Mumbai: With more than 150 chief executives of who's who of India Inc packed in a room, including Reliance Industries' Mukesh Ambani, president Microsoft India Anant Maheswari kicked off the CEO Summit with three words: Lead, Digital, India.
India leads the digital movement with 560 million internet users, 450 million smartphone users and the data loop that this is creating is amongst the fastest. It also creates tremendous opportunity amid diverse challenges for India, said Maheshwari.
Digital does lead India and it is evident from the fact that the country's information technology (IT) industry is growing at $180 billion annually, and is home to the world's third largest startup ecosystem. Microsoft is part of leading the transformation at both ends of the spectrum.
"We are a ecosystem player and the work we are doing in India with more than 3 lakh companies, and 9,000 partners to drive the power of this ecosystem to drive innovation in India is important to us," said Maheshwari.
Earlier in the day, Microsoft launched the 100X100X100 programme for B2B, software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups, reinforcing its commitment to accelerate the startup ecosystem in India. This initiative will bring together 100 committed companies and 100 early and growth startups that have enterprise-ready solutions to offer. Each participating company will commit to spend $100,000 over a course of 18 months on solutions provided by SaaS startups. More than 50 startups were part of the programme at launch.
“India has one of the largest B2B SaaS startup ecosystems in the world, and it's growing exponentially. This initiative will help build scale and create amazing opportunities for startups. Businesses can now fast-track their digital journeys through easy adoption of enterprise-grade solutions. We're excited to see the outcomes of these partnerships," said Maheshwari.
"While the initiative is good in theory, the amount is just enough for start-ups to get their feet wet. Plus finding talent locally is tough," said Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO Greyhound Research. The question to ask is whether Microsoft is also committed to buying out some of these startups if and when they make sense or get decent traction.
Maheshwari added that India has 4.2 million developers in the country, and some 650 million people who are less than 25 years of age. This means that there is today a capability to create an application without knowing software and with people who are digitally native. This will drive digital in India, he added.
He also said that with 70% enterprises using cloud services plus 70% adoption of the adoption of Artificial Intelligence by small and medium businesses has a huge impact on operations.