a strategy wherein India is expected to have the least piracy rate in the world. BSA is promoting copyright enforcement initiatives, education campaigns and public policy programs. They regularly come out with an anti-piracy newsletter called ‘Software Crime Watch’. Apparently, there is a 102 percent increase in the revenue generated from anti-piracy activities.

How do you educate your channel partners?

We regularly come out with booklets that address queries of channel partners. And to ensure that things remain in the minds of people, we also distribute attractive posters and bookmarks with appropriate message printed on it. Our anti-piracy drive through Microsoft’s MOLP Bonanza III concluded in February 2000. Resellers within the country have sold a record number of licenses, which directly implies that people are less likely to seek illegal avenues.

Could you elaborate on MOLP?

MOLP stands for Microsoft Open License Program. The program offers a simple, flexible approach to acquire and upgrade your software licenses. You can license as many products as you need as your organization grows, you can purchase additional licenses at the initial license price for up to two years. The savings range from 15 to 25 per cent off the estimated retail price of Microsoft software licenses based upon your initial order. Upgrade Advantage feature of Open License gives you access to all eligible version upgrades during the term of your Open License agreement. The program is available to business customers through your technology provider or direct from authorized resellers.

Have you ever faced any problems from your channel partners?

No, we have not faced any sort of problem from any of our channel partners so far. In fact, they have been the main reason behind our success in fighting piracy. We have managed to get 160 channel partners to stand up against piracy.

What are the others programs that you are working on?

We have come out with a program called MSDA (Microsoft Direct Access), a free service packed with benefits. One just needs to register online and get started. We also provide free online technical support. Here, one can access the technical newsgroups staffed by Microsoft support professionals who are ready to answer questions on Microsoft systems and applications. Through the same program, one can even interact with other technology providers who share similar business needs, concerns, and have similar queries. MSDA helps resellers and consultants win more business. It is the right place for information and support one need to sell more products, expand services and dazzle customers.

How do you view the future of your programs?

With the help of NASSCOM, BSA and our channel partners, we have succeeded in our endeavors. If our channel partners give the right advice to customers after clarifying their doubts from vendors, we are sure that we will go far.