The Making of the SUSE Brand in India

Venkatesh Swaminathan

SUSE dreamt of making it big in India and has succeeded in doing so, over a period when people were still apprehensive about open source. Read on to learn how SUSE’s success story unfolded…

Gone are the days when SUSE was known as a distro used by a group of edgy techies. SUSE is now a common name, and that has not happened overnight. A clear strategy, a strong and buzzing community and a super strong conviction to make it big, have combined to make SUSE a success story. The distro has spread its wings from the small desktop space to the wide horizon of the enterprise world. And it has grown substantially in the process.
According to Venkatesh Swaminathan, country head, the Attachmate group, SUSE has enjoyed good growth globally in the last financial year. He says, “There was a growth of 22 per cent at a time when the Linux server market was forecasted to grow at 18 per cent. So, you can see that we are growing faster than the market. In India we saw similar trends. We acquired 25 per cent of our new customers last year. We saw some aggressive growth in the enterprise market, where we had some strategic wins. This year, our focus is to target our existing customer base in the government sector and get aggressive in the enterprise and BFSI space, which our direct sales team will go after. We now have a dedicated team for sales and pre-sales for every region that focuses only on SUSE.

Apart from the enterprise space, SUSE is also banking big on the SME space… and why not, since India has plenty of them. Swaminathan says, “We see tremendous opportunity in the SME space, where we will go with our strong partner base. We are running some interesting incentive schemes for our partners. I have met many enterprise and SME customers who have shared their concerns relating to vendor lock-in with traditional vendors and that’s where open source technology can help them. We have seen many successes, with enterprises and SMEs deploying their mission-critical applications like SAP, real compute, HPC, etc, on SUSE. Most of the UNIX-to-Linux migrations in the country, especially for SAP, are deploying SUSE. We have had some good wins in the BFSI sector in banks, exchanges, etc, with customers deploying SUSE for their core banking applications. Looking at this trend, our first priority is to build a strong partner community that can get us the scale to reach out specifically to the SMEs. Next on our list would be to work with the BFSI sector and get them to benefit from open source technology, which offers the right balance between cost and business value, with security as the core strength. We have always had a strong hold in the government and the education sector, built around SUSE desktop, and hence that would be a huge opportunity. We are already in talks with some state governments to run this initiative.”

India has been a very important market for SUSE and with the growth the company has had here, over the years, it will continue to be so. Swaminathan says, “With the recent wins in banking, and among the enterprises with very large SAP deployments, we foresee very significant growth in the coming years. As I mentioned earlier, worldwide, SUSE is growing faster than the market and this is the case in India too.”

Linux: The obvious choice
SUSE is growing for the same reason Linux is. IT managers across the globe are realising the importance of open source technology in the context of vendor lock-in. While working in SUSE, Swaminathan has noticed that customers are aware of the key benefits of using Linux, like lower TCO, easy customisation, unique hardware and software requirements, and less dependence on vendors. He adds, “SUSE Linux offers greater efficiencies but even more important, it helps customers to be more agile as businesses and reduce risks. Apart from these evident benefits, what worked for us was a renewed focus in the Indian market with a clear Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy to go after the government, the enterprise, BFSI and the SME markets. We have solid experience of 20 years in the enterprise Linux space and I believe that with the right GTM and marketing efforts we will repeat our growth story. Our presence in industry events, campaigns targeting the customer and partner community, and many new initiatives like partner incentives and attractive bundles for customers have worked in our favour.  Last, but not the least, is the support and testimonials/references from our existing customer base, which makes it easy for us to win new customers.”

So for all those who still think that Linux is not the right choice, think again! The government being a key influencer when it comes to technology adoption is the reason SUSE has banked on this sector. Swaminathan says, “One of SUSE’s initiatives from the very beginning in India is to engage on government projects. The success we have had with many government agencies and with e-governance initiatives is a testimony to our efforts to provide an affordable and sustainable solution to the government. These solutions anyway affect the common man people like you and me. SUSE has become the only choice on many government projects in education and in school initiatives under way across various states. Exposing schoolgoing children to Linux will only increase this awareness and, in the coming years, we will see people asking for desktops/laptops with open source alternatives.”

“Success story will continue…”
Swaminathan says, “I believe we can build on the immense successes we have had last year. We have to just replicate and reach out to many more customers and partners.The company now wants to increase its presence in the banking segment, specifically to all those banks that are now on the verge of a hardware refresh. He clarifies, “We want to educate these banks on the alternatives, and we believe we do have a very strong value proposition. We are right now focusing on training our partners to increase our reach.”

 

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