Cisco, the global networking products giant, has been closely engaged with the creation of smart cities in the country. Today, with the government’s Digital India programme to create 100 smart cities, the company is further enthused about its plans for the market with all signs pointing in the right direction, says Padmasree Warrior, chief technology & strategy officer, Cisco, in an interview with PP Thimmaya. Excerpts:
How will Cisco participate in government’s Digital India plan?
Digital India for us is really a great vision that aligns with what we have set for our own company. We at Cisco talk about future being the Internet of Everything (IoE) which is really the intersection of cloud, mobile and Internet of Things. In IoE, one of things we believe will happen is every company will become a digital company. So every business will become from physical entity to moving a lot of transaction to Internet as a platform. Every country has the opportunity to become a digital nation, which is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has articulated as a vision for India. In that sense, we are very much aligned with the vision.
Having said that, there are certain basic foundation technologies that have to be in place. One of them is broadband access in terms of penetration and speed whether it is Wi-Fi, fixed internet or mobile internet. All these access technologies become very critical. Second is within smart cities, what would be the different verticals that we can enable the transformation to happen whether it is education or healthcare. We are putting a framework together and figuring out how we can deploy these solutions.
What are Cisco’s plans for smart cities in India?
Smart city does not mean just a brand new city, it can also be what we call a brownfield; we mean an existing city with its legacy, heritage and architectural things. How do you preserve that and make it more modern? Our focus is not just tier 1 cities but also tier 2 and how we can help actually in urbanise them in a smarter way. For example, Bengaluru developed so fast that infrastructure was not put in place. Now we can do the next set of cities that are going to urbanise in a smarter way.
What has been Cisco’s experience with smart city projects in India?
We are doing pilots in some of the cities. I think India until recently was probably somewhat slower than rest of the world where we are doing such projects. However, with the initiatives of the present administration of Prime Minister Modi, we are excited and there will be a lot of momentum building up. We are also partnering with a lot of Indian companies like L&T. Teaming up with these companies where we bring very different skills sets allows us to accelerate some of the deployments. Now we would like to accelerate further.
How is Cisco partnering with the start-up companies in India?
The thing I see changing in India is a much more healthier and robust start up ecosystem, which is something Cisco always believed. Cisco’s philosophy for innovation has always been to build by partner and integrate. Buying companies and investing in them is a big part of our
innovation strategy. Last July, we announced an investment fund in India of about $40 million.
What kind of companies will Cisco invest in?
Many of the start-ups do reach out to us and sometimes we source them. We not only invest in them but sometimes we also mentor them. One of things that is critical for us is when we invest in a company we do it for two reasons, first of all it has to align with our strategy. We have separate fund for IoE space, which is a global fund, in addition to the India fund. If we see a great company in IoE space, we choose to invest in it from our global IoE fund. Second thing we look for is a new area where we feel a lot of change and opportunity is there for innovation. For
example, analytics and Big Data is critical for us, that’s an area we may look at although it may not be a exact fit for today’s business. We
feel it may be important for tomorrow’s business.