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Cisco India president says investments in digital are irreversible

"Our top priority is to go wider into new enterprise verticals such as manufacturing, retail, and pharma as well as go more in-depth into customers where we are already strong such as in IT and ITES," says Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India & Saarc

Cisco India president says investments in digital are irreversible

Free, open, high-quality internet access to everyone in India—that’s the shared vision of two tech biggies, Cisco and Google. In specific terms, their ambitious joint project has already begun its first phase of implementation; by September next month, 200 locations in Bengaluru will be Wi-Fi enabled, followed by another 300 in the second phase. The locations include public spaces like bus stops, hospitals, government offices, etc. “Partnerships will be critical to unleash the potential of digitisation,” says Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India & Saarc. At the Cisco India Summit last week, the company also announced the expansion of its Networking Academy programme to train one million students in India by 2025. “Talent is another big focus area for us,” he told Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:

Give us a sense of the big story emerging out of Cisco India.

Three factors are driving our India story; One, we have had consistent double-digit growth for the last few years. During the previous 12 months, our execution has probably been the best. The second factor is that our innovations have paid significant dividends, mainly around our core (networking). Three years ago, we started transforming our business. We moved from being just a hardware company to a more software-centric, software-defined organisation which has really paid off for us in the last two years. The third critical factor is the power of our alliances and partnerships. Being the leader in the five categories we work in—networking, datacentre, collaboration, security, and IoT—we have the onus of growing these markets. But we cannot do this alone, we need partners to go to newer markets, to newer customers and create newer ways of addressing the needs of these customers.

Our partnership with Google is a significant one, both companies share the vision of connecting 1.3 billion Indians to the digital economy and are coming together to bring free, open, high-quality internet access to everyone in India. This also represents a significant growth opportunity, the demand for public Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to go up by 100X over the next three years, creating new markets for Cisco and our partners.

What’s new in the enterprise technology landscape?

First, for enterprises, investments in digitisation are not going to stop for several years to come. They have realised that their customers have become very tech-savvy, so the way they will need to service and support them has to be digital. What this means is that the investments in digital are irreversible, in fact, they are going to multiply.

With the proliferation of digital technologies, security becomes a crucial area that needs to be addressed. This is the second big trend that we see.

Third, technology is fast getting closely aligned with the business. Today, most organisations have a CTO, CIO, CISO, and probably a CDO too. These are four tech leaders at a CXO level, the inference is that technology has become crucial to a business’ success. Today, when I talk to a CTO or CIO, our conversations are focused on business transformation and adding value to their customers and internal stakeholders. It is all about building differentiation and creating relevance.

How is Cisco empowering 5G and how big will this transformation be?

Three things will influence 5G roll out in India. First, for service providers, the transition to 5G could be swift, and they need to be ready for that. Second, we are all aware of the stress that exists in the industry, and therefore, the government will have to look at new business models for the spectrum. And third, the business of the service providers will change drastically. Today 75-80% of the business of service providers comes from B2C whereas only 20% to 25% is from B2B.

Cisco has over 100 active engagements with global customers on 5G, and 40 service providers are actively testing and deploying Cisco 5G Now solutions. Today, we are working with them on architectural designs, providing packet core technology, and we expect to see a bigger impact from 5G as the number of users and devices begin to ramp-up. We also have committed $5 billion in funding to help build 5G networks over the next three years to help our customers accelerate their 5G deployments.

As 5G rolls out, there will be multiple use cases for the enterprises, government, and the SMB sector. Our belief is after 5G, the revenue mix will change very rapidly.

How do you foresee cloud, SAAS, or apps driving India towards an experience economy?

This is already a reality in India. Around 400 million people use smartphones, and that’s mostly cloud-based. So, these 400 million people are already in the experience economy. If we drive affordability of smartphones and get more access, there’s no reason why we cannot get to 800 million smartphones. What is obvious is that individuals will adopt it quickly, but how do you get businesses to speed up adoption as well? That is the real challenge.

There are 63 million micro, small and medium businesses in India – small lawyers, doctors, painters, and hardware specialists, etc. How can they use the internet and apps to expand their business? This is an area that we are focussing on—driving growth and digital transformation for our SMB customers.

What are the key priorities for Cisco India in 2019-20?

Our top priority is to go wider into new enterprise verticals like manufacturing, retail, and pharma as well as go more in-depth into customers where we are already strong like IT and ITES. SMBs are our next big priority.Transportation modernisation, logistics, and warehousing sectors are also a priority for us. A lot of investments are on the anvil to digitalise infrastructure like rail networks, ports, and highways, which means that smart port cities and aero cities will crop up across India. These will have a massive impact on transportation.

Furthermore, GST has brought focus around the logistics and warehousing sectors. With the advent of GST, the industry has been able to consolidate warehouses, and logistics systems have become more seamless and digitised. The question is no longer, ‘Where is your truck,’ but, ‘Where should your truck be?’ This will be the biggest opportunity.

Talent is another big focus area for us. We believe that for a technology company to grow, we need to have a very good mix of people who are generalists, good leaders as well as those who are specialists in various technologies.

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