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BENGALURU : India has been critical to Microsoft Corp.’s strategy. The three engineering development centres in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Noida are building the next level of cloud infrastructure. In an interview, Microsoft India president Anant Maheshwari shares insights on the importance of the Indian market, opportunities and the threat landscape. Edited excerpts:

What is the strategic importance of India to Microsoft?

India is a strategic market for Microsoft with one of the largest consolidated hubs and engineering development centres. In the last seven years, we transformed our business and culture to empower organizations and individuals across India to achieve more.

Today, every company is a tech company and every company will need to adopt the latest technology and build their own digital capabilities on a foundation of trust. We call this ‘tech intensity’. Microsoft cloud’s end-to-end portfolio of solution areas across infrastructure, data and artificial intelligence (AI), digital apps, modern work tools, business applications and security are empowering organizations in India to build their own unique tech capabilities. From the government and the public sector to small and medium businesses, startups, and large enterprises and non-profits, Microsoft cloud is helping every organization to innovate, scale, grow and re-imagine their business.

Our engineering and product teams are co-innovating with our customers and partners to create new capabilities for India’s unique market. We have three data centres in India and are building the next level of cloud infrastructure for a digitally-empowered India. We work closely with organizations in every industry to deliver solutions tailored to their specific needs. Microsoft now has six industry-specific cloud offerings that deliver differentiated value—cloud for financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, non-profit and sustainability.

Are there any new opportunities for Microsoft in a post-covid India?

I see two megatrends that the pandemic has step-changed, which will be at the core of driving innovation and building long-term resilience. One, how data and AI has become integral to our lives and, two, the fundamental need for trusted tech and security. Cloud-led data and AI is at the centre of driving innovation at scale. The ability to turn data into predictive and analytical power will be a core competitive advantage for organizations. Key sectors are leveraging the power of data and AI for societal and economic benefits. For example, in e-commerce, Myntra scaled up to meet demand spikes during the pandemic and used Azure Machine Learning to understand customer needs better. We have a huge opportunity to position India as a global hub for data and AI. Organizations also need trusted tech by design that is built for privacy, security, compliance, reliability, AI ethics and safety. It’s important to remember that people will only use technology that they trust. Trust is non-negotiable and each one of us is accountable for creating a responsible, trusted and ethical tech ecosystem.

How is Microsoft placed with government projects?

The public sector in India is rapidly modernizing its tech architecture using cloud, data and AI to transform governance and build billion-scale public platforms for citizens. We are working closely at both the national and state levels to help public sector organizations achieve transformational economic and societal impact with the cloud. During the pandemic, we partnered with governments and local health authorities to run citizen safety services. For instance, the Centre’s Saathi app and the government of Punjab’s COVA app are powered by Azure AI. To drive innovation in BFSI and transform public finance management, we partnered with the Arun Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management to build an AI and emerging technologies centre of excellence. Across critical sectors such as healthcare, oil and gas, energy, education, citizen services and e-governance, public sector organizations are using Microsoft cloud. The other key area where we are engaged in is skilling and capacity building—upskilling government officials in next-gen tech such as cloud computing, AI and cybersecurity is critical for India’s digital transformation. We are closely involved with that.

How do you perceive the threat landscape in India as it undergoes a digital transformation?

The threat landscape has never been more complex or challenging, and security has never been more critical. Cyberattacks are increasing in size, scope and sophistication. Microsoft’s security offerings uniquely provide capabilities to address the end-to-end needs of an organization.

Today, globally, we are more than a $10-billion security business with more than 40% year-on-year growth. Security is built in by design into all our products and services, enabling organizations to adopt a zero-trust architecture.

To give a sense of our deep focus around security, Microsoft invests over $1 billion in cybersecurity every year and analyses over 8.2 trillion signals every day for potential malicious activities. Trusted and secure tech is at the core of accelerating innovation, and we are deeply invested in building a trusted tech ecosystem.

We believe in responsible tech, and ask tough questions like ‘not what tech can do, but what it should do’.

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