INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Erich Gerber talks of TIBCO's growth in Asia, shares his ideas as general manager in Asia Pacific

“We are more than just a middleware company,” says Gerber.

The world’s growing interconnectedness and the exponential growth of the digital space are paving the way for massive transformations across markets. In the midst of these physical changes, there are plenty of factors that remain keys to business growth. The success of TIBCO Software Inc. in the Asia Pacific and Japan region hinges not only on expertise, but also on a people-centric and relationship-driven philosophy.

Erich Gerber, general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, carries with him eight years of rich homegrown experience with TIBCO. Gerber leads sales and go-to-market strategy and fosters deeper customer engagements, strengthens partnerships, and forms a greater network of alliances.

Gerber first joined TIBCO in 2009 as regional vice president of the company's Central, Eastern European, and Nordic regions. In 2014, he was appointed as vice president, global sales operations based at TIBCO's headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

In an exclusive interview with Hong Kong Business at the TIBCO NOW 2017 held in Singapore in March, Gerber provides us with a bigger picture of how TIBCO approaches its Asian market, its achievements thus far, and the prospects of its two major product lines.

Prior to becoming GM for the Asia Pacific region, you had some key roles in TIBCO’s US and European offices. How have your experiences in these positions helped you in your current role and how was the transition to the APAC market?

First of all, I’ve been with TIBCO for a little while. It definitely helps to understand some of the customer situations because ultimately we’re talking to prospects and customers about the success stories that other customers have established. Being in the field for a long time helps.

I’ve been at the headquarters and I would say that is probably one of the single most critical factors to be successful in a remote region, remote from an American software company’s perspective like APJ. Because very often you look at the stepchild that is somewhere out there in APJ and obviously they have their own challenges as we know, and it takes a little while before HQ accepts that there is something different. After all they produce less revenue than the North Americas and they come second or third, now it helps a lot to actually know the individuals at HQ because I’ve been there meeting these people face to face. There’s a trust level that builds up.

The transition question is an interesting one because I’ve never done business in Asia before, so it takes a little bit of boldness for people to send someone there to say go and run that place. I have a background of multi-cultural expertise, and in Europe we do confront those cultural differences.

It was very good to see that there’s a capable team in place who knows a lot about the market. So basically it’s more about enabling them to talk to the market and talk to me about what they want to achieve. I found it very rewarding to come here. It was a smooth transition and records show that there’s a fantastic last 12 months here. I can probably say that there’s a 50% revenue increase. We’ve had tremendous success.

We just encountered a market that is very promising in terms of requiring what we actually do. It feels different than eight, five, four years ago where we had probably done similar things but the market had its sweet spot in another place. Now it’s all about customer experience, it’s all about the digital journey, implementation of middleware, integration or interconnectivity of everything as we call it is still a hot topic. So it plays in our hands.

Since your appointment as GM, what would you say has been the most significant achievement?

It’s always about customers. We want to double the customer base over the next period of time. So as any other software vendor, we always need to do good business with our existing customers and continue to work if they want their journey. And it is typically valuable to our goals to increase the customer base and if you look what we’ve done in the last 12 months in Asia in markets that never really contributed much before like India, like Japan, like Korea, we have done substantial business with new names and I would say this is one of the most critical achievements that I could say.

Another one would be fostering the strength of the team because ultimately doing business is a people to people affair, so it takes the right people to interact with the market. We can have the best value proposition and you’ll probably not be successful if the people who actually represent the company are not up to their cause. But we have established a very strong team and we continue to build it.

What opportunities and what challenges does the APJ region present in terms of banking technology and digital transformation?

APJ is a very big market so the first challenge is to find the right battles that you can fight with your army because there’s too much distraction. Breaking it down to financial services, I think you see a lot of very smartly acting organisations in the financial services area in this market and by that I mean financial services is a traditional industry and traditional industries have a DNA that is a bit slow in adapting change and I generally believe that the market of financial services will change dramatically for the next 10 years.

Meaning, we would probably see some big names disappearing, because of a lot of change, bringing a technology basis that doesn’t make it necessary for an intermediate bank to stand in the middle of a transfer of cash. There’s a lot of digital natives out there who play in that field, and I personally believe that the financial services market is challenged by finding the right balance as they still have a dominant position to adopt these digital natives, not to fight them, but to make sure that they play the game with them. One way of doing that is actually to embrace them as part of their API management strategy.

What would you say are your key business focuses, especially in relation to this new market?

I believe in a long-term value chain of a human relationship. You cannot always win, but it’s extremely important to leave the backfield with an attitude that doesn’t burn bridges. Sometimes, things are coming back in the long run and especially in Asia, I encounter situations where we are being given a chance to play and probably it’s clear from the beginning that the odds to win are not that high. We’re basically being tested whether or not we are willing to play the long term game. So that means it’s about building long term relationships. That would be a very critical one.

The other one is that I believe in leading the team by example. Probably not the best teacher, but I can show what it takes to be successful. I believe in integrity, like any other manager sometimes have to get rid of people. We can do it with a certain attitude that is explaining your actions.

Anything you would like our readers to know that we haven’t covered?

TIBCO is a company that is doing both middleware and analytics, and I say this because we very often drop on the market and the association of TIBCO is we are the middleware company and they don’t know too much about the other side that is actually very well developed. We’re doing a lot more than just middleware.

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