TP-Link ramps up channel initiatives to ensure partner profitability

TP-Link ramps up channel initiatives to ensure partner profitability

TP-Link Technologies Co Ltd, is a Chinese manufacturer of computer networking products based in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. The company was founded in 1996 by two brothers Zhao Jianjun and Zhao Jiaxing to produce and market a network card they had developed. Today, TP-Link products include high speed cable modems, wireless routers, mobile phones, ADSL, range extenders, routers, switches, IP cameras, powerline adapters, print servers, media converters, wireless adapters, power banks, USB hub and smart home technology devices. The company sells its wide array of products through multiple sales channels globally, including traditional retailers, online retailers, wholesale distributors, direct market resellers (DMRs), value-added resellers (VARs), systems integrators (SIs) and broadband service providers. Recently, Lucas Jiang, General Manager, TP-Link Middle East and Africa (MEA), spoke to Manda Banda about the company’s plans for the regional channel and how it is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic challenges to ensure that partners grow their business and remain profitable.

Talk us through the state of the channel market in the Middle East at the moment?

During the past year, the Middle East saw extensive lockdowns that eventually led to changing consumer attitudes and created a shift in activities such as shopping, meetings and learning, moving all these to online channels. The decrease in spending reflects more cautious attitudes and also the direct hits that many people’s incomes have taken since the pandemic started. The priority for channel partners in the new normal remains to manage the immediate effects of the pandemic on consumer demand. This has been a period of pride for us as our staff, and our extensive partner base left no stone unturned to make customers’ buying journey as seamless as possible, even during this time of crises. We are realigning our business strategies to reflect today’s market priorities and we look forward to resuming full-fledged business and working face-to-face with our partners to deliver quality solutions to our esteemed customers.

What has been TP-Link’s focus in 2021 and how has the company navigated the COVID-19 pandemic?

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for networking products for home use rose exponentially. Adding to this was the fact that many people intend to shift or have already shifted from a flat to a villa or from a small flat to a bigger one across the Middle East. TP-Link offers a portfolio of products that meet the networking needs arising from the pandemic with our SOHO, Omada and VIGI solutions. We have an extensive range of future-ready solutions that incorporate Wi-Fi 6 and Mesh Technology in. As a networking solutions providers, our focus will be to educate the consumers about the right solutions that suit their varied requirements. People have started travelling for a longer-term and work vacations are becoming increasingly popular. Sooner than later, the pandemic will be behind us and people will resume travelling to prime locations. Industries like hospitality, cafes, food and beverage (F&B) and prime properties need to be upgraded with solutions to cater to high-density Wi-Fi demand. TP-Link’s Omada solution comes with easy and intelligent centralised management for access points, switches and gateways. Our Wi-Fi access points can meet the diversified and dynamic demands of the market. We are increasing our focus areas and have recently announced the launch of VIGI, our video surveillance brand. It is a strategic move to provide a one-stop solution to businesses. With VIGI, TP-Link is currently also introducing 10 new products that have been carefully designed to meet small and medium businesses’ (SMBs) needs. Our aim with VIGI is to provide professional-grade surveillance to small business owners at an affordable price point. These solutions have been explicitly designed to cater to the diverse and dynamic demands around security and privacy protection that are growing exponentially due to more people working and managing things remotely. This shift from workplaces to home offices has caused a consequential and considerable rise in the demand for better networking solutions, speeds and bandwidths. Owing to this, our digital engagements with our partners and customers have been on the rise and we have regularly conducted digital meetings with our partners throughout the lockdowns.

What has TP-Link been telling its channel partners to focus on during these challenging times?

We have seen and know the demand for all our product lines – SOHO, SMB Omada and SMB VIGI Surveillance. The demand for our solutions is growing and we have been telling the same to our channel partners across the Middle East. At the same time, we are providing them with all the necessary support through webinars, training, marketing support and more. We believe that channel partners are the very drivers of TP-Link’s business, hence we are continually committed to our partners’ long-term business growth and success. We have successfully driven business growth and market share year-on-year since we began our regional operations in the Middle East and leveraging strong partner relationships has been at the heart of it. Our partners know that they can accelerate their operations and enhance their profitability through our solid partner ecosystem. During these challenging times, our partners have been presented with considerable support and rewards for accomplishing verifiable TP-Link targets on a regular basis. These have proven to provide exceptional benchmarks for solid and sustained regional growth and reliable support to our channel partners in these times of crises.

TP-Link has been ramping up its channel activities and expanding its reach and product portfolio, especially in the SMB segment. Briefly outline your approach when signing new systems integrators in the Middle East?

TP-Link has expanded its portfolio and is investing heavily into evolving its resources. In accordance with that, we are seeking to partner with systems integrators that are currently not doing business with TP-Link and are willing to develop their business in the hospitality, education and corporate sectors. We will be providing tools and resources to the SI partners we enlist to make sure that they are trained, certified and enabled to implement our SMB offerings in the market. Their growth is vital to our growth and hence, always remains an area of focus for us. Channel partner training and certifications are the cornerstones upon which the recruitment drive has been developed. When we sign a new channel partner, anywhere across the Middle East, they are required to undergo mandatory training to get certified either as a TP-Link Network Associate (TPNA) or TP-Link Network Professional (TPNP).

Which countries are a key focus for TP-Link in 2021 in the Middle East?

