Yesterday evening I got an opportunity to catch up with Dhananjay Ganjoo, F5 Network’s newly appointed Managing Director for India and SAARC region. I know Dhananjay for over a decade now. His business and technology acumen are par excellence. In his previous roles, he has led many businesses from the front, including technology companies like Nortel Networks and Juniper Networks.
During what was just a courtesy catch-up call, Dhananjay explained how he plans to take on this coveted role in the challenging times. On course to predominantly position itself as a software company, especially after the high-profile acquisitions of NGINX and Shape Security during 2019 and 2020 respectively, F5 has got a large enterprise customer base already. “By way of working alongside the business leadership, I am aware of what’s working and what’s not. We’ve got the right actors in the right position to take the business to the next level. However, there’s still a lot to do,” says Dhananjay.
The Three Focus Areas
As always, Dhananjay was very sharp and explicit when I asked him to define his roadmap. He came straight to the point and told that he will have three key focus areas that are essential to accelerate business for F5.
- Turn security business into “As-a-Service” model: Though F5 is traditionally known as an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) appliance company, it is surprising that its 40% revenue now comes from security business. “Post our acquisition of ‘Shape Security’ – a company dominating in defending applications against attacks, fraud and abuse in multi-cloud environment – we are quite keen to take it to a “as-a-service” model in India. We have our Points-of-Presence here so we are fully compliant to data privacy and security. As a layer above Web Application Firewall (WAF), Shape Security will help us in spreading both horizontally and vertically,” he says. F5’s security strategy is rooted in what customers are trying to accomplish — optimum app performance with maximised uptime and reduced losses due to fraud or abuse.
- Onboarding channel partners with security in their DNA: While F5’s channel network is very strong and pervasive in India and has grown from strength to strength, Dhananjay thinks to be fiercely competitive that’s not enough yet. “When we began focusing on India business, we were perhaps in a very few business domains and the channel partners recruited were serving well. However, now since we are into different domains, it’s time to relook at that. While I am not saying the current channel strategy isn’t effective, we need to find our partners that have, for example, security in their DNA. This will help us proliferate our ‘as-a-service’ model,” says Dhananjay.
- NGINX is also a fairly new acquisition for F5 Networks. With its new slogan of ‘code to customer’ NGINX holds a prominent position in the DevOps space with a slew of technologies for developing and delivering modern applications. Combined with F5, the solutions help bridge gaps between NetOps and DevOps with multi?cloud application services that span from code to customer. “In the next 2-3 quarters, my goal will be to focus on demystifying the entire ecosystem and target on channels who can help us reach the right customers with our Freemium model,” he tells.
- Fast-forward F5 two years: This part of my conversation was pretty fascinating. F5 Networks has been working hard to expand beyond its traditional hardware business into the software and services space. The company has also started reporting good gains in revenues in those two areas, especially after the two major acquisitions – NGINX and Shape Security (as mentioned above). These acquisitions broaden the scope of expansion for F5 beyond its traditional stronghold that earlier formed the core of its business. “We will eventually be known as a software company without doubt. With our sharp focus on cloud and SaaS models, we’ll only gain speed to transition our business to software-as-a-service,” says Dhananjay.
Adjusting to the New Normal
Dhananjay has taken over the leadership role at F5 in extremely challenging and turbulent times. On one hand, businesses have gone virtual, and on the other, there are economic pressures of sorts which they are grappling with due to the unprecedented global lockdown. I was obviously curious to know about his strategy to lead in these times. Dhananjay seemed unphased – much like any true leader. “It’s true there’s a sea change in the behaviour and way of working since March this year. As cliched as it may sound, but it’s the new normal we all have to adjust to,” he says.
What enterprise customers expect from a tech software company like F5 is three things:
- Application visibility
- Application security
“We are fully ready to serve them on these fronts. In fact, we just accomplished a very complex API integration of Service Now calls for a large Indian company (name withheld due to confidentiality). That gives us a great deal of confidence to ensure that we are fully equipped to deliver to our customers remotely,” he concludes.