Microsoft’s Anant Maheshwari on cloud for India SMBs

Microsoft India head Anant Maheshwari
As over 50 million Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) in India look to move to a secure Cloud, Microsoft — with its end-to-end offerings with New-Age capabilities — is set to help them evolve and adopt an “intelligent” Cloud, says Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari.

Maheshwari, who believes that almost every company will eventually become a software one at some point of time with the fourth industrial revolution, an “intelligent” Cloud will chart their digital journey.

There are large enterprises that will have a dedicated infrastructure, teams and resources for Cloud adoption.

“And then, there is a large number of SMBs and in India, these SMBs could even tend to include many of our listed companies on our stock exchanges. A study summarises that it is upwards of 50 million. I am not going to debate that number. Whether it is 45 or 55 million, I don’t think the strategies will change in terms of what you do to move on to Cloud,” Maheshwari said during a free-wheeling chat at Microsoft’s office in Gurgoan, Delhi-NCR.

Microsoft globally, including in India, has been uniquely positioned and has done a lot of work over the last 40 years to build a massive partner eco-system that is serving SMBs.

“Microsoft has 64,000 Cloud partners globally and, just as a matter of perspective, that is more than the total number of partners the next three companies combined have. So that is the kind of strength that Microsoft has in terms of just partner collaboration,” Maheshwari said.

“In India, we have 9,000 partners and through them, we get to more than 250 cities,” he added.

According to a recent ASSOCHAM-Deloitte joint study, adoption of advanced business digital technologies can lead to increase in revenues by up to 27 per cent, increase in employment by up to 84 per cent, and enhanced access to international markets by up to 65 percent for SMBs in India.

A big believer in entrepreneurship that exists in India, Maheshwari said with that kind of entrepreneurship partnering with 9,000 different companies is a huge asset that Microsoft has built over four decades in the country.

“You can’t do this overnight. This has to happen very consistently because these are the people who are making entrepreneurial calls, they are very good at choosing who their partner is and they have chosen Microsoft to be a partner for their own good and their own business,” Maheshwari said.

To make the SMBs’ digital journey easier, Microsoft on Thursday flagged off “Future Decoded on Wheels” from Delhi — a coach that will traverse 25 cities and 80 key clusters and help the SMBs get in-depth knowledge of latest solutions, New-Age devices and access to business experts.

“We are targeting 25 cities where we will go and provide real-time experience to the SMBs. I am sure we will touch a single digit percentage of those SMBs over the 13,000 kms that we will cover,” Maheshwari informed, adding that this, in turn, will create opportunities for partners and customers.

According to the apex IT industry body Nasscom, India’s growing SMB segment is set to spend big to upgrade their digital infrastructure in the next few years.

“The Cloud capability is opening up new revenue opportunities for the SMBs. Think about it in many ways: The access the SMBs can have with these offerings which multiply in terms of what they can do and the kind of services they can provide,” stated the Microsoft India head.

Finally, the overall operations and efficiencies for these SMBs would change for better.

For Maheshwari, Microsoft Cloud services are helping the SMBs in three broad ways.

“Firstly, we are all moving to a modern workplace. India is a mobile-first, and in many cases, mobile-only country, especially for the growing SMB community. They are in a hurry to get the work done no matter where they are. That means a modern workplace with the combination of security and mobility,” Maheshwari stated.

Towards a modern workplace, Microsoft has brought together Office 365, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility and Security — all packaged into a single offering.

“Now that I got my modern workplace going, I want to build business apps. I want my entire vendor ecosystem channelled so I have end-to-end capability for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and I also want it to link to my modern workplace,” Maheshwari said.

Thirdly, the SMBs have to put their data to work. That is where Azure Cloud capability with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) comes in.

“If you just think about Cloud as hosting, it is not an ‘intelligent’ Cloud. When you start making that cloud ‘intelligent’ with AI and ML, that is when you think continuously about new capabilities. That is where Azure is focused,” Maheshwari said.

With a modern workplace, business apps, the AI infrastructure and Cloud coming together, it becomes an end-to-end play for SMBs to become truly software firms of the future.

Next on Maheshwari’s mind is to nurture the partner eco-system and start-ups.

Nishant Arora / IANS

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