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How to successfully sell Open Source?

Kaustubh Patwardhan | Director – SE, Asia & HK, Ashnik
Singapore, 16 Apr 2019

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Today, close to 60% of global companies are looking to adopt Open source based technology solutions to ring in innovation and agility. Thus, there is a huge business potential for organisations trying to build their business around open source. There can be various ways in playing a role in any the customer’s digital transformation, using open source technologies. Some organisations, like Red Hat, Elastic, MongoDB, EDB Postgres have adopted successful open source community projects and built enterprise-class support model along with enterprise-class tools to increase their manageability and maintenance. This is called a product subscription model. There are other companies like us who have actually focussed on solving real-world business problems through an enterprise open source solutions approach. The key aspect in this model is to provide valuable services to customers in adopting open source solutions while backing it up with the fitting product subscriptions for product support.

There can be multiple models, however the main aspect is how to sell open source successfully, what approach to use and what works. Here at Ashnik, we have developed the A-A-A approach for Market development complementing it with C-C-C for customer/partner development. A-A-A stands for Awareness, Appreciation and Adoption, whereas C-C-C stands for Connect, Confidence and Capability building. Let’s understand this approach in detail.

Usually, every engagement starts when our team tries to Connect with a Customer either at an event, through face to face meetings, email introductions, calls etc. In this phase, many a times, a customer might not have even heard of a particular technology or solution that we have delivered. So, the focus is to make that customer aware of what we do, how we can help, what’s happening in the respective industry of the customer – through our other engagements.  This also aligns well with the Teach principle of Challenger Sales methodology that our sales team uses. At the end of this phase, the goal is to identify one or more business problems where we can play a role.

Even though some business problems are identified at the end of this Awareness phase, customers would usually have a lot of doubts on the technology solution proposed. Time to get our hands dirty and demonstrate some relevant demos, conduct workshops, POCs or Pilot projects by leveraging on the best presales resources. During this phase, a customer would also evaluate the commercial benefits of the solution. At the end of this phase, we have a very confident customer who is ready to make the next big leap. This phase is thus called the Appreciation phase, where the customer sees the solution in action on a limited scale for the 1st time.

Once the customer is convinced about any technology and its commercial benefits, the customer usually likes to take up their next big project using this solution. In this phase, the customer will have a need of clarifications on availability, performance, security, functionality aspects of the solution. Lot of architectural discussions happen during this phase to make the solution operationally ready. This is the phase where the deployment model of the solution gets discussed, automation aspects can be brought forward, and the management aspects become critical. This phase involves a lot of handholding, capability building through various technical trainings. This is the phase where actual Adoption of the solution happens within their teams.

In all practical senses, it may be difficult to put a formula around building a successful business around an open source software solution. It sure takes enough commitment and courage to stay aimed on the right path. It takes willingness to be shaped and to provide services that are of genuine value to customers and partners. It takes a commitment to freedom, something that may not be as obviously profitable and scalable as most investors would like to see, but in the end, this is what customers want and are willing to pay for. It’s crucial to keep your customers’ business problems as the main focus while implementing the suitable open source selling models.


  • Kaustubh Patwardhan is Ashnik’s Director for Southeast Asia (SEA) and Hong Kong. He leads sales, strategy and business development for the region. Kaustubh joined in 2013 and heads Ashnik’s SEA enterprise open source business with responsibility for strategic planning, channels and partners, sales and operations. He has been instrumental in building Ashnik’s culture which is centered on agility and innovation, aligning it to the core ideology of open source itself. Besides playing a key role in Ashnik’s multi-fold sales growth trajectory, his key accomplishments are building a solid partner ecosystem across the region and being highly responsive on customer engagements.

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