In the first week of December, Cisco India held its analyst summit to share its 2014 strategy. Given low market morale following the sharp decline in Cisco India’s Q1, FY 2014 revenues, the event was timed well to reinforce Cisco’s ongoing commitment to the Indian market. Amongst many forward-looking statements made at the event, one message stood out – target the rising midmarket (which Cisco defines as companies with 100-1000 employees) to drive growth in India. Following are the key initiatives that the company outlined to grow its mid-market business:

–          Expanding channel network in tier 2 and 3 cities. Cisco is focusing on expanding its channel ecosystem in two ways – working with independent software vendors (ISV) to jointly develop vertical-specific solutions aligned to midmarket needs; and promote Cisco’s cloud-based offerings through hosted collaboration services (HCS) partners. This is a solid strategy given the physical proximity and influence that these local partners have on firms in smaller cities.

–          Incentivizing partners and equipping them with tools to boost sales. Cisco is offering handsome incentives to its channel partners focused on midmarket. Cisco is also offering a mobile customer dashboard application to partners that provides key details regarding the account, such as organizational information, past purchase history, preferences, etc. to help ensure an effective sales engagement.

–          Enhancing midmarket solutions portfolio. Cisco is expanding its midmarket solutions portfolio, which includes the popular midmarket networking solution, Catalyst 2960 series switch and the Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000, backed by a strong R&D team in India, which represents over 60% of the Cisco’s Indian workforce. Given the strained IT budgets and resource constraints of midmarket organizations, there is a much greater demand for user friendly and easy to deploy solutions.

Our research shows that around 65% of India’s currently under-served midmarket firms plan to increase their IT spending in 2014, highlighting strong growth potential for vendors such as Cisco. Forrester recently published the India midmarket report that identifies rising customer expectations, fast-changing business dynamics, and growing competition as the key challenges that Indian midmarket organizations face today. The success of vendors targeting midmarket segment depends less on helping firms reduce IT operational costs and more on leveraging technology to address key challenges that midmarket firms face. In particular, Cisco should do following things to better target midmarket opportunities:

1.       Change positioning from IT to business outcomes to help customers address their business priorities and outcomes. The key is to define and develop clear business outcome metrics to de-emphasize products and services in favor of business outcomes.

2.       Leverage Cisco Capital more aggressively to boost sales through financial aid, flexible payment terms and leasing options to counter budget related challenges of midmarket organizations.

3.       Re-visit pricing and channel strategies to compete more effectively against key competitors such as HP and Juniper and align them to the local market dynamics.