India is a strategic market for EMC, the $20 billion, 53,000-people strong American enterprise and the world’s leading maker of corporate data storage equipment. “The India region has evolved to be a critical contributor to EMC’s long-term strategy by driving global innovation and revenue growth for the Asia Pacific & Japan region,” says Steve Leonard, senior vice-president, EMC. Steve works with EMC vice-chairman Bill Teuber to help build out the company’s presence in emerging markets around the world. Previously, Steve was responsible for driving EMC’s growth and market leadership in Asia Pacific & Japan; under Steve’s leadership over six years, EMC sales in APJ grew from $1.1 billion in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2011. Steve has been closely seeing the development and adoption of technologies like cloud and big data. He tells Sudhir Chowdhary that most of the data in India will reside over the cloud and IT heads will look at comprehensive solutions to manage and make sense out of that data. Excerpts:
The global economic conditions are looking challenging yet again. Do you expect the economic woes to impact the IT-BPO sector?
Looking from a larger perspective, digital information continues to grow exponentially. Data is expected to see more than 50 times growth over the next ten years, from even a few years back. So now the challenge is how to manage and deal with this information. This has led to important topics around data privacy, for example, being discussed at global platforms like the World Economic Forums recently. The question is how to try and manage all this information in a way that businesses can use this information for growth, and not compromise on the concerns around data privacy.
A report by EMC-IDC in 2010 revealed that over this decade (2010 to 2020), digital information in India will grow from 40,000 petabytes to 2.3 million petabytes, twice as fast as the worldwide rate. Information generation will continue to grow regardless of economic conditions. Technology generally is an ongoing growth area. It may be at a slightly slower rate but will continue to grow and remain critical. Economic conditions may have an impact, but because of this unstoppable growth of digital information, technology spending will continue to increase.
Do you expect India’s IT services sector to continue the strong growth it has seen over the last decade?
This one is a bit hard to predict because, at the earlier stages of any segment, the growth tends to be steeper. India’s IT sector witnessed major developments in its early stages and the industry grew quickly at a global level.
Will it be the same in the next ten years that it has been in the past ten years? Considering that IT spending in India is already very significant, growth rate may not be so steep. But India’s big advantage lies in the fact that companies continue to look for ways to invest. Another advantage for India will be its focus on education and availability of skills in math, statistics and engineering. A lot of skills around data management or data analytics will be here, perhaps more so than other countries. Therefore I think the focus may shift a little bit from BPO that has been, and perhaps more into data analytics services representing a new trend for India.
Everybody is talking about cloud computing. But is it truly democratising the access to cutting edge technology for businesses specially those in emerging nations?
I think of cloud computing more as a business model, not so much democratisation of access. It allows cost-savings, better IT and ultimate business agility and growth. While digital information will grow 60-fold, enterprise investments in IT and staffing will grow only in single digits. The cumulative effect is driving businesses toward cloud. Most of the data in India will reside over the cloud and IT heads will be looking at comprehensive solutions to manage and make sense out of that data. It is here that EMC is well-positioned with industry leading partnerships and solutions.
How important is the India market for EMC in terms of business?
India is a strategic market for EMC. Since opening its India operations, the India region has evolved to be a critical contributor to EMC’s long-term strategy by driving global innovation and revenue growth for the APJ region.
EMC’s operations in India are also multi-dimensional— which is common to very few markets around the world. This is resonated by our continuous investments in the region. India also acts as a support centre for our business around the world. EMC’s India Centre of Excellence in Bangalore plays a key role in EMC’s Global Innovation Network that promotes exploration, discovery, and application of new technologies that will shape the information infrastructure of the future. Employees from India’s R&D operations have filed numerous patents in the domain of information infrastructure. Like any other region, there might be some ups and downs but the focus on India will remain steady. In the long term, India will be a great place for us to be in – for intellectual capital as well as for business growth.
Purely-product oriented companies are becoming service-oriented. How does EMC see this?
Yes, I agree with you that purely product-oriented companies are becoming service-oriented. At the end of the day, we are a product technology company and we would not define ourselves differently. Our goal is to be the best possible product company which is also able to help with the services piece, but we do not want to pretend that we are not product company.
In order to have the right focus on engineering, right focus on innovation, you have to believe that your job is to produce the best possible product. Now, we would believe that delivery of that product to customers, or consumption of that product may change, which is back to the discussion we started a moment ago around cloud computing. It is not a technology so much but the way it is consumed. It is continuously evolving and we will respond by changing our business model. But it does not alter the fact that at our heart we are an engineering product company.
Talk to us about some other key technology trends and how EMC is aligned with them to address the requirements of the industry?
EMC is aligned with three pillars—cloud computing, big data and trust. We are focused around key areas which are critical to the growth of enterprise businesses with cloud computing and big data clearly being the two key focus areas for us. Moving forward, most organisations will use a combination of internal and external IT services to get the job done and cloud will offer them the flexibility to use resources.
Now comes trust and implementation. Of the first two is not possible without trust. There is no way that you and I can have a relationship where we share information without trust. Consider the whole debate of citizen records, data privacy and the importance of these discussions at an individual level. It means that much more for enterprises.
Big data is becoming a popular term, but what is the importance and value of big data?
I think this is a huge topic and I want to start by saying the same thing about big data that I said about cloud computing, which is—its real. Sometimes people misinterpret that because the term sort of becomes popular in the media that somehow it may not be real or it may just be a fad, so to speak.
The discussion on big data has moved on from preliminary stages with CIOs and IT managers today and the tempo is picking up real fast as CIOs are turning to mine huge data sets for insights adding business value. There is a lot of exponentially raw information available to gather and harvest. In Fact, EMC today has 50-plus big data customers in India.