When Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft CEO, he made it clear that he aims to rule the cloud game. He also made it apparent that India will on his priority list, not just because he is an Indian, but because the country has immense growth potential when it comes to sailing on cloud.
Nadella sensed the market needs and announced local data centres in the country and the rest, as they say, is history.
Microsoft has a lot to talk about when it comes to its cloud story in India. The company is particularly working on involving the developers community with its initiatives. None other than Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India, is instrumental in taking the company sky high in these domains.
In an exclusive chat with TechGig.com, Bhaskar revealed how Microsoft’s cloud strategy is helping the company grow in some of the most unexplored territories.
Microsoft has big plans for the Indian market with respect to cloud. Please share on how big do you see this market as an opportunity and what are the challenges in the Indian cloud market?
We believe the cloud is one of the most innovative technologies that can drive India’s digital transformation and make Digital India a reality. Cloud will help India in its digital ambitions, and help spur the next round of growth for enterprises. To put this near infinite power of computing to work for India’s development, we launched our commercial cloud services from local datacenters in September 2015. As the first and only global hyper-scale cloud provider from India, we have seen significant uptake of cloud services among customers and partners. Several leading banks, financial institutions, hospitals, media companies, e-commerce organisations, government departments, and telecom have moved to our local cloud services.
Apart from you, other international players are also venturing in the Indian data center space. How do you see the competition and what USPs will you introduce to compete with them?
Our local cloud is here and available for local enterprises and governments to use. Customers across large enterprises, SMBs and governments are using to it to drive productivity, process efficiency and innovation. We are helping our customers’ digital transformation by offering them the choice of public, private or hybrid clouds. They decide what is best for them and their digital journey. And we offer them the most secure cloud to work with, with the highest security certifications.
How do you see Microsoft’s cloud offerings integrated with the government’s Digital India initiative?
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 have also piloted last-mile access projects in Srikakulum and other places with unused TV spectrum. Our Microsoft Research has worked on this. Our cloud productivity platforms including Azure and Office are being used by government departments to roll out citizen services. We recently embarked on 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. There are engaged in several citizen-focused projects across India. Our cloud allows the government to run Linux and other Open Source-based projects on the public cloud making it easy for government departments to use the public cloud. We also have several student and teacher empowerment programmes many of which are not-for-profit to make youth digitally literate and digitally empowered. Some of these projects are YouthSpark, Partners in Learning and BizSpark.
We have a 10,000-strong partner community to bring the best in class technology to the citizens of India. We and our partners are helping government departments, large enterprises, SMBs and start-ups use technology to transform India. We are proud to be a partner in the change the country is experiencing.
How important is the Indian geography for Microsoft’s overall cloud game plan?
We consider ourselves a local company having operated here for 25 years. India is an important market for Microsoft. We are constantly looking for ways to partner India in its inclusive growth agenda. The availability of our commercial cloud services through local datacenters is not only a big milestone for us at Microsoft, but also an important step forward in being a key partner to the country’s Make in India and Digital India journey.
What are the key sectors you are looking at when it comes to growing your cloud market share?
Our cloud is already enabling opportunities for the Indian ecosystem, including SIs, ISVs and partners, developers and startups. We have seen significant uptake of cloud services among customers and partners, and the response from our customers across verticals like BFSI, government, IT, ITeS and healthcare etc., has been extremely positive. Our cloud delivers enormous computing power to drive advanced analytics and machine learning, enabling the government to address the country’s most pressing problems, such as poverty, hunger, health and education. We are confident that our local datacenters will also accelerate adoption of public cloud services by government departments, state-owned agencies, banks and financial institutions in India, enabling them to achieve more. The cloud market is expected to double by 2020 (from the present $500 million) and we and our partners â€“ SIs and ISVs – will continue to be the market maker for cloud services in India.
How do you see the talent available in India, with respect to cloud technologies? Do you find Indian talent industry-ready?
India has been at the forefront of world-class technology talent pool. Talent is a critical engine for any business, and crucial to the fast changing technology landscape, it is imperative that passion for technology and the spirit of entrepreneurship are nurtured right from the start, alongside technical skills and experience necessary in the fast evolving technology industry. There also a need to keep girls in the science, technology and math streams. We need the intellectual power of women to drive innovation in our industry.
Do you have some plans to train Indian professionals in cloud technologies?
We already have multiple programmes that already do that. Over the last 3-4 years, we have helped upskill employees in our partner organisations to work with cloud technologies. We will continue to work with them. We work with students and teachers to promote understanding of the power of the cloud in their everyday work. At this point in time, we have over a dozen training programmes targeted at different audiences. We also have a large number of training partners who training professionals to work on cloud technologies.
The BUILD conference concluded in April, with an all new messaging for the developers. What specifically do you have in store for the Indian developers’ community in 2016? What exciting stuff should developers look forward to, with Microsoft this year?
At the BUILD conference, Microsoft demonstrated how its Azure services and the Office platform can empower developers to more easily leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, emerging cloud development models and the Internet of Things (IoT) to build their intelligent apps. Microsoft remains committed to help developers across the globe scale their apps for every platform to be able to reach their prospective customers. Following the announcements and introductions at BUILD, developers will be able to build intelligent apps as Microsoft ensures an unmatched mobile development and DevOps experience with the merger of .NET and Xamarin ecosystems. This also implies that the developers, now, will be able to deliver fully native cross-platform mobile app experiences to all major devices, including iOS, Android and Windows. Microsoft Azure services will further help developers address today’s operational realities and take advantage of tomorrow’s emerging trends, such as the Internet of Things and micro-services.
How do you view the startup ecosystem and what opportunities do you see there for a company like yours?
The Indian startup ecosystem is changing fast, from 4,000 startups a couple of years back to over 15,000 startups now. The second fastest growing and third largest start-up ecosystem of the world is indeed setting a frenetic pace. Entrepreneurship is the key to India’s growth as it is important contributor to innovation and creates opportunities for employment for many.
Microsoft has been supporting and enabling the Indian startup ecosystem at every step by way of technology – via the cloud and local datacenter and BizSpark, mentoring and market access – via Microsoft Accelerator and partner accelerators. We help start-ups by providing free cloud services through our BizSpark, BizSpark Plus programmes. We are also bringing together key stakeholders entrepreneurs, businesses and governments to help create solutions for the citizens of India. Recently, we organised a unique conclave under our CityNext initiative with the government of Telangana where state officials, startups and Microsoft experts mapped smart solutions for cities in Telangana.
Last year, we announced $120K in cloud credits for startups who wanted to build solutions for smart cities. Over the last year we mentored startups such as ZingHR, CloudCherry and iBot in our accelerator and also introduced them to our large enterprise customers thus helping them growth their own business.
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