New Delhi: A slight drop in market share is not enough to shake Symantec Corp., a US-based $6.15 billion (Rs28,413 crore) software security solutions provider that dominates the global market. The company has been present in India since 1994 through Veritas Software Corp., which it acquired in 2005. It currently employs 2,700 people in the country and is looking to expand its operations here.
Symantec started the year aggressively with the acquisition of Gideon Technologies Inc. in the US. Even though its market share worldwide has slipped from 24.4% to 22%, president and chief executive Enrique Salem said in an interview that his company is unperturbed by the challenge of new entrants who are offering security solutions for free. Edited excerpts:
Offering more: Symantec president and chief executive officer Enrique Salem says the company’s priority will be to extend its leadership in the computer security market. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
What is the agenda of your visit?
This trip, we’ve actually spent on a number of different key agenda items—we’ve spent time with our team because we’ve got our largest engineering centre here in India now. We’ve also spent time with government agencies, with partners, with many of our biggest customers and really the agenda is to continue raising awareness about what Symantec is doing and what my priorities are for Symantec given that I have been CEO (for) just about one year.
What did your talks with the government focus on?
One of the biggest issues happening today in the world is people (are) worried about nation-states attacking each other—cyber warfare. So today we were discussing what are some of the issues, what are some of the opportunities, what can governments do to be prepared to protect themselves. So I outlined a four-point strategy around what the government of India could do to be better prepared and protect itself from cyber attack.
This was with the ministry of defence?
How did India fare compared with China and Australia, which were the better performing markets for you?
During the economic malaise that we just went through, China fared very well and recovered (a) little more quickly. We’re seeing that same recovery here in India. But the markets paused, and they paused all over the world. And so my expectation is that we’ll see renewed growth in the Indian market in 2010.
How have you performed elsewhere?
We used to talk about the notion of Bric—Brazil, Russia, India and China. I think that’s changed. I think Brazil, India and China continue to be vibrant and growing markets and so they’ll get more of our attention (but) Russia has stalled. So it will get less focus at least in the short term—there are still opportunities there but it’s not of the same level of growth as we are seeing in markets like India.
Do you plan to open more research and development (R&D) centres in India?
We have two major R&D centres here, one in Pune and one in Chennai, and we are very comfortable that that can support the skills we need. We have major universities in both cities that allow us to attract talent and so we’re comfortable with those two.
Are you looking to increase the headcount?
We absolutely will see our total engineering, that’s being done in India, continue to grow this year, next year and probably the following year. I don’t have an exact number for you, but my expectation is that we’ll probably be in the mid-thirties to high thirties as a percentage of the total engineering in the company being done here.
What about customized products for the micro, small and medium enterprises sector?
Symantec works across a range of segments—consumers, small businesses, large enterprises. What we have found is that small businesses need what we are doing as much, if not more than, any others. They have been a little behind in investing in things like security and so we see that as an opportunity in the Indian market and also across the entire world. So we’ve created new products—we’ve actually gone in and created a security suite because we think businesses, small businesses included, don’t need lots of point products. They need integrated solutions that allow them to more easily solve their day-to-day needs.
How do you intend to tackle competition from software companies offering free security solutions?
Symantec has built up what we call the global intelligence network that allows us to see the threats very early on. And so we are a focused provider of security solutions. We are a focused provider, of course, of other capabilities and to do a good job in security, you need expertise, you need focus...we’ve said let’s make sure we continue to innovate in the area of security and so Microsoft and others are trying to catch up...
But have you seen any impact on your customer base?
I haven’t seen the free offerings from Microsoft have any impact on our consumer business. Last quarter, we reported our December results and one of the strongest performing businesses at Symantec was actually the consumer business.
We’ve actually gone to a dual-price, dual-brand strategy where we have got our high-end or premium brands, the Norton products which are acknowledged as the best products on the market, and then we also have the PC Tools brand that we use to take and go after more price-sensitive buyers.
What will be the main threats to software security in future?
It’s very straightforward. There’s an insider who can potentially go after the critical information. So what you want to do is to have appropriate technologies that allow you to know who should and should not access the information.
You want to have appropriate controls that say that information that you deem is critical can’t be copied to the USB or a memory stick, can’t be sent to the Gmail account...we’ve said, let’s provide our customers with the tools, whether it be a malicious insider or an external hacker, they can protect that data and here’s the range of things they need to be able to do (so).
We’re doing a great job of this. We’ve got the market leading technology in what is known as data loss prevention, and this is all about protecting the information.
That’s what we are focused on because, whether it comes from an outside threat, or an inside threat, they’re going after the information. They’re going after the credit cards, the source code, the intellectual property and we know how to protect it.
What kind of acquisitions will Symantec be looking at going ahead?
When you look at our M&A (merger and acquisition) strategy, what we are focused on right now is how do we strengthen our position in the markets we are in. We are in three big markets—security, storage management and systems management. I made it a priority to continue to extend our leadership in security so you can expect us to do a lot more in that market. It’s really about going deeper in security, not really extending more breadth.
We have also invested significantly in software as a service market today. Symantec is adding as many as 100,000 new customers a week to our online backup infrastructure. We back up about 45 petabytes of customer data, adding 5 petabytes a quarter (one petabyte equals one zillion or 1,000 trillion bytes).
Symantec is the market leader in software as a service and that will be an area where we will continue to buy new technologies to extend that portfolio.
Today, we offer message filtering, we offer Web security, we’ll be adding online backup. We’ll also be adding archiving and (a) few other technologies and some of that will be organic and some of that will be through acquisitions.
Are you looking at at acquisitions in India?
We’ve investigated, we’ve looked at a number of companies. In the last couple of days, I’ve been introduced to a few new ones by our customers and that’s what we always look for—customer support, customer endorsement. We buy technologies all over the world. We bought companies in Asia, (and) we continue to do so. We’ve got a few opportunities in the Indian market also.
Should we expect some announcements this year?
I never like to predict that we are actually close (to) a deal because that makes our targets feel like they have us in a good position and so it could happen.