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Cisco India & SAARC president Daisy Chittilapilly on powering Industry 4.0, hybrid workplaces

Cisco India & SAARC president Daisy Chittilapilly on powering Industry 4.0, hybrid workplaces
Photo Credit: Reuters
24 Aug, 2021

Daisy Chittilapilly, who was recently made the president of Cisco’s operations in India and SAARC, has a lot on her plate.  

With over 25 years in the industry, and having been with Cisco for 17 years, the new Cisco India president is tasked with handling the digital transformation initiatives of companies from key sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, governance and education.     

Chittilapilly takes over at a time where businesses are being reimagined and the fundamentals of how applications are being designed, implemented and optimized have changed. “It is accelerating the modernization of network infrastructure and ramping up the cybersecurity framework,” Chittilapilly told TechCircle.    

In an interview with TechCircle, Chittilapilly dives into the market landscape for Cisco, strategy in terms of cloud, security, and the crucial industry partnerships the technology giant engages with in the region.   

Edited excerpts: 

You take over at a crucial time when the Indian economy is opening up after the second wave of Covid-19. How do you view the market landscape for Cisco here?     

One thing that has become evident in the past 18 months is that going forward, what can be delivered digitally must and will be delivered digitally. The demand for low-touch, digital alternatives in retail, banking, education, healthcare, entertainment, etc., is rising exponentially, which in turn has triggered a rapid transition towards an everything-as-a-service consumption model, where everything is cloud-managed or cloud-delivered.     

At Cisco, we read the signs early last year and started making changes to our business model, transitioning a majority of our portfolio to be delivered as a service. Thanks to our transition to software, Cisco has one of the largest software businesses in the industry today. 

In your last interview with TechCircle, you held a deep tech-based role as the MD of the digital transformation office. Digital transformation has been the talk of the enterprise space for the past few years and accelerated during the pandemic. What learnings from this role as the DT head for three years do you think will help your journey at the helm now?     

In my role at Cisco's digital transformation office for India and SAARC, my team and I focused on developing localized industry-specific digital solutions and establishing route-to-market strategies to drive adoption and enable the best possible outcomes for organizations across sectors.    

This allowed me to witness the true promise of technology – for businesses, our communities, and the economy – in action. At the same time, it gave me an insight into where the biggest gaps lie, especially in sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure, etc., and how far we need to go to address them.    

We've been speaking for many years about India's digital future – I believe this future is already here. However, it's not evenly distributed. Therefore, we're taking our learnings from the crisis and our knowledge of India & SAARC's long-standing challenges to shape how we work, do business, collaborate, and innovate, to promote equal access to technology and all that it can make possible.    

Watch: Cisco’s Vishak Raman on why CIOs, CISOs need to up their cloud security game 

Could you talk about Cisco India's strategy towards its cloud and security solutions?       

As every business becomes a digital business to some extent, we are focusing on helping our customers develop complete cloud strategies across five key areas: Continuity, insights, security, connectivity and operations.    

We're doing this in multiple ways – we have rolled out updates to the Cisco Intersight portfolio— our cloud-based management platform. ThousandEyes, acquired recently, complements our portfolio by providing deeper and broader visibility and analytics across networks and applications. Additionally, we have integrated these SaaS-based capabilities with our AppDynamics application intelligence portfolio. And for end-to-end security, Cisco's Security portfolio is integrated across all critical control points for the network, users and endpoints, cloud edge, and applications. It is now cloud-managed with the best-in-class SecureX platform for Cisco and third-party services.   

These are some of the many solutions we have launched to help businesses connect, secure and automate and deliver seamless digital experiences in today's hybrid cloud world.

With return to workplaces being the new norm, what solutions is Cisco betting on to tap into the hybrid work culture?     

At Cisco, we think about powering hybrid work in two distinct ways: enabling a hybrid workforce and transforming hybrid workspaces. Enabling a hybrid workforce means providing secure access and collaboration from anywhere, anytime. Transforming the hybrid workspace must bring together networking, security, and collaboration tools to enhance health and well-being safety, and efficiencies.   

In these efforts, in addition to ramping up the capacity of our collaboration portfolio, we have introduced more than 400 new features within Webex and a range of new devices to provide uninterrupted, smart experiences whether you're at home or office.    

At the same time, as workforces become more dispersed and operations are automated, security gets increasingly paramount and complex. We are building simple, integrated, end-to-end security solutions delivered on-prem or in the cloud to protect the network, users and endpoints, cloud edge, and applications. This includes SecureX, a cloud-native, built-in platform experience that connects our Cisco Secure portfolio and customers' infrastructure; Cisco Meraki, a cloud-managed IT solution that allows businesses to build a high-density network quickly and easily and can be monitored using a centralized dashboard, among others.  

In October 2020, Cisco said it would consolidate about a dozen partner programmes into a single unit in the next 12-18 months. What is the go-to-market strategy in terms of the various partnerships that Cisco has built? How is the simplified partner programme working in India and SAARC?     

Given the pivotal role partners play for Cisco, we have been investing in managed services and the customer lifecycle jointly with our partners, as they know customers best. Through Cisco's new, simplified partner programme, partners have more flexibility and choice to differentiate across the various aspects of their business from reselling to managed services to developer and adviser practices with Cisco. The changes we're making are allowing our partners to be more agile, relevant and profitable.    

Now, we are building on these transitions to help our partners meet customers where they are in an increasingly cloud-first world. We recently introduced the Cisco Plus as-a-service solutions, aiding partners that have already built their as-a-service practices to scale through Cisco platforms and offer greater innovation while supporting those in the nascent stages to accelerate their journey towards the as-a-service model.  

What are the expectations from SAARC and India for Cisco as we move forward?     

Today, as India and SAARC looks at digitization to fuel sustainable and inclusive growth for all, the world, in turn, is looking at India & SAARC to lead the most critical transitions as the digital economy gains traction. In this scenario, for Cisco, we expect to see growth in the region, especially around accelerating Industry 4.0, workplace transformation, infrastructure modernization – digital and physical, 5G, cybersecurity and digitizing small businesses.   

To address and capture these opportunities, we are rebalancing our R&D investments to focus on critical areas like cloud security and collaboration, key enhancements for education, healthcare, etc.; increased automation in the enterprise; the future of work, application insights, and analytics. We also continue to focus on areas like multi-cloud, 5G & Wi-Fi 6, 400-gig, optical networking, next-generation silicon, AI, etc. Overall, India is on track to be one of the top markets for Cisco globally, and Cisco remains well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.