microsoft cloud1.jpg Microsoft To Support Cloud Computing Startups in IndiaMicrosoft’s Chief Operating Office Kevin Turner said today that the world’s largest software company will provide financial support to four cloud-computing startups in India. The support will be in the form of grants and will amount to about $100,000 in total, Turner said in Mumbai today.

Microsoft and Adobe Systems Inc. are among companies that will gain from a U.S. government shift of as much as $20 billion in e-mail, website management and claims processing systems based on cloud computing. Microsoft is betting businesses will increase spending on computing services and applications accessed through the Internet instead of through individual servers and plans to spend 90 percent of its $9.6 billion research and development budget on cloud strategy this year.

In an interview on rediff, Sanket Akerkar, Microsoft’s Managing Director in India,  explains how much the company’s cloud strategy has helped in making further inroads in India.

What is new in your cloud strategy? You were always offering cloud-based services to the consumers?

Microsoft sees cloud as the next wave to deliver value for any customer and thus has taken a huge bet on it. From a consumer cloud perspective, we have been in the business for almost 15 years – be it hotmail, Xbox or messenger. We have many consumer services, which are provided on cloud for consumers in India and elsewhere. On the commercial side, more businesses are getting interested in leveraging the “cloud” for their benefits.We have been investing in the commercial cloud business for the last 5-6 years.

There are concerns about security in case of data hosting. Will it not obstruct the adoption of your cloud platform among commercial establishments?

In India’s context, customers see value in it, thus driving its adoption. We have seen success in the past one year since we started offering software as a service and platform as a service. We have over 1,000 customers at our online services called business priority online services. We have over 8,000 applications, which are built on our platform as a service. There are some challenges that customers see, and security definitely is one of those.

But are you not late in offering applications like CRM on the cloud?

Yes. There were providers who made CRM platform online before we did. In many cases, some of those companies did not even exist when we offered consumer cloud 10-15 years ago.  If you think about some of the other products in the offering in the commercial side starting from e-mail, collaboration and web conferencing, all have been offered by us for many years now.

Do you have any Indian customers who are using cloud platform?

We don’t go after the big customers in India for our collaboration (software as a service) platform. But we are seeing significant adoption in industries such as banking and financial services, manufacturing and IT/ITeS. Typically, when we launch any new services, we see huge uptake in the beginning as the service is coming from Microsoft.

Microsoft in India is seen as an enterprise-focused company. With cloud, is there going to be a strategy change?

We have been a company that is relevant to both consumers as well as enterprises. And I do think that there are many benefits that the cloud brings to small businesses. Because of their size, SMEs may not have many people for managing their IT. We provide that as a service much more efficiently in a hassle free manner. Almost anyone can go to our website and order our services.On the enterprise side, we have been providing enterprise-class software solutions from many years. We have now taken those products, and put those on the cloud. This helps smaller companies to enjoy the same benefits of an enterprise-class software at an affordable price.

Only 3.5 per cent of the total capital investment in India goes to IT. In such a scenario, where do you see the growth coming in?

India has the second-largest number of developers in the world. The good news is that both the government and the private sector in the country are now realizing the role played by IT in supporting the economy. We do see that we are at the cusp of a significant improvement in the usage of technology in India, for India.

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