Today, Microsoft is primarily a cloud solutions company: Anant Maheshwari

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 13, 2020 Published on October 13, 2020

Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India (file photo)   -  Kamal Narang

The cloud has already moved beyond the 60 per cent mark at least for the company, says the President of Microsoft India

Microsoft has witnessed a major shift over the last few years, leading the play in technologies such as cloud, data and artificial intelligence, according to Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India.

Maheshwari, in an open house with BusinessLine, discussed the tech giant’s strategies in terms of emerging technologies in various sectors along with its market plan in India. Excerpts:

What’s your strategy for increasing market share in the cloud space? How do you navigate through the competitive landscape to offer something that is very unique to Microsoft?

Our only strategy there is customer obsession. For us, I think the unique aspect is that a company is able to see the entire data estate in the multiple platforms that Microsoft provides.

We’ve seen the entire mix change very significantly in the Indian industry. About three years back, if you look at the Indian industry, it was spending majorly on IT and a smaller portion on cloud. This is very quickly changing to at least reach that 50-50 mark for the broader industry. For Microsoft, the cloud has already moved beyond the 60 per cent mark at least. Today, we are primarily a cloud solutions company. And that gives you a sense of how our own growth trajectory has been over the last few years.

What are the opportunities that are coming up in the AI and data segment? Is there an issue right now in finding the right talent pool in terms of AI and data?

We are very highly focused on our data and artificial intelligence. Data and AI, going forward, will be a reasonable competitive advantage for companies and industries and even governments who leverage the power of data and AI. I think Covid really accelerated the appreciation of what this can do.

Given how fast the data and AI are evolving, there will be a continuous demand for skills. That’s where I see this as a massive opportunity for existing technical folks and the new folks who are coming into the workforce. We have been working closely with the public, private, and non-profit sectors in India to create a vibrant data and AI skilling ecosystem in the country.

You must have seen a huge spike in cloud adoption by SMBs during the pandemic. Are you planning to increase your data centre capacity to meet the growing demand?

We’ve been continuously scaling our data centres. During the pandemic, we have been enhancing capacity, landing a lot of capability into the data centres because that was required. We made sure that we prioritise some of the India asks across our global ecosystem. We got very good support from the company. They’ll continue to do that even going forward.

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How do you see gaming in your future strategy?

Gaming is clearly a big pivot for Microsoft globally. It is a key arena for us. We also see the gaming arena in India moving slightly differently. India is first a mobility lead country and therefore, gaming in India will be a combination of both the large format as well as the small format. We are collaborating with the platforms and companies that play in India, bringing both our infrastructure and cloud capabilities as well as the core gaming sort of intellectual property that we have globally. It is an important growth driver.

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Has the pandemic changed Microsoft's retail strategy in India? What is your go-to-market strategy?

In India, we always had a hybrid strategy and that continues. We are continuing on that path of having that hybrid strategy. In today’s time, there is more presence and movement online than on physical stores, but I do believe that physical stores will continue to have a very strong play in the future.

Where does Microsoft fit in the government’s PLI scheme? What are your thoughts on TRAI’s recommendations of a governing body for cloud service providers?

The PLI scheme is much more relevant to partners of Microsoft, especially the OEM partners who use the Microsoft platforms and create the devices. To answer your second question, we are deeply engaged with the different bodies, both from Parliament as well as with the government. I’m very glad that in general there is a strong regulatory framework that is coming into place to drive a lot of the data because it provides great transparency on how to do the business in the country.

Are you planning to bring Microsoft Farmbeats to India in the near future?

Yes. It’s already in the pilot stage and we are, in fact, going to be working with some pilots on that in India. One of the key goals of the FarmBeats program is to make the entire data-driven agriculture package more affordable not just for the farmers but for everyone in the food value supply chain. We started addressing some of the core problems — like obtaining and bringing data streams together from different components of the food value chain and applying artificial intelligence to predict what is going to happen in the future. I definitely see immense value of that platform in a country like India. Having that breadth of the platform to solve different kinds of use cases, is the way we think about it.

What are the plans to further push the vernacular languages segment?

We’re doing a lot of work on different Indian languages. We have been really focused on having very strong language capability in all forms, both in terms of the communication as well as in the work that we’re doing on data and AI. Microsoft has been consistently working to provide local language computing in Indian languages for over two decades since the launch of Project Bhasha in 1998, allowing users to input localised text easily and quickly using the Indian Language Input tool. All 22 Constitutionally recognised Indian languages are supported by virtue of our support for 11 Indian scripts.

We also announced support for email addresses in multiple Indian languages across most of our email apps and services. Through our global Local Language Program (LLP), Microsoft provides people access to technology in their native language.

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Published on October 13, 2020
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