‘India can become data capital of the world’


BENGALURU : As President of Microsoft India, Anant Maheshwari is responsible for the company’s overall business in the country. He is also vice-chairperson of industry body Nasscom. In an interview, he shares his thoughts on tech layoffs, emerging technologies like AI and the metaverse, and digital transformation trends. Edited excerpts: 


How is Microsoft’s business progressing in India?

Five years back, I would say we were largely a legacy tech company and trying to figure out how to get better on the cloud–not just Microsoft in India but globally too. That is what Satya (Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp.) got us onto as a journey. 

I joined Microsoft from outside of the industry (in August 2016), so the cloud and the software side of it was still new to me. I asked myself that if you want to be big on the cloud, why are we not working with digital natives? It worked, and the last five years have been phenomenal. Our traditional partnership and strength with all the IT services companies in India, too, has continued to prosper. 

We also continue to do a bunch of work with the government and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the country. 

But how is your approach different from any of the other cloud vendors?

Our ability to bring an end-to-end solution to them is what distinguishes us. We don’t just show up to say hey, listen, let me take your computing infrastructure from your premise and take it to the cloud. 

We ask questions such as: What can I do with and make your own data powerful for you? How can I convert that data into AI? How do we create that hybrid work capability for you? How can we put your business applications onto the cloud and support the innovation you’re driving with apps? The result is that with IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), PAAS (platform-as-a-service), and SaaS (software-as-a-service) as part of a public cloud, we are the number one player. 

You maintain that India has the potential to become the data capital of the planet. Please elaborate.

Look at the data that exists, and the data that will get created. We will soon be the most populous nation on the planet, and if a billion of those people have devices with them that are generating data every moment, you have a natural advantage of creating data. So, billion people doing that can do a much better job than 200 million people in any other country. And if all of them are on digital platforms, combined with our regulation and tech environment to do work here, it is a natural outcome that we can become the data capital of the planet. 

But if digital is working for companies, why are tech companies retrenching so many people, and Microsoft is no exception?

It’s definitely a business cycle. There were a lot of moves made in the last two years and people are now taking a pause and working through it. 

It’s also affected by all the macroeconomic impacts like the war, money supply, and all of that. Microsoft is not immune to that. 

However, our business model is such that it is configured to get more done with less. We are a primarily a B2B (business-to-business) commercial business and have $100 billion of cloud revenue. I think we have a better opportunity to support all the work to be done in this cycle than many other players who may be purely depending on advertising (since Microsoft also has LinkedIn advertising). 

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