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Meet Balaji Subramanian, IGEL’s New Channel Chief

Balaji Subramanian, a finance professional who transitioned to channel leadership over a career spent at Cisco, Adobe and Informatica, sees new opportunities to help partners scale IGEL’s edge operating system in a market rapidly adopting remote work solutions

New IGEL global channel chief Balaji Subramanian, now three months into his job, is updating partner programs, compensation models and enablement tools to empower partners to take the edge operating system developer to new heights.

“We want partners to grow with us, and I want to invest in them and nurture them and reward them,” Subramanian told CRN.

The veteran of Cisco Systems, Adobe and Informatica sees a lot IGEL is doing right in engaging its large ecosystem of distributors and VARs, but also areas where he can usher in improvements that further scale the Germany-headquartered company’s market presence.

[Related: DISRUPT 2020: IGEL’s Linux OS Is An Azure Windows Virtual Desktop ‘Game Changer’]

IGEL has a few channel programs, but none that are global and consistent across Europe, North America and Asia. That’s one issue Subramanian wants to address right away.

Another is bringing more consistency and predictability to partners around their compensation for bringing IGEL technology to market. That’s important, as “compensation drives behavior,” he said.

Subramanian came into the channel leadership position amid the global COVID-19 crisis, limiting his ability to meet partners.

“By now, I would have been out all over the place, meeting some of these guys,” he said. “It’s been a slow start to that.”

But he’s been doing quarterly business reviews of late with solution providers, exploring their thoughts around demand, enablement, and incentives. Those confabs have given him valuable insights that will inform his partner meetings going forward, Subramanian said.

What IGEL has done well is instill loyalty in its channel, he said. Partners “really like us from a technology standpoint and a cultural one.”

An IGEL Academy started this year has been particularly successful in offering learning paths to train and certify partners from sales and delivery standpoints.

That’s as important, the channel chief said, as “winning the hearts of minds of partners, the best way to do that is through enablement.”

Subramanian looks to mature the program through further investment as IGEL encourages its channel to become more specialized around industries and complementary technologies.

“As we recruit new partners and skill them up, we shall invest in a program that will drive specializations to scale” into vertical markets, he said. “Decision makers gravitate to partners who speak their language, know their industry. That’s something I’m looking at from a programmatic perspective.”

At the same time, it’s important for IGEL’s channel to bring expertise across complementary technologies from vendors including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware.

IGEL sells exclusive through the channel, employing a two-tier model relying on its distributors—mostly Ingram Micro and Synnex in North America, and Arrow in Europe.

Under that model, Subramanian looks to make it easier to do business with the company. IGEL is rolling out a new deal registration program, as well as new partner tools that provide a better dashboard view of their business and help them take advantage of MDA funds.

Subramanian said IGEL CEO Jed Ayres is eager to ramp partner recruitment, engagement, and enablement half-a-year after he took the reigns of the company from Heiko Gloge, the driving force behind IGEL’s rise over the past two decades from an upstart German thin-client manufacturer to a global edge OS powerhouse.

Subramanian feels he brings a unique perspective to channel leadership as someone who comes from the financial management side of the house—his first major position in tech was as a controller in the finance department at Cisco. His career then moved into sales operations and strategy planning, then indirect business and channels, which he sees as the perfect fit.

“I love working with partners and with sales,” Subramanian told CRN. “I like being in the middle of that and being an advocate for each of them to really align our go-to-market efforts together.”

Cisco, Adobe and Informatica all had different cultures, and focused on different industry segments, customers, and go-to-market models.

“I learned from each one of those,” he said.

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