Bengaluru: Networking major Cisco has enabled all its employees to work from home and has seen a significant rise in demand for its collaboration tool Webex since the outbreak of covid-19. In an interview, Sameer Garde, president, Cisco India & SAARC, spoke about how the company is well positioned to manage the work from home transition, the uptick in demand for Webex, and the rise of the subscription model. Edited excerpts:
As Cisco is known to have a flexible work culture, was it very different to transition to complete work from home (WFH) during the lockdown?
Cisco has a well-established process to coordinate our efforts during an event like covid-19. Our top priority is to keep our employees safe and productive, so we implemented a global WFH policy for all employees on March 17, including 11,000 Cisco India employees, as well as several thousand partner and vendor employees in India. Fortunately, Cisco is uniquely positioned to manage this transition. Remote working is not new to Cisco. We were among the early adopters of flexible timings and provided the work-from-anywhere option to over 80% of our workforce before the crisis. We, therefore, had the backend infrastructure to switch to a new working style quickly, securely, and seamlessly…We are committed to ensuring business continuity from home until it is necessary.
What are some of the key customer concerns and challenges amid the covid-19 crisis?
The current crisis is entirely different from any other the world has ever seen – in scale, nature, and impact. Therefore, many companies had to remodel their business continuity plans to accommodate the radical measures that this pandemic has necessitated. In some cases, our customers had to come up with strategies to keep their employees safe, both physically and digitally, as well as productive – overnight. In times like these, experience and knowledge on how to enable this transition is your biggest advantage. Cisco made its products, policies, plans, and processes on remote business continuity available to everyone and gave our customers access to several best practices we employ ourselves. This has helped several large IT and enabled services, financial services, and public sector companies in India to move their workforce to remote, overnight. In April, we engaged with over 600 customers to help them with business continuity plans in India; during the same time, we have enabled over 250,000 knowledge workers in India to WFH securely.
According to your last earnings, 72% of your software is now sold as subscription. Has covid-19 increased demand for the subscription model?
I can say that software and services play a central role in Cisco's ongoing transformation. The momentum that we have seen in this transition towards subscription-based recurring revenue offers in India is equivalent to, if not ahead of, the global average. As the home becomes the base camp for all activity, we expect demand for cloud-delivered subscription software, especially in collaboration, software, analytics, automation, and management, to pick up.
Has the demand for your collaboration tool Webex gone up with everyone resorting to WFH?
Traffic on Webex has increased several times since the outbreak began. In March, we registered over 14.3 billion minutes of Webex usage globally; this increased to 24 billion minutes in April. In India, we had 6.3 million meetings in March; that number went up to over 10 million in April.
We had over 50 million Webex attendees in India in April compared to 20 million in March. And it’s not just for businesses. Even government leaders are using our solutions to connect and interact with each other. In India, we have enabled over 200 government entities and healthcare organisations which are in the front line managing this crisis. In Karnataka, over 25,000 health workers were trained on covid-19 response using Cisco Webex. Many are using our solutions to learn music and prepare for exams. Over 5,000 hours of lectures were conducted in the top 40 institutes in India using Cisco technologies. Several high courts and district courts have started using Cisco Webex over the last few weeks.
How do you see the rollout and adoption of 5G in India in the current circumstances?
The uncertainty created by covid-19 could push back the upcoming spectrum auctions, which could further ripple into a delay in the mass rollout of 5G as well. However, there is no doubt that the current situation has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, creating new possibilities, and introducing new ideas. In this emerging era, as people increasingly switch to digital platforms to work, play, learn, shop, transact, connect and more, high-speed broadband and 5G will become essential to our lives, much like electricity.