Dell India Pvt. Ltd is in talks with the government to explore how it could start utilizing the spare capacity at its Sriperumbudur plant for exports from India as part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Alok Ohrie, managing director and president of the India unit, elaborated on this plan in an interview last week. He said the company, which has 27,000 employees in India, is sharpening its focus on existing enterprise and software products and investing more in creating intellectual property (IP), while remaining committed to investing in research and development (R&D) and the government’s smart city and Digital India programmes. Edited excerpts:

How is the market shaping up for Dell in India?

We just about completed our first full year of operations post privatization (Dell announced the completion of its acquisition by Michael Dell on 29 October, 2013). In many ways, the company has also gone back to its roots of being an entrepreneurial setup. In fact, Michael (Dell— founder and chief executive of Dell Inc.) calls it the world’s largest start-up, and it’s truly behaving like a start-up—not too many discussions and debates and deliberations; it’s about you having a great idea, and a great way of doing things. That has really helped the company globally. Last year, we grew three to four times faster than the competition globally. Dell India has grown five to six times faster than the competition.

What’s the strategy that has helped you in this journey?

The first element of our strategy is improving our sales and market coverage. The second is clearly strengthening our enterprise and software product portfolio. A lot of that investment is in the form of creating IP innovation, which could then be a part of global product rollouts. We also remain committed to continuing to invest in R&D. Today, India is a hub for the end-to-end R&D for enterprise space—managing the computing, storage, and the networking part of our R&D efforts. These units work very closely with our global R&D hubs, but they are working on some very high-end innovation that’s going on. Worldwide, we have seven R&D hubs (including India).

The third element of our strategy is to sustain a leadership position in the client space. This is our legacy. So we are investing in that space—new form factors, newer technology. The fourth element of our strategy is improving customer experience and customer satisfaction. And we are also absolutely excited about digital transformation—the social, mobile, analytics and cloud. I would like to add security to that. Most of our customers are looking at us for more of advisory and consultancy kind of role to help them transform their existing legacy infrastructure into something that is future ready and enabled for digital consumption.

No, absolutely no intentions of being in the smartphone space.

You have a personal computers and servers manufacturing unit in India. How does it fit in the government’s ‘Make in India’ mission?

It’s a pretty big investment. Our plant is in Sriperumbudur, which is close to Chennai, and has a capacity of three million units. We have been engaging with the government to see how we could start utilizing the spare capacity of the plant for exports from India. We did see some movement with regard to additional incentives in the new foreign trade policy that has been announced recently. We are currently busy trying to do our math to figure out how this would actually enable more exports from India to the neighbouring countries such as South-Asian countries or, for that matter, to the Middle Eastern, Gulf area.

But most of what you do in India is assembling.

That’s a point I was just going to come to. Most of it is assembled, and that’s the other piece that we have been engaging with the government on, to help us address this inverted duty issue (which) makes it cheaper to import versus manufacture. And in many ways that’s the case because there is no electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country. We are all part of that campaign that MAIT (India’s hardware lobby association) is running.

Your company has also expressed interest in being part of Digital India. What’s the strategy?

Digital India is part of the three big engagement areas for our company. The Narendra Modi government is talking about setting up a public cloud. That would need datacentres, which would need infrastructure that will go into datacentres for offering the services to Indian citizens. So that’s one area that we are absolutely engaged in. State datacentres have already been implemented. Those are also getting refreshed and revamped, and depending on which ones are coming up for refresh, we will participate in that. And we are seeing some amount of success in that space.

Then comes the bigger, larger picture of smarter cities. It can start with smarter traffic management, smarter water management, etc—basically resource management within that. It can also mean connectivity, in a way that allows various agencies to interact with each other in a way that is lot more coordinated.

How does Dell hope to contribute to this exercise?

We have smarter city set-ups in the US, Europe, Singapore and Australia. We have done related projects in Singapore and Australia. So we can bring one of those best practices and which is what we are doing.

My team is involved in those discussions. We have an active government affairs organization in the country.

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