New Delhi: With Oracle and Microsoft announcing a new cloud alliance this month, and Amazon Web Services continuing to be a formidable competitor, the road ahead for Google in India’s cloud market is not smooth. However, the company claims it is seeing tremendous growth in the country.

In an interview, Rick Harshman, managing director (Asia-Pacific) at Google Cloud, shared his thoughts on the future of the cloud space in India. He also spoke about how the need for data localization affects the market, how the market has matured over time and more. Edited excerpts:

How big is the cloud market in India?

Nasscom believes India’s cloud spends will cross $7 billion by 2022 and (market research firm) IDC is saying 55% of the top 500 organizations in India will have a multi-cloud (working with multiple cloud vendors) management strategy by 2023. This is important because one of the main drivers that I see, based on feedback from CEOs and CIOs in India, is that there’s a high need for multi-cloud and that they (companies) aren’t going to put their eggs in one basket with just one provider.

How mature is the Indian cloud market?

The Indian market is extremely mature. It’s gone from a market of “maybe we’ll go to the cloud" to “not if, but when and how we go to the cloud". The way Google thinks about it is, there’s an ability for organizations to leapfrog their competition.

What role do hybrid clouds play in India?

It’s significant—90% of workloads are still on the premises (of companies), so there’s a tremendous amount of existing infrastructure that companies will have to continue to run, whether it is to have them depreciate and reach end of life, or for regulatory needs, etc.

Large organizations in India will have thousands of applications, and technologies like Google’s Anthos allows you to determine what should run on the premises and what should run on the cloud.

So, hybrid and multi-cloud is going to continue to be how organizations think about things.

How is the fast-growing startup ecosystem affecting the overall cloud adoption rates in India?

Digital natives and startups have always been on the forefront of technological innovation and absolutely on cloud adoption. We’re very proud of the relationships we’ve been able to build with some of the best-known startups in the country, like Hike, Quikr, ShareChat and others.

They will continue to be at the forefront of adoption, and the interesting part about those companies is that they have natively started on the cloud. That’s because they don’t have any legacy or overhead, and can get to market faster.

How is the need for data localization affecting the cloud business?

That’s a good question. What it does is, it makes organizations think about where and how to deploy workloads. You have to be able to have the flexible tools and infrastructure to make the best decision. Data localization is part of that strategy of how they have to think about it.

With the impending move to 5G, what impact do you think cloud and edge computing will have here?

You’re already starting to see it (the impact). Depending on the report you read, the number of smartphones in the market is actually more than the overall population of the country. That leads to an absolute explosion of data, gives you the ability to have more personalized services from a B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) perspective, leads to more need for analytic tools and more machine learning models, etc. And, with 5G, you could do very interesting things. Edge computing has tremendous number of use cases in smart cities, shipping and logistics, etc., because of 5G.

How is Google Cloud’s business growing in India?

We’ve seen absolutely tremendous growth. In the last year, we’ve seen Star, Network18, BookMyShow, Hotstar, ABP, Zee and more (companies) starting to use Google Cloud. In the engineering and manufacturing sector, there’s Tata Steel, JSW, Britannia, Voltas, Usha Martin, etc.

If I were to look 24-36 months down the line in India, I anticipate that one, organizations are going to go through digital transformation journeys underpinned by cloud and, second, all companies will have multi-cloud strategies. They’re not going to work with one provider.

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