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NEW DELHI : The digitization wave has driven up demand for data storage, and Western Digital (WD), with a wide portfolio of products, is one of the companies that ticks almost all boxes. India’s external storage market, that includes external hard drives, SSDs, pen drives and personal cloud storage drives witnessed a growth of 8.0% year-on-year, according to IDC’s latest enterprise storage systems tracker for the third quarter of 2019. This makes India a key market for WD. In an interview, Guruswamy Ganesh, senior vice-president, data storage products group at Western Digital, and Supria Dhanda, vice-president and country manager at Western Digital India, elaborate on why demand for storage is booming in India, what makes India an important market for WD and how the increase in import duty affected them. Edited excerpts:

What is the size of WD’s overseas business and what is the share of India market in that? How important is the India market?

Guruswamy Ganesh: We don’t break out market share by country; however, I can tell you that India has long been and continues to be a key strategic region for Western Digital, both from a customer perspective as well from an R&D and product development perspective. It is still the fastest-growing market for us worldwide. We are working with the government on some projects. We have worked extensively with Flipkart in building their infrastructure. In the education sector, we have worked with organizations like Pratham, enabling them to help students develop purpose-built tablets and access government-provided educational content.

What is driving this growth in demand for storage in India?

Guruswamy Ganesh: As the government is starting to initiate a lot of e-governance projects, the need for storage is growing. And this is causing a lot of infrastructure build-up to happen. Also, global multinationals have their own data centres and now their local data centres are also coming up. So, there’s a need for a lot more storage. We believe the storage industry is going to continue to grow in double digits. Also, storage in the consumer segment in the developed world has saturated. In emerging markets like India, China, Africa and Southeast Asia, there is tremendous growth.

Supria Dhanda, vice-president and country manager, Western Digital
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Supria Dhanda, vice-president and country manager, Western Digital

Is WD hiring new talent? How many people have been hired by the company this year? How much of the workforce is in India?

Supria Dhanda: We actively hire young talented engineers from the best institutes. We hire around 200-250 Masters and PhDs every year out of these institutions. Western Digital India, with an overall workforce capital of 2700 strong and growing, plays a pivotal role in the company’s R&D and product development strategy. In terms of employee base, Western Digital India has achieved 10X growth in the last five years and has close to doubled its growth in the last two years alone, signifying continuous growth of investment in India.

In what way is WD better placed than the competition?

Guruswamy Ganesh: We are the largest providers of non-volatile storage. We have HDD as well as Flash. There’s only one other competitor that provides HDD, but they don’t have Flash. This puts us in a unique position. Any company that is building a data infrastructure needs both forms of storage. We help them structure how they can store their warm data, cold data and hot data. We believe cloud will continue to be one of the biggest areas of traction for us.

Online streaming of videos, movies and games has increased in the last few years. How has that affected the external storage market?

Guruswamy Ganesh: Emerging markets like India still require a lot of USB drives and micro SD cards, as they can’t rely on cloud when consuming content on the go. This is why consumer appetite for personal storage is very high. In developed markets, its demand has lessened as people can go anywhere and access content on cloud as Wi-Fi is available everywhere. Personal storage also becomes extremely valuable from a security perspective. Many users do not want to store their personal data on public cloud.

Does WD manufacture products in India? How has increase in import duties on finished gadgets affected WD?

Guruswamy Ganesh: We are not manufacturing any products in India, but many of our products are designed and developed here. The increase in import duty is going to be a global problem. Countries will have to figure out a way to work with each other. As companies, we can only advise and tell them what we should do so it would not put the burden on the consumer. If you go back to the 80s and 90s, the only reason India wouldn’t grow was so much of tax on getting even a laptop or computer. They cut the tax and the IT boom happened. I think governments have to figure this out.

Data scavenging from discarded drives by criminals is a rampant practice. What is WD doing to ensure its products and the data on it stays secure?

Guruswamy Ganesh: Security can’t exist at just one level. It has to be at drive, system and software level. Each level of security adds a layer of protection. When we sell products, we tell customers which products have additional security levels. The choice has to be made by the consumer. Also, cloud companies won’t let drives go out of data centres and will destroy every element before it goes out. Most of the drives in e-waste are personal products.

How will data localization norms impact storage service providers?

Supria Dhanda: Data localization is fuelling the growth of the Indian data centre industry. In the data localization space, we are experts but are a neutral body. From the government side, we can see why or what places it makes sense. Similarly, from a purely technical side, data is useful only when it flows. Stagnant data is of little use to anybody.

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