Alumna Frenny Bawa explains the technology distribution model in India

Aug 01, 2013

The following article was published by Business in Vancouver on June 11, 2013. Frenny Bawa is a SFU BBA alumna.

Frenny Bawa, chief commercial officer, Nanotech Security Corp.

Frenny Bawa, chief commercial officer, Nanotech Security Corp.

Business in Vancouver’s “How I Did It” feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week’s issue, Frenny Bawa describes how, in her previous role as Research in Motion’s (RIM, now BlackBerry) vice-president and managing director for India, she increased the company’s presence from 26 countries to more than 175, and how this translates into her new role as chief commercial officer of Nanotech Security Corp.

“I joined RIM in 2005 and my mandate over the first 13 months was to bring on about 100 new partners for RIM outside of North America.

“It was pretty challenging given that most of the partners were in North America, in Canada, and smatterings in Europe and smatterings in Asia. What was untapped was Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and big swathes in Asia.

“A very, very big geography for RIM was the Middle East. The business model was completely different, and effectively what we did was identified a partner in the Middle East and started out in Dubai and fanned out to all of the Gulf countries through the partner, and then expanded with the same partner into Africa.

“RIM’s business model internationally was to partner with carriers, then sell to the carriers and let them do whatever needed to be done on a local level.

“And that model worked really well in Canada and the U.S. because the carriers had the infrastructure to be able to buy handsets and distribute them. They have call centres.

“In the Middle East, that was not the case. In fact, we found the market was very fragmented and the carriers played a very small role. It didn’t make sense for RIM to be there selling to the carriers, and the carriers wouldn’t have been able to execute anyway.

“So we changed the business model. We found a strong distributor with presence locally and helped it develop an infrastructure that would support the market. We started out in the UAE and then went into Saudi, Qatar, eventually all the Gulf countries.

“In India, the distribution model is more complex. Because there are no contracts, [and because] the carrier doesn’t buy and store and distribute and sell, there’s no ability to subsidize the handset.

“So we sold to a national distributor who then, because India is such a vast country, would sell to a regional distributor who would sell [the handsets] downstream to the retail outlets.

“[We increased RIM’s footprint from] zero points of presence to 4,800 in India over three years.

“What attracted me to Nanotech was my belief that it has an excellent patented technology platform with commercialization potential in the short term, a desire to go global and a desire to grow.

“And it has done a really good job of developing some parts that are very near to commercialization and a fantastic value proposition for the market, but it has just started to scratch the surface of its development work.

“Its technology has global implications, which is my experience.”

From cracking RIM’s indian market to preparing to take Nanotech global

Jan 2005: Joined RIM

Jan 2008: Took over managing RIM’s Indian market

2011: Recognized by Forbes as one of India’s top 10 most powerful women in business

Sept 2011: Left RIM

Apr 2013: Joined Nanotech as chief commercial officer

Click here to view the article in its entirety on the Business in Vancouver website

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