Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft Corp. (India) Pvt. Ltd, steered marketing, operations, and business development efforts of the world’s largest software company in India for the last five years. Even as Anant Maheshwari handles the sales, marketing and services operations of Microsoft in India from 1 January, Pramanik, who also led Microsoft’s interactions with policy makers, customers, and business partners, continues as chairman until 31 March. In an interview, he outlined the company’s strategy and vision for digital transformation. Edited excerpts:
Digital transformation is today’s buzzword. How has it impacted Microsoft’s strategy?
Our mission is to empower individuals and organizations to achieve more. If you notice, we don’t talk about technology in our mission statement. The reason is that while technology will continuously keep evolving, our mission will remain the same. This is also based on our three primary ambitions, which I refer to as platforms, and which we believe we are the best at.
The first is personal computing. It is not just about a personal computer. It is about the mobility of the experience, the Internet of Things (IoT), it is about augmented and virtual reality. It’s the way you access computing through touch, make it accessible in multiple different languages, and enable even differently-abled people to interact with computing because computing has become all pervasive. Computing will come in different shapes and sizes. This is already happening. Today, most people have multiple IP (internet protocol) addresses in the more connected parts of the world. This is core for strategy.
The second is about productivity and business processes. It is not just about productivity of the individual but productivity of groups, of enterprises, of an entire industry. Consider what we created for eyecare with L V Prasad Eye Institute —the story that is called the Connected Eye. We set up a consortium called MINE—Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyes—so that all the different segments of the eyecare industry can get the benefit of sharing anonymous patient data to do far better patient care. So people may think us as an Office company but we are helping doctors do much more with analytics.
The third is the ‘Intelligent Cloud’, which enables the first two platforms. This is the intelligence that Satya (Nadella) recently talked about. The fourth industrial revolution is all about data, and data is what makes artificial intelligence possible. You can use the humongous data to predict, for compliance purposes and that is why the cloud is not just a storehouse for data but a way by which you can mine this data to solve different problems and challenges that the world faces.
What does this approach mean to your customers?
Whether our customer is the government, education or SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses), it is all about how we can help our customers empower their employees; how we can help them to engage with their customers differently; how can we help them to optimize their business and transform their business.
Transformation is about business model changing. So if you have a connected product or service, your whole business model changes because you don’t charge for the product—you charge for the service. Second is about differentiated customer experiences. We have transformed the way people buy. Analytics is now built into everything we do because that gives you the power of data—the ability to actually take better informed decisions. Finally, it is about using IoT to make processes, products intelligent.
This did require a cultural change…
All this would not have been possible if we hadn’t changed the culture of the company. I strongly believe that culture is as strong as strategy. And that is true for Microsoft. Our ability to have moved so quickly is because of the change we’ve made in our culture, led by what Satya has been doing (see box: Nadella in the driver’s seat). The culture is based on a fundamental belief which we call a ‘growth mindset’. Every individual has the opportunity to learn from his mistakes, learn continuously and develop himself.
Microsoft emphasizes diversity and inclusion. Could you elaborate?
We have learnt that it is the diversity of ideas which is very critical for any culture that has a growth mindset. Ideas can come from any part of the organization, any gender, from very young people—this is critical to becoming an inclusive organization. And being an MNC, we have the ability to sell across geographies and segments. Next, we have very strong technical people but they typically work in silos. We have very large teams in these areas here (in India) so we can build solutions that can be extended to the developed world or even create solutions for the developed parts (like banks and financial institutions) of India and be exported to the Western world. This is how we look at One Microsoft. This is the message we give our partners and customers.