Cybersecurity is emerging as the biggest battleground: Daisy Chittilapilly, president – India & SAARC operations, Cisco

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August 23, 2021 1:30 AM

Most small businesses in India understand that the question is no longer whether or even how much to digitalise but how to digitalise in a simple, cost-effective manner.

DAISY CHITTILAPILLY, President, Cisco India & SaarcDAISY CHITTILAPILLY, President, Cisco India & Saarc

Technology is no longer viewed as an experience-enhancer but as the prime enabler of everything we do,” says Daisy Chittilapilly, Cisco’s new president of its India & SAARC operations. She comes with over 25 years of experience in the technology industry, including 17 years of leadership experience at Cisco. “In today’s digital and cloud-first world, Cisco’s leadership across networking, cybersecurity, and collaboration put us at the forefront of helping business with their digital transformation and unlocking a new era of growth,” she tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

As you take charge of Cisco India and SAARC, what are your top focus areas?
As the digital economy takes a firm hold, we are focusing on three areas. Firstly, we continue to accelerate our transition towards software and subscription to bring the most relevant technologies and services to our customers in the most easily consumable ways. Secondly, we are building on the strong foundations of Cisco’s leadership across networking, cybersecurity, collaboration and cloud to help organisations in all sectors with their digital transformation. Lastly, we intend to use our technology not only to address our present challenges but also to power a more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive world for all, and this is where we see our biggest opportunity.

What are the priorities of your customers from a technology standpoint? Have these priorities changed significantly during the pandemic?
One thing the pandemic has changed forever is that what can be delivered digitally must and will be delivered digitally. So, businesses of all sizes are racing to digitise to boost efficiency and provide a consistently elevated customer experience in the physical and virtual world.

While where and how they invest in technology varies from company to company, most of our discussions with customers are around building a business model that allows them to serve their customers where they are while ensuring the ability to develop and automate new capabilities in an agile manner, flexibility to shift and scale IT capacity to where the demand is, and safety, productivity, security, and experience in this distributed environment.

How can small businesses capitalise on the opportunities of the digital world?

Most small businesses in India understand that the question is no longer whether or even how much to digitalise but how to digitalise in a simple, cost-effective manner. Today, their employees are going increasingly hybrid, their customers expect a flawless digital experience, and they are working to build the future and battling to keep it secure. The key to making these transitions lies in collaborating with the right partners to enable enterprise-grade security, networking, cloud, and other critical technology solutions, delivered in easily consumable ways. Recognising this, we have recently introduced Cisco Designed, a suite of offerings curated for small businesses to address their networking, security, collaboration, cloud, and internet connectivity needs.

From a security perspective, how has the landscape shifted during the pandemic?
As we digitise, cybersecurity is emerging as the biggest battleground in ensuring the safety of people and businesses. In this scenario, we see three clear trends emerging. First, identity is the new perimeter in the hybrid world, and scaling VPNs and multifactor authentication (MFA) to verify users’ identity before allowing access is critical. Additionally, a proactive security framework is needed to enable different layers to talk to each other and co-relate insights to prevent attacks. Last, security must be grounded in zero trust, which assumes that all environments are compromised and works to identify and respond to threats in real-time.

Ultimately, in this virtualised world, security must be built-in, not bolted on. To help our customers manage their dynamic security needs, Cisco’s Security portfolio is now integrated across all critical control points for the network, users and endpoints, cloud edge, and applications. It is now cloud-managed with the SecureX platform that offers unified visibility and simplicity. We will strengthen our leadership in cybersecurity through SASE, XDR, and zero trust integration into our networking and security unified platforms.

Cisco is moving to a hybrid work model. What does it mean for India & Saarc?
Remote working isn’t new to Cisco. But now, we know that the office has changed forever, and we won’t be returning to the office or using physical space in the same way as before. While about half of our employees were in the office four to five days a week pre-pandemic, less than a quarter want to be in an office three or more days a week when offices re-open. The numbers are similar for Cisco in India.

Therefore, the future of work at Cisco will be hybrid for every employee. That said, we recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So, we’ll continue to listen to our employees’ direct feedback to determine the future direction of how we work. With this as our north star, we are challenging ourselves to become the “World’s Best Hybrid Workplace”!

Which sectors do you see benefitting the most from an increasingly digital world?
India is at the most significant turning point. We see the most scope for impact in accelerating Industry 4.0 to improve the efficiency of our manufacturing capabilities; transforming logistics across ports, roadways, airports, etc.; upskilling workforces; strengthening digital connectivity; and increasing productivity and profitability of agriculture and small businesses.

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