I can see a big shift in India in cloud adoption: Microsoft India chief

Varun Agarwal Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2018

Anant Maheshwari

In August, software major Microsoft named Anant Maheshwari as its next India head. Maheshwari, who was earlier the president of Honeywell India, took over the reins at Microsoft from Chairman Bhaskar Pramanik on January 1. The change of guard for the technology giant comes at a crucial time. On the one hand Microsoft’s global CEO Satya Nadella is driving changes within the company to meet customers’ growing needs for digital transformation, and on the other, India is embracing digital technologies like never before.

Maheshwari spoke with BusinessLine on Microsoft India’s roadmap under his leadership.

As the new leader of Microsoft India, what are your top priorities?

We have three global ambitions: reinventing and doing a lot more with productivity and business processes; more personal computing; and becoming a leader in cloud globally. These are interlinked ambitions because they cover the entire shift towards digital transformation. Whether it is a company or individual or a government, there is a digital transformation when these three ambitions come together.

The story in India is so apt given where we are today. Within the three bold ambitions, I would like to point out two things to you: one is how Microsoft can enable India’s journey to the cloud. Second is how India is uniquely positioned within entrepreneurial capability. Therefore, cloud and partners are the two big focus areas for us as we go forward.

Within our peer group we are trying to differentiate ourselves as a partner-led company for almost all of our existence. Now, it’ll become all the more relevant.

The second level is in start-ups. Our Independent Software Vendors (ISV) programme helps start-ups offer all kinds of solutions for enterprises in India. We will be taking forward the entrepreneurial network that we’ve had in the last couple of decades.

Would there be any change in your approach in the way you go to market?

It is something that has become the core DNA of Microsoft in terms of fresh ideas and fresh thinking. We’ve always been a company that is very strong in terms of performing and transforming. What Satya has done in the last couple of years is instil in us a very strong culture of learning together. There’s so much happening in the world. We may not be doing everything but we learn from everything that’s happening.

I think that’s the key piece that I’ll stress on for Microsoft India. We’ve just started that journey of learning together. I would like to accelerate it. When you have a broader mindset of running together, I think new ideas, new approaches, new focus on customers and partners automatically happens.

What is the status of the

White-Fi project in India?

It is one of multiple initiatives that we have in India. We look at all potential options that can provide digital capability to a vast number of people. Many such conversations happen and there are many such technologies in the pipeline. This is one of them.

I wouldn’t stress on it as a big technology that’ll drive Microsoft’s capabilities in any part of the world. It is one of the options and yes, we support it.

Overall, cloud adoption is very low in India. How are you planning to expand adoption?

We seem to be doing a stellar job in terms of growing in the cloud space in India. I can see a big shift in India both in government and enterprises, to move forward from doing just pilots, and putting cloud to scale in their businesses. Cloud and the digital revolution allow for a much more seamless conversation between a provider of products and services with the customers.

Would you be looking at fresh partnerships in the IoT space ?

Microsoft already has global partnerships with many companies, including Honeywell and GE. Azure is driving a lot of those capabilities.

Similar partnerships happen in India, too. We have a unique capacity in India given our presence and experience here and given our partnership network to create a lot of IoT work with Indian companies.

How is the integration with LinkedIn working out in India?

The acquisition closed a few days back and we are putting the integration together. I would say watch out for 2017 and we will come out with a complete blueprint of how the two companies come together and all the capabilities that we will create both for individuals and organisations.

Windows has lost the opportunity in the mobile space, which is the fastest growing segment in India. Even on the laptop or desktop side, other operating systems such as Android and ChromeOS are gaining ground. What do you see as the future for Windows?

Windows continues to be a big operating system for us. Not just for personal computers but also in the very different ways that personal computing is evolving.

Beyond desktops or mobile, personal computing happens in many different ways. Augmented reality is a very big arena. The entire IoT space is a very big arena. We are already seeing Windows participate in all of those areas.

The canvas from where the operating systems need to be looked at has evolved.

You’re right that in the mobile space you may see a lot of Android capability. But at the same time, our mission over the last couple of years has been that we want to provide the mobility experience whether it is through the operating system or application work that you do on that operating system.

How do you see the overall macroeconomic situation impacting the IT sector and do you see any major headwinds in 2017?

If you look at macros globally, India is at a sweet spot. We are already among the top five economies of the world. That’s why you see a lot of global companies investing in India and we are too — we see a lot of opportunity from it.

How will GST impact the software industry?

A lot of economists agree that this is something that will be good for the Indian economy in the medium term itself and not just the long term. It will have challenges as it comes in because you are rewiring a lot of existing ways of doing business in India. I think IT capabilities both at the business level as well as provider and partner level will have to step up to support GST. We are working in many different ways to support it. I am very optimistic that GST can enable us to remove a lot of inefficiencies in our broader system and create opportunities to do more.

Published on January 10, 2017

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