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‘Cloud-led data and AI is at the centre of driving innovation at scale’

‘Cloud-led data and AI is at the centre of driving innovation at scale’
30 Sep, 2021

India is a strategic market for Microsoft Corp. with one of the largest consolidated hubs and engineering development centres. With three data centre regions in India, it is currently focussed on building the next level of cloud infrastructure required for a digital India.

In an interview, Anant Maheshwari, president of Microsoft India, talks about the importance of the India market, the opportunities therein, technologies like AI and cloud, and the security landscape. Edited excerpts:

What is the strategic importance of India in Microsoft's global agenda? 

India is a strategic market for Microsoft with one of the largest consolidated hubs and engineering development centres. In the last seven years, we transformed our business and culture to empower organizations and individuals across India to achieve more. Today, every company is a tech company and every company will need to adopt the latest technology and build their own digital capabilities on a foundation of trust.

We call this ‘tech intensity’. Microsoft cloud's end-to-end portfolio of solution areas across infrastructure, data and AI, digital apps, modern work tools, business applications and security are empowering organizations in India to build their own unique tech capability. From government and public sector to SMBs, startups, large enterprises to non-profits, Microsoft cloud is helping every organization innovate, scale, grow, and re-imagine their business.

Our engineering and product teams are co-innovating with our customers and partners to create new capabilities for India’s unique marketplace. We have three data centre regions in India and are building the next level of cloud infrastructure required for a digitally empowered India. We work closely with organizations in every industry to deliver solutions tailored to their specific needs. Microsoft now has six industry specific cloud offerings that deliver differentiated value by industry – Cloud for financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, non-profit, and sustainability.  

What are the new business opportunities Microsoft sees in India post the pandemic?    

I see two megatrends that the pandemic has step-changed, that will be at the core of driving innovation and building long term resilience. First, is how data and AI has become integral to all of our lives and second, is the fundamental need for trusted tech and security. Cloud-led data and AI is at the centre of driving innovation at scale. The ability to turn data into predictive and analytical power will be a core competitive advantage for organizations. Key sectors are leveraging the power of data and AI for societal and economic benefits.

Example, in e-commerce, Myntra scaled up to meet demand spikes during the pandemic and used Azure Machine Learning to understand customer needs better. We have a huge opportunity to position India as a global hub for data and AI. Second, is a focus on trusted tech and security. Organizations need trusted tech by-design that is built for privacy, security, compliance, reliability, AI ethics and safety. It's important to remember that people will only use technology that they trust. Trust is non-negotiable and each one of us is accountable for creating a responsible, trusted and ethical tech ecosystem.

How does Microsoft compete with other public cloud providers like AWS and Google Cloud to get a share of the government's digital projects?  

The public sector in India is rapidly modernizing its tech architecture using cloud, data, and AI to transform governance and build billion-scale public platforms for citizens. We are working closely at both the national and state levels to help public sector organizations achieve transformational economic and societal impact with the cloud.

Through the pandemic, we partnered with governments and local health authorities for running citizen safety and services. For example, the government of India’s Saathi app and the government of Punjab’s COVA app are powered by Azure AI. To drive innovation in BFSI and transform public finance management, we partnered with the Arun Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management (AJNIFM) to build an AI and emerging technologies centre of excellence.
Across critical sectors like healthcare, oil and gas, energy, education, citizen services, and e-governance, public sector organizations are using Microsoft cloud.
Another key area where we are engaged in is skilling and capacity building of public sector officials. Upskilling government officials in next generation technologies like cloud computing, AI and cybersecurity will be critical for the digital transformation of the public sector. We are closely involved in that effort.

How do you perceive the threat landscape in India as it undergoes digital transformation? How is Microsoft geared to address this? 

The threat landscape has never been more complex or challenging, and security has never been more critical. Cyberattacks are increasing in size, scope and sophistication. Microsoft's security offerings uniquely provide capabilities to address the end-to-end needs of an organization. Today, globally we are more than a $10 billion security business with more than 40% year-on-year growth. Security is built in by-design into all our products and services, enabling organizations to adopt a Zero Trust architecture. To give a sense of our deep focus around security, Microsoft invests more than $1 billion in cybersecurity every year and we analyze over 8.2 trillion signals each day for potential malicious activity. Trusted and secure tech is at the core of accelerating tech innovation in the country, and we are deeply invested in building a trusted tech ecosystem. That’s why at Microsoft, we believe in responsible tech, in asking the tough questions like ‘not what tech can do, but what it should do’.