The Internet Phobia
No words of praise would be enough to laud the resilience of the Indian IT channel community. The general market slowdown, negative cash flows, credit crunches, stifling tax and duty regimes, vendors changing distribution policies overnight—nothing seem to faze them for long. One or more of these would put them at discomfiture for some time, but be rest assured they will find some way or mechanism to not just wriggle out of the situation but even carry on their businesses normally.
However, the same cannot be said about the channel community's receptiveness to new things, either technology or strategy-wise. In fact, there is a definite aversion towards adoption of any new form of technology, especially if it has to do with how they conduct their business. Quite an irony, considering that they being in the business of technology are not keen to use it. Nothing illustrates this better than the channel community's general antipathy till now towards using the online medium actively to conduct their businesses.
Not too many partners have till now conducted any serious amount of business online, neither have they used their websites to undertake any concerted marketing exercise till date. In fact, many of them have them perfunctory websites, which forget being equipped to handle online transactions (ecommerce), do not even have basic information uploaded regularly. They have been quite brazen about it till now—and the pretext is simple, there is not enough business generated online, so it does not make business sense for them to focus energies on online as a medium.
Even the various channel associations do not fare much better on the online stakes. Considering that the primary role of these associations is to take up the cases of their member partners and often negotiate on their grievances against the vendors, it's quite surprising that even they have resisted using the Internet optimally till now.
Forget going online, the channel partners and associations are more keen on complaining about online businesses and that they are cannibalizing the traditional channel. This is either being too naive or not at all reading the writing on the wall. Online is here to stay and dominate, thanks to market economics; temporary attempts to stall them with technicalities might work in the small run, but the ultimate result is evident.
To be fair, there might be definitely some genuine reasons for this online antipathy. In many cases, the small channel players do not even have manpower with the requisite skillsets to handle or manage websites or conduct transactions through them. In many cases, particularly in the upcountry markets, there are often severe connectivity and bandwidth pressure; last but not the least, it's the non-availability of local language interface online that acts as a hindrance. You would expect a partner from Mehsana or Tirunelveli to be comfortable dealing only in Gujarati or Tamil respectively. Till that happens, the widespread usage of online by the entire channel community will remain a chimera only. The vendors and the NDs and RDs do have a major role to play to help in the online transition.