5th Aug, 1992 – I was in the very first batch of employees who joined Japanese major Fujitsu. Fujitsu was amongst few companies which announced big investments in India (following Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan and initiation of economic liberalization in India). We had a big contingent of Japanese engineers and senior Japanese managers joining us at Mohali plant which was to manufacture large sized public digital telephone exchanges based on latest digital technology.

We started importing machines, technical know how, equipment, assemblies, components, product & process documents and while all that was happening, our plant General Manager Michinori Matsubayashi san was a worried man. We had tough time communicating with little Jinglish he had learnt (via a crash course in Japan before he landed in India). But with each passing day we could understand what Matsubayashi san meant. There was something about suppliers (partners) which was worrying him. I could make out that he is looking for large/mid sized suppliers in and around the plant and there weren’t many, he could find. I asked him why can’t Fujitsu import all the stuff and also it was an open fact that Indian suppliers may not live up to stringent Japanese standards – so why waste time – what’s the need for local partners. Matsubayashi san gathered all the young engineers and explained to us his concern. Here is the summary of what he said:

  1. Partners are key to Japanese businesses – they need to be located very close to the plant
  2. Large Japanese companies thrive because of local partners
  3. Partner help us cope up with business uncertainties – by holding inventories and delivering us just in time
  4. We succeed because of our partners – who collaborate with us in company wide innovation, quality and cost initiatives

Matsubayashi san was referring to partners on the inbound side of value chain.

Almost 20 years later, I worked with another great business leader, Mr. Victor Agnellini who was a senior corporate executive in AT&T, Lucent and subsequently Alcatel Lucent. Victor taught us the importance of channel partners, how partners (channels) help a business enterprise. He motivated us to introduce Channel partner enablement & accreditation programs and was very successful in pushing it in various markets in all 3 regions across the globe – with the result that Alcatel Lucent had a very well rounded Global Channel partner enablement program. Lessons learnt:

  1. Partners help you hear your customer’s voice
  2. Partners help you sell more
  3. Partners bring valuable market feedback
  4. They help you maximize your business potential

There is a great focus these days on an extended enterprise model, which means that the economic value chain extends beyond the boundaries of an enterprise – if you take care of your partners (who contribute significantly to this economic chain), they will be contribute significantly to your business success. I would say that your business is as strong as the weakest link – and that weakest link could be partners. So strengthen partner relationships, enable them to achieve and contribute more – build a WIN-WIN scenario.

(www.mydigitalblocks.com , the company I work with, has launched a new generation digital platform for partner enablement – LincFast)