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Channel Chief: Mukesh Kumar, Alliances and Channel Director, MENA, Salesforce

Channel Chief: Mukesh Kumar, Alliances and Channel Director, MENA, Salesforce

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Mukesh Kumar, Alliances and Channel Director – Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at Salesforce, an American cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco, California, that provides customer relationship management (CRM) service and complementary suite of enterprise applications focused on customer service, marketing automation, analytics and application development. Kumar’s management philosophy focuses on building trusted relationships among the channel partner ecosystem. He explains to us how Salesforce is growing its investment in the MENA channel.

Describe your current job role and the parts that are somewhat challenging?

As the alliances and channel director for Salesforce, I lead the development and growth of our partner ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). My time is heavily invested with partners to help build and support the development of a Salesforce consulting practice, with a strong team of certified resources who deliver our best-in-class solutions for customers in the region.

The more we understand our customers’ business needs or industry challenges, the better we can leverage the Salesforce Platform to address those needs and finding partners that can help us be successful. Thus, we work very closely with channel partners to build strategic initiatives and stay abreast of our new product releases to deliver customer success through maximising value in Salesforce investment. This also presents a healthy challenge, as to ensure our partners are consistently trained and certified across the Salesforce Platform and industry solutions. During the pandemic, we have adapted very quickly and rapidly increased our partner activity with virtual enablement.

Can you explain how your company works with channel partners?

The Salesforce partnership model is focused on our core pillars: customer success, innovation, growth and on social impact. We arm partners with technology, marketing and go-to-market resources, helping them build successful cloud businesses. The long standing success of our partnership programme is evident with our recently awarded Five-star partner programme by CRN, The Channel Company.

In the MENA region, Salesforce supports more than 70 active channel partners, covering implementation, consulting and independent software vendors (ISVs) who have built solutions on our Customer 360 platform for specific industries. Whilst we have witnessed many years of success in the UAE, the surrounding Gulf countries are developing strong partner growth in areas such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This journey has led to building a community of Salesforce Trailblazers. We are constantly working with each of our partners to help develop Salesforce credentials.

On the Salesforce Trailblazer online community, from FY2019 to FY2021, the number of UAE users has roughly doubled and the number of their “badges” collected for demonstrating knowledge on topics has grown by about six-fold.

What are the latest trends you see emerging across the channel?

Across the MENA channel, we are seeing partners shift from selling solutions to becoming trusted advisors in enabling customers’ Digital Transformation. As we globally emerge from the pandemic, partners need to fully understand their customer needs. As a result, many channel partners are shifting to specialising in industry verticals, such as banking and finance, government and public sector, and retail sectors.

What is your management philosophy?

My management philosophy is based on building trusted relationships amongst our channel partner ecosystem. Trust is one of the core values of Salesforce and we want to support our partners and customers based on transparent advice and guidance, sharing best practices, building long-term relationships, and aligning with the business visions to support global and regional digital initiatives.

When you look back at your career, what has been the most memorable achievement?

My proudest moment has always been when I give back to the community and make time to support local initiatives. As part of our philanthropy model, Salesforce provides each of their employees 56 hours per year (1% of our working hours) to support projects  and I have been fortunate to use this time to help restore derelict community gardens, create safe play areas for young children, serve and care in homeless shelters, and mentoring students on their career paths.

I’m also the VP of Faithforce EMEA, which is our interfaith employee resource group at Salesforce focused on celebrating, supporting and fostering understanding of our global faith and spiritual diversity through inclusive and educational events and initiatives. It’s really helped me cultivate a culture of empathy, respect and belonging at Salesforce for people from all faiths, backgrounds, traditions and worldviews.

What made you think of a career in technology?

My journey with technology started at a very young age, when my parents gifted me with a home computer. I became fascinated by this amazing equipment which led to hours of exploring basic programming. In pursuit of a career in this field, I gained a bachelor’s degree in IT and began my career as a consultant. The role privileged me to work on multiple assignments in advisory capacity and to deploy technology solutions across multiple industries. As the adoption of cloud computing matured it changed how organisations invested in enterprise solutions, which is when I joined the pioneers of the CRM market and leaders of software-as-a-service (SAAS) known as Salesforce.

I’m now a proud member of the Koa Club at Salesforce, offered to employees with 10 plus years of tenure. In this time, I’ve transitioned from a solution engagement manager role to now leading our regional channel business. It’s been a natural transition to develop a strong Salesforce partner ecosystem to support our customers in the fast-growth emerging markets of the MENA region, all underpinned to achieve customer success.

What do you think will be the hot technology talking point of 2021?

Following the pandemic, it is imperative that Salesforce channel partners understand our customers‘ Digital Transformation challenges and unique business needs. Digital Transformation is the biggest technology trend in the region and worldwide, as the pandemic has accelerated organisations’ shift to a more digital journey and the need to drive business innovation and competitiveness.

Showing the impact of Digital Transformation, our Trends in Workflow Automation Report shows that 87% of consumers and business buyers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. Our State of Connected Customer Report shows 91% of UAE customers expecting their companies to go digital and companies will take on a larger societal role.

What are your personal interests and where do you like to spend most of your time after work?

The subject of wellness is more relevant than ever before, so it’s essential to balance your mental and physical state. To that effect, I’m very active in my lifestyle through regular exercise, frequent visits to the gym (when they are open!) and at least twice a week five kilometres outdoor runs. Being physically active helps me to destress and put my workload into perspective to drive better focus. More importantly, with the reduced travel I have really enjoyed spending more time at home with my family and embracing this opportunity with my children.

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