Our focus this year remains on the GCC countries in particular Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Given that some companies have adopted a hybrid working policy, how is TP-Link positioning itself to ensure that businesses in the region continue to utilise the broad product array within your stable that supports remote working?

The biggest challenge that everyone faced in terms of making the switch to a hybrid working policy turned out to be one of our most significant business growth opportunities. The increasing demand for seamless Wi-Fi and connectivity at home and for home offices is where our forward-looking hi-tech products come into play, as this is the very problem they have been designed to solve. Moreover, we believe that a business should invest in the right tools and technology to support its hybrid teams efficiently. At TP-Link, we are clearly defining who the policy applies to and the employees who are not required to work from the office are being permitted to do so while those who may be indispensable at the workplace are being called in. Our after-sales support remains as prompt as ever and we are remotely assisting customers as we were before the pandemic. TP-Link is committed to serving consumers across the Middle East with superior quality products and services that make their lives more seamless and comfortable. Despite challenging market conditions in MEA at present, the company is excited about the opportunity that SMB products are creating.

Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, what would you cite as the most challenging issue that TP-Link together with your channel partners faced last year and in 2021?

In hindsight, this issue is somehow related to COVID-19 only – the entire supply chain was disturbed and the challenge was the raw material stock unavailability and the hike in shipping fares. The issue of stock unavailability can be attributed to the fact that the entire transport sector and also the availability of raw material was disrupted during the lockdowns imposed across the globe. As a manufacturer of networking devices and global provider, we know how to tackle the challenges to develop a solution for our partners. We wanted our partners not to feel overburdened because we have the ability to support them. So, we decided not to increase the freight rates as added support. It is vital that TP-Link partners feel that they can not only accelerate their operations but also enhance their profitability and bottom line with us in 2021. This year, a number of networking manufacturers faced a shortage of chipset supply, but we have been pioneering the industry for 25 years now and have a strategic plan in place to handle the situation in the near future.

Looking ahead, what will be TP-Link’s focus in 2021 and how are you preparing your channel partners for the year ahead?

The demand for high performing business networking and surveillance solutions is increasing exponentially in the SMB sector across the Middle East. We are encouraging partners to develop some specialisation in this fast-growing, essential market sector. TP-Link has launched a new video surveillance brand, VIGI, as a strategic move to enter the surveillance field. Catering to the diverse demands for security and privacy protection, VIGI leverages its strong research and development (R&D), production capacity and in-house manufacturing to offer customers a complete security solution to reduce internal and external theft and ensure staff safety and improve services. We are excited to announce that we have a complete range of network and surveillance solutions. The market conditions in the region may be challenging at the moment, but the future of the regional networking industry is bright. For the regional economy to thrive, SMBs across industries need to be supported by effective technology solutions and continuous business innovation. At TP-Link, we believe that a vibrant SMB market is key to the sustainable economic growth and development of the Middle East region. TP-Link wants to encourage its channel partners across the Middle East to take advantage of the dynamic opportunities and business needs that small businesses seek in the wireless networking and IP surveillance space. We push them to widen their reach as they are equipped with solutions meant to enhance connectivity and optimise user networks to boost productivity. TP-Link has the products, solutions and team to support the growth of our SOHO, SMB & VIGI offerings and to ensure that our partners thrive in the market.

What initiatives and plans are in the offing for TP-Link post COVID-19 in the Middle East?

The Middle East is an important region for TP-Link and we are investing heavily into developing our resources and improving our channel network. We have carefully crafted a number of initiatives that focus on expanding our customer base and addressing the increasing demands for our pioneering solutions. TP-Link is expanding its partnerships to enable new partners with its complete product line. While selecting partners, we look at how they can grow together with us, their market expertise, the alignment of their business values with ours and their customer-first approaches to then design our plans for them accordingly. We focus on training our partners to meet these requirements so that they can enhance their unique strengths and grow to play a key role in helping us achieve our goals for the year.

What channel programmes and initiatives is TP-Link planning for its channel partners serving the SMB market in the Middle East this year?

TP-Link is laying strong emphasis on improving its channel partners’ business performance and help them achieve better customer satisfaction. These are the two most significant drivers of IT spending among small businesses and TP-Link focussed on being on top of them at all times. The company is also working very closely with its distribution partners to extend more credit facilities to them. The scale of operations of SMBs differs from their large counterparts and so do the challenges faced by them. We fully understand that a one-size-fits-all approach seldom works and dedicated solutions focusing on SMBs need to be provided to them. The same applies to other aspects such as marketing, pricing and margins. Despite the heightened market pressure on smaller channel partners serving the SMB sector, TP-Link, together with its distribution partners, continually supports channel partners by offering them the best price points for the products and solutions whose demand is growing considerably. We have initiated several effective initiatives like margin support to our resellers serving the Middle East’s SMB sector. Considering the current market conditions and business climate, it is critical that channel partners have the right products and solutions from TP-Link and its distribution partners to support SMBs comprehensively. We work extensively with partners on the pipeline, help enable and empower their sales and technical teams. TP-Link provides continued training to ensure that they can deliver excellent IT infrastructure and surveillance solutions that are needed by SMBs to grow. We are committed to helping our partners mitigate some of these challenges by ensuring that they have the broadest SMB products portfolio. We are also adding new PoE switches and VIGI surveillance products to offer complete and comprehensive brand solutions that suit every small business.

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