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Buoyed by the rise in cloud revenues, Microsoft harbours hopes for a larger role in India's digital transformation story

"That really is the Microsoft strategy which is irrespective of which operating system, which device you are accessing your information and content from, your experience should be good and that is where our focus and pivot is," says Anant Maheshwari.

twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: December 14, 2017  | 20:52 IST
Buoyed by the rise in cloud revenues, Microsoft harbours hopes for a larger role in India's digital transformation story
Anant Maheshwari, President,Microsoft Corporation (India)

With a total headcount of over 8000 people spread across five business units and 11 Indian cities, Microsoft has come a long way from where it began in 1990 in India with just around 25 people, operating out of a rented facility in Hyderabad. Anant Maheshwari, the technology giant's president in India, took time off from his busy schedule and spoke about its India story to Business Today on Wednesday, December 13th in Hyderabad, where it organized its annual media and analyst days. Here are excerpts:

How the needle has moved in the last one year: There are big areas where the needle has moved and I would limit it to the Indian context. If you look at the vertical focus that we have now, which is bringing both global solutions into India and creating solutions for Indian companies, the banking and financial sector is a big area of impact that we have moved on. Second, I would say, is the entire start-up community and what we call companies that want to be unicorns. Lot of work being done there by Microsoft. There is the Ola example and there are many others. The third key area is the IT industry in India. That is going through a massive shift in terms of their offerings to the rest of the world and we are enabling them in terms of their own digital fabric as to what capabilities they use either in the modern workplace or in the infrastructure or in the Azure data services as they go and provide to the rest of the world. To me, those three vertical focus areas along with manufacturing, would be the key needle movers in the last 12 months. On the otherside is the entire partner ecosystem, where it is not about partners being channels to market but where a lot of new intellectual property is being created by these partners for digital transformation solutions. When you go to a company today and talk to the CHRO or the CFO or the supply chain leader, they are not buying technology, they want to buy a solution to let us say, people development for HR. They want to buy a solution to manage risk for the CFO. They want a solution to manage supply chain, IoT automation. Now, those are solutions provided by our partners to these users to the CXOs to create value.

On movement from laptops to devices: This is the new Microsoft and I will give you my personal experience. I was sitting at an event about a month and a half back and trying to take notes on my OneNote on my Surface device balancing the Surface device on my knees and typing when 20 other people were sitting around me and I realized that it was not a very easy way to take notes at that point in time. It was on OneNote. I shut this device down and opened my iPhone. Now, it is a very different platform. I had written eight points in that OneNote on my Surface device. As soon as I opened my iPhone, I started typing point number 9 into the phone. That was the same OneNote application that had synced through the cloud already with my phone. To me that is the multi-device capability that Microsoft is really focused on. It is device agnostic and is really around true mobility that you can in the mobile first world apply in the modern workplace irrespective of the device you are accessing it from. That really is the Microsoft strategy which is irrespective of which operating system, which device you are accessing your information and content from, your experience should be good and that is where our focus and pivot is. Not just one eco-system, as in the past it used to be one Microsoft eco-system. We are running a large amount of code on both IOS and Android to make those experiences seamless.

Its revenue implications: Look at the new way of the full platform of the modern workplace which is Microsoft 365. It includes Windows, Office 365, mobility, and security. The moment you think of it as a Microsoft 365 stack to get work done, you get out of an equation of: am I losing some Windows footprint, am I gaining Windows footprint somewhere else. That equation goes away because you are taking the whole stack and seeing the power of that whole stack. From a pure revenue perspective, I would say that while the traditional engines have been the growth drivers, they may not have that high level of growth because of PC growth rate and therefore the Windows footprint on those PCs but the other growth drivers are very significant - Office 365, which is available through the cloud format to our enterprise customers, with a large number of applications now on Office, which is not just the traditional Windows, Powerpoint, Excel that many think about but even beyond that to OneNote to SharePoint, Yammer to teams and beyond. So, you look at the complete suit that comes together and creates the large consumption patterns that we have with our customers today. You look at new services around Dynamic 365, around the data and AI services, around Azure services that we are creating. All of these are completely new revenue streams which may not have existed a few years ago in the Microsoft ecosystem. In fact, among the new businesses that we are creating in India, it is predominantly cloud. Therefore, for us the entire movement to digital transformation through cloud is not just something that is nice to speak about, it makes a very big impact. Overall, our cloud growth rates in India are touching triple digits like many other geographies around the world. We are continuously looking at growing at a very fast clip on the entire cloud portfolio that we have including infrastructure, platform and software. In terms of growth rates we are definitely tracking above market growth rates.

On localisation: Many of the offerings of Microsoft are ready for the world because they are being used by our customers around the world. What you do need at times is some specific offerings that may be first initiated from a market like India and then go global and I will take the example of Kaizala. It is a great example of something that has not been done globally. It is something that was really innovated for the Indian market and is now seeing traction in other parts of Asia and Africa because they look a lot more like India in terms of their user behaviour. Now, what is Kaizala? If you really look at our modern workplace. We are saying you can create collaborative work spaces, irrespective of whether you are in the office or outside of the office. Now, if you look at the way the population works in India, roughly half a billion people go to work in India everyday and of the half a billion people, a small percentage may have email IDs and within that even a smaller percentage actually uses only email as their mode of their collaborative workplace. Most of the people are mobile only and they need very different kinds of platforms to even interact and get work done. That is a the origin of Kaizala. To me that whole insight around how to create a modern workplace in this kind of an environment was how the whole development work on Kaizala began. But it wasn't something that was just developed in India. It was something developed for India with the global intellectual property and the global presence that Microsoft has. To create something like that we went and did research in different geographies, including China, Israel, United States, Europe, and Asia to understand what is available best and from there created the right architecture for Kaizala for India. Today, already, three months after launch, it is already being applied in many government, enterprise, small and medium business situations. We have already seen a very large traction. The user numbers change on a daily basis so I do not have the exact number off-late. It is something we have not targeted at the generic social messaging market but it is really for the enterprise grade social messaging solution on which you can exchange documents, even interchange information, manage groups in a tiered fashion, have hierarchies inside the groups. It does not become just noise when you interact in a group but can do very focused interactions to get work done through a social messaging application and that as you would imagine is not something that Microsoft has done around the world. So, it has been focused to be for India. I wanted to give you an example of what we are doing for the local market and there are many examples, including Skype and Aadhaar integration, Skype Lite looking at the conditions in the Indian market.

Where to from here: Overall, in this field, a year is a very long time. The way we are moving is continuing to track how we move faster than what the market transformation rate is for digital transformation in India. That to me is the simple aspiration that we continue to lead the market and create the right path that shows that we are truly ahead in this space.

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