Networking Player TP-Link Puts New Channel Program In Gear10:03 AM EST Wed. Nov. 28, 2012
TP-Link will launch a new reseller program on Jan. 1 as it looks to make further inroads with U.S. business customers and strengthen its solution provider ties during a growth period for wireless LAN and networking.
Dubbed the BizCare Partner Program, TP-Link is offering Silver, Gold and Platinum partner levels that include successively bigger discounts, better access to marketing programs, 15-day price protection, priority RMA and solution design.
That program, coupled with a shift in internal marketing, sales and personnel resources toward the business channel, will help the company raise its profile among North America solution providers selling to SMB/SOHO customers, said Lewis Wu, country manager for TP-Link USA.
"I'd like to call 2013 the year of our partners," Wu told CRN this week. "We want to grow our channel and become stronger and stronger here."
TP-Link was founded in 1996 in Shenzhen, China, and has been in the international market since about 2005. It's been quietly growing its U.S. revenue -- it claims it will hit $25 million for 2012, up from $15 million in 2011 and $5.8 million in 2010. By units shipped, it held a nearly 33 percent share in global WLAN equipment for the second quarter of 2012, according to research firm IDC, and it sells in 120 countries.
TP-Link is unique, Wu said, because unlike many of its competitors it owns its manufacturing facilities, allowing it to save significantly on the component and manufacturing costs of its wireless routers, network adapters, access points, ADSL modem routers, 3G routers, switches, IP cameras and other products. Wu said TP-Link invests about 8 percent of its annual revenue into R&D.
About a year ago, TP-Link described its then-current channel program in an interview with CRN. According to Wu, it hit its overall growth targets for 2012, but much of its strength remains in the consumer space, so it's spent much of the past few months trying to appeal to greater numbers of SMB-focused solution providers.
Along with BizCare, TP-Link added distribution relationships with both D&H Distributing and Synnex, adding to a roster of North America distributors that also includes Ingram Micro, Wynit, ASI and Moonblink Communications.
It's also moved previously direct-focused sales employees over to the channel and opened an East Coast office in New Jersey to complement its Los Angeles-based U.S. headquarters, with plans for a Midwest office, as well.
TP-Link didn't provide exact figures but said its solution provider community is about five times bigger now than it was in 2011, and about 10 percent of those partners are Platinum-level. About 25 percent to 30 percent of its U.S. revenue is through the channel, up from between 15 percent and 20 percent last year, Wu estimated.
"We are looking to double or even triple our channel revenue next year," Wu said. "We have to try to present TP-Link in more and more places, and local support is very important."
Wu acknowledged that competition from established North America SMB networking players such as Cisco, D-Link, Netgear and Adtran is fierce, with a glut of smaller upstart companies also attacking the opportunity. What will set TP-LINK apart, he said, are both total cost of ownership for TP-Link products and the types of solution design, access to demo products and support that channel partners are more used to from vendors targeting more sophisticated enterprise-class deployments.
"Customers with less than 200 people are our target audience," Wu explained. "But other [solutions] are too expensive to use. They try us and they see a lot of benefits and support from a fast-growing company that wants to work with them."
Wu also acknowledged that media heat on Chinese tech companies -- especially after Huawei and ZTE were labeled "national security risks" by the U.S. House of Representatives' Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in October -- sometimes makes doing business with U.S. partners more challenging. But TP-Link isn't affected, he said.
"They don't really have the same customers as we do here," he said. "It doesn't affect us too much."
PUBLISHED NOV. 28, 2012