Jitendra Ghughal, Fortinet's Senior Director Channel Management - India and SAARC

Fortinet aims to enhance its tiered partner system in India: Jitendra Ghughal

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“Our aim in India is to enhance our tiered partner system, which classifies partners into four levels and encourages continuous business development,” says Jitendra Ghughal, Senior Director of Channel Management – India and SAARC, Fortinet.

With the constantly evolving threat landscape, cybersecurity technology and security vendors need to enhance their security offerings with strong research and development, and leveraging new technologies. But that’s not enough to serve diverse customer segments and markets across the world.

Today, security vendors need partners and managed service providers that can bring an in-depth understanding of cybersecurity and the threat landscape backed by technology-led expertise and capabilities to serve their customers better and proactively.

That’s what Fortinet expects from its traditional and new-age partners so that they can help to take its wide range of cybersecurity solutions to customers across segments and verticals in India and the rest of the world.

In this email interview, Jitendra Ghughal, Senior Director of Channel Management – India and SAARC, Fortinet discussed the company’s channel strategy in India, its overall channel business growth, criteria to become Fortinet’s channel partner and shared key focus areas for partner engagements in 2024 and more.

Edited excerpts…

Q.1: What’s Fortinet’s channel partner strategy in the Indian market for the year 2024?
Jitendra Ghughal:
In 2024, our approach in India is to mirror our standout global business model, which hinges on exclusively working through our partners. This approach has been instrumental in expanding our international presence and ensuring local market relevance. Our global revenue increased by 20% in 2023, reaching $5.3 billion, demonstrating our growth trajectory. From 2017 to 2022, we achieved a revenue CAGR of approximately 25% underscoring the strength of our partner-centric model.

Our aim in India is to enhance our tiered partner system, which classifies partners into four levels and encourages continuous business development. We are dedicated to fostering the growth of our partners, recognising the abundant opportunities as they progress within our partner structure. We intend to broaden our reach across different partner levels in the Indian market. The progress in partner distribution validates the advantages of progressing through the ranks of Fortinet’s Engage Partner Program.

Q2. How was Fortinet’s overall channel business growth in India in the year 2023 in terms of the traditional and new-age partners?
Jitendra Ghughal:
In 2023, Fortinet witnessed substantial growth in our channel business in India, reflecting a shift in our partnership dynamics. While we continue to value traditional partners like Integrators, there has been a significant increase in the importance of new-age partners such as Cloud Security Solution Providers (CSSPs) and Managed Security Services Partners (MSSPs).

Our partnership ecosystem in India is diverse and dynamic, fuelled by the growing cybersecurity needs due to the widespread adoption of remote work practices. Fortinet’s commitment to providing integrated solutions with rapid threat response times has led to enthusiastic demand.

The balance between traditional and new-age partners is changing; although traditional partners remain vital, the significance of new-age partners, especially in cloud security, is becoming more apparent. Collaborations with global and local cloud providers and MSSP partners have been key in expanding our reach and delivering tailored solutions.

In 2023, Fortinet’s channel business in India not only thrived but also evolved with a vibrant partner ecosystem. We are committed to nurturing strong relationships with all our partners—both traditional and new-age—to advance and succeed in the cybersecurity domain collectively.

Q3. What are the minimum eligible criteria in terms of technology domain and capabilities for local IT firms to become Fortinet’s new-age channel partner in India?
Jitendra Ghughal:
Fortinet is keen on partnering with partners that excel in new-age technologies around security operations to complement our wide security solutions to a broader audience. Given the rapid adoption of cloud technologies in India, we recognize the need for robust security measures in these environments. While cloud-native security solutions exist, they may not meet the stringent requirements for enterprise-level security.

We have developed solutions for hybrid infrastructures that ensure secure application deployment both on-premises and in the cloud, providing consistent security coverage across different environments, across all top Cloud Service Providers (CSPs).

We offer certifications for securing customer infrastructure on key CSP platforms to enhance our partners’ capabilities in delivering effective cloud security solutions. Our partner program includes specific business models and specialisations focused on cloud security, enabling partners to offer customized cloud security solutions. This strategic emphasis has contributed to the significant growth of our cloud security business in recent years.

When evaluating prospective system integrators (SIs) for partnerships in India, we prioritise their expertise and capabilities in contemporary technologies, particularly cloud security. Our goal is to collaborate with firms that can efficiently deliver our security solutions across India, thereby increasing the adoption of our Fortinet Security Fabric and enabling customers to adopt a mesh cybersecurity framework.
Q4. What’s the base of channel partners for Fortinet in India by the end of 2023 and are there any plans to further expand that base this year?
Jitendra Ghughal:
As of the end of 2023, Fortinet’s channel partner network in India has experienced substantial growth, including over 10 Global Partners, 50 at the Expert and Advanced level, and over 150 at the Select level. This structured approach reflects our unwavering commitment to building a diverse and competent partner ecosystem.

Our partnership strategy aligns with partners’ business models—whether Integrator, MSSP, or Cloud—tailored to meet customer needs and strategic objectives. We encourage specialisation in key areas such as SD-WAN, SecOps, or Operational Technology (OT), recognising the significant growth potential and the value of specialised cybersecurity solutions.

Looking ahead, we aim to deepen engagement, encouraging partners to progress through the levels by promoting the newly revamped certification program and aligning their business models to enhance their growth potential and customer service quality. This focus underscores our commitment to not just increase the number of partners but to enrich the partnership experience, driving mutual success in the cybersecurity landscape.

Q5. Will there be any major upgrades or enhancements to Fortinet’s channel partner engagement expected this year?
Jitendra Ghughal:
In 2024, Fortinet is focusing on strengthening its partnership ecosystem to better assist partners and streamline their cloud and services business. The company is expanding its team dedicated to partner engagement and increasing investments in additional support resources.

Specialisation, particularly in Universal SASE, is a key area of focus for partners in 2024, with significant growth opportunities expected. Fortinet is also observing increased commitment from partners in certifying and training their personnel in Universal SASE. Another area of focus is to onboard more partners interested in maximizing revenue potential from services and technical support.

Additionally, Fortinet is looking to collaborate with Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) partners adopting flexible consumption models. There is also an expected surge in partners embracing SecOps as a critical area for growth. Fortinet aims to closely collaborate with selected partners to deliver state-of-the-art OT security solutions.