Microsoft, the $93.6 billion software giant from Seattle, is on cloud nine these days as far as its cloud business in India is concerned. It is particularly excited by the number of small and medium businesses (SMBs) and start-ups as well as large enterprises moving to the Microsoft cloud. According to Microsoft India chairman Bhaskar Pramanik, data and cloud computing are going to be at the core of analysis and action for both businesses and governments, and hold an immense potential to drive real impact. “With cloud at the forefront of this technological revolution, Microsoft is not only embracing this innovation but leading it,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction.
Give us a sense of the big story emerging out of Microsoft. Where is it headed?
Empowering every organisation and every individual to achieve more is Microsoft’s mission. Over the last three to four years, we have seen a dramatic confluence of four new technologies that have brought an incremental change in the way we look at our business: Use of technology from a social perspective, mobility of experience, power of data analytics, and all of these powered by the cloud. This is being hailed as the fourth industrial revolution.
This is going to have a profound impact on our business, how businesses are managed, and in creating new kinds of businesses. Technology is a function of what you are trying to do—how you create connected products and services, differentiated customer experiences, use the internet to enhance productivity, and use analytics for making decisions. Data and cloud computing are going to be at the core of analysis and action for both businesses and governments.
With cloud at the forefront of this technological revolution, Microsoft is not only embracing this innovation but leading it. Microsoft Cloud can deliver enormous computing power to drive advanced analytics and machine learning to help organisations and governments in India and the world to solve their most pressing problems. It can open new possibilities in e-governance, financial inclusion, healthcare and education, and positively impact the lives of a billion people. We want to make technology available and accessible to all sections of society—from the largest enterprise to a consumer of one.
How can Microsoft partner with the government in some of its ambitious programmes such as Digital India and Smart Cities and many e-governance initiatives?
We have platforms, technologies and solutions that support all three pillars of Digital India —building better digital infrastructure, creating digital citizen services and empowering citizens by making them digital literate. With our local public cloud, we have created a ready computing infrastructure that governments can use. We are engaged in several citizen-focused projects across India and our cloud productivity platforms, including Azure and Office, are being used by government departments to roll out citizen services. We have piloted last-mile access projects in Srikakulam and Varanasi with unused TV spectrum. We have also recently started a project with the government of Maharashtra to convert Harisal into a smart village. In Andhra Pradesh, we are helping the government predict school dropouts by using machine learning. Our cloud also allows the government to run Linux and other Open Source based projects on the public cloud.
What are the opportunities that you see in India?
India stands at an exciting threshold. The government recognises the transformative power of technology and sees it as an enabler to amplify the change that we all seek—be it in delivering better citizen services, digitising education records, efficient and productive functioning of the I-T
department, or using technology to provide a new social security platform. We have seen a surge in SMBs and start-ups creating digital infrastructure to support their business growth with the help of cloud. We are also seeing a whole new ecosystem of technology start-ups emerge that are helping larger companies innovate.
Enabling internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, can enable significant contribution to the economy of the country from many new unexplored sectors. Developed by Microsoft Research, TV White Space technology has the potential to accelerate rural internet, and become the backbone of a Digital India, by providing the much needed access to technology and extending opportunities to the underserved. Enabling internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, can also enable significant contribution to the economy of the country from many new unexplored sectors.
Who is adopting MS cloud solutions in India—large enterprises, SMBs, or both?
Since we launched our local cloud services in late 2015, we have seen a surge in SMBs and start-ups as well as large enterprises creating a digital infrastructure to support their business growth with the help of cloud. Among these, healthcare, BFSI companies are leading Microsoft local cloud adoption. Technology start-ups and technology solution providers are using the Microsoft cloud to roll out innovative solutions that empower employees, engage customers, optimise business processes and transform business models. State governments are experimenting with the cloud to solve challenges in education, healthcare and agriculture. In fact, 52 of the top 100 Indian companies listed on the BSE today use the Microsoft cloud (local and global).
What is the outlook for the cloud business, and especially MS cloud, in India?
As per a recent Zinnov study, factors like investments in local data centres, a maturing channel partner ecosystem, and a rapidly growing developer ecosystem continue to be the chief drivers of cloud spending, which is expected to cross the $10 billion mark by 2020. This includes both public and private cloud spending. Microsoft is the only cloud service provider with a full range of offerings that include software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), in addition to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) delivered from local data centres in India.
Which sector has the highest number of cloud deployments in India?
While the mature enterprise ecosystem is driving significant demand for cloud adoption in India, particularly in the healthcare and BFSI sector, the burgeoning SMB and start-up landscape and government initiatives under Digital India will fuel public cloud consumption. Massive investments in data centres by technology vendors for banking, financial services and the insurance segment will continue to drive cloud adoption along with other sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, e-commerce and telecom.
Where does Microsoft stand in comparison to its key competitors in India?
We are the only company that offers all three cloud services—IaaS, PaaS and SaaS locally and we offer it in a highly flexible and secure environment from local data centres. Our customers also have the choice of using private, public or hybrid cloud depending on their requirements. That is perhaps the widest range of choices that customers in India have to start or accelerate their cloud journeys.
What will be the top trends that will drive the enterprise IT market in India over the next few years?
The confluence of three trends—a massive explosion of data, intelligence from machine learning and advanced analytics, and the economics and agility of cloud computing will drive transformation across entire systems of production, management and governance. Transformation will also require rich systems of intelligence. It isn’t simply about technology. Systems of intelligence represent the combination of technology, people and process that enable feedback loops, and define an organisation’s competitiveness and ability to change the entire landscape of the industries in which it participates.