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Home / Industry / Infotech /  I have never been so bullish about India: Bhaskar Pramanik

Microsoft Corp. completed 25 years in India. In an interview last week, Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of the India unit, outlined the company’s strategy as Microsoft readies to launch its new Windows 10 operating system globally. Edited excerpts:

Microsoft has seen a lot of changes in the past 25 years. What is keeping you excited?

I have never been so bullish about India in the past 40 years. This is the first time I see a confluence in the sense of what’s happening in the economy, governance and the economy—it really feels good. I feel excited about the new technologies that have emerged—social, mobility and analytics—powered by the cloud. It is a game changer. It is going to change the way technology is consumed and it is going to be everywhere. Microsoft is a truly exciting company today. As a company which is 40 years old, it is trying to change and transform not just its products but also its go-to-market (strategy) and processes.

How do you see Microsoft contributing to Digital India?

When Satya (Nadella) met the prime minister, he said Microsoft would do three things. First, set up a data centre—huge, highly secure, highly private and flexible enough to run any kind of workload—for use should the government wish to do so. Second, take the national asset Aadhaar and make it available to everybody. Aadhaar is the government’s preserve. Can you extend it to a whole bunch of other services? Right now it is being just used as an identity card. We have got to change that. The third one which he (Nadella) talked about was last-mile access. And one of the technologies we suggested was White-Fi. We have received clearance to run the first pilot in two villages in Andhra Pradesh. In each of these three things, we didn’t ask the government to invest anything—we will be the ones to either make the investment or provide the technology. And that is something which we really want to offer as part of Digital India. It is not about making the government smarter, it is about empowering Indian citizens.

How does White-Fi work?

The government is saying it wants 250,000 panchayats connected through national optical fibre. What happens after that? You have got another 300,000 villages. White-Fi uses the TV spectrum which is currently not being used to take the same signal over tens of kilometres and it needs just a simple antenna which can be powered by solar power, which can then be used to provide Wi-Fi access in villages. So after you have put an antenna tens of kilometres away, you could put some customer premise equipment in a kirana store, a bank or a post office and make a village smart.

What happens after the pilot is completed?

If the government approves it, we will work with different kinds of partners—could be a telecom operator or a bank or a women’s self-help group. We are not looking at making any money on this. We would just want to have somebody who would then make necessary investments to be able to provide that (service) and investments would be very small.

Microsoft is talking less about devices today and more about how data needs to be moved across devices...

We are agnostic about the fact that we only run on Windows. We should run on all devices. Devices play a very important role in overall strategy. And we call it personal computing. It is about personal computing, productivity and an intelligent cloud.

Has cloud, as a technology, matured?

Absolutely. Security and privacy are very genuine concerns. When we launch our cloud services in the month of October, we will have certification for security and for privacy. So when we launch our services in India we will be providing sovereignty—no data can move outside the company.

What’s your take on the Internet of Things?

Windows 10 now runs on any device—phone, tablet, PC, XBox game console, TV—and it also runs on the Internet of Things. So it doesn’t matter what device you have, Windows can run on any of them. You can create any application or service and it can run on any device. There is nobody else that can offer you the same thing. At the same time, you need to be able to get that information and then take proper steps—whether you want to do another activity or just want to set an alarm. That’s where machine intelligence comes in. That’s what we call an intelligent cloud. So the Internet of Things, powered by Windows 10 and our Azure cloud fabric, is really the story.

What trends do you see as you take Microsoft into the next 25 years?

I think the difference between the Microsoft I joined three years ago and today is its focus on collaboration, its focus on how smart the collective is rather that the individual. So we are still going to hire individuals who are smart but we are going to have the additional trait of them knowing how to work as a team. The second big difference is the obsession with customers. Somewhere down the line, the focus was on products and technologies and we lost sight because we were a horizontal company. One thing that Satya (Nadella) has made very clear is that everything starts and ends with our customers and partners. We now have what we call a challenger mindset. You are no longer the number one—you are now the challenger.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve a couple of years down the line?

We would like to see our installed base of PCs and tablets move to Windows 10 over the next three years. We expect that 50% of our business in the next three years will be through the cloud. Currently we are at about 25%. The cloud today in India is 1% of the total IT industry and 10% of the software industry. We would expect the cloud to become 20-25% of the total IT industry.

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