‘Digital transformation starts in the mind...’

"Most of the CIOs are already talking about it and fast-tracking their cloud adoption," says Rajan Rahi, Sr. Vice President, HCL

Juan Carlos Combariza, Director of Business Strategy WW CA-Offers & Marketing and Rajan Rahi, Sr. Vice President, HCL in conversation with Sachin Nandkishor Mhashilkar, CIO&Leader on the sidelines of Unleash the Power of Cloud Conference recently held at Gurgaon


What’s your take on the Indian market?

Juan: The market opportunity in India is absolutely amazing. Based on the available information, in the last 3 years, the venture capital investment in India has been over USD22 billion. This is a huge number that we are talking about. What is fascinating is that there is a huge potential of this economy to attract investments coming from other countries. The other thing that’s interesting, is that by 2020, the Indian consumption of cloud services is going to reach USD20 billion or in other words, it will be 20 times greater than what it is today. From every single perspective, I see this market as dynamic, enthusiastic, eager to take risk, and that is a really huge opportunity.


Rajan: The most important thing that we are witnessing in the customer sector is that cloud is already here. Most of the CIOs are already talking about it and fast-tracking their cloud adoption. The  traditional economy companies and new economy companies, both in terms of their technology adoption and conversations that they are having, don’t come from a large legacy background. What happened in the telecom sector is now happening in IT. Most of the companies have undergone a huge IT adoption in the last 10-15 years. And therefore, they don’t have a huge legacy background in order to migrate to new systems. The conversations are happening in both – traditional and new economy companies. Both of them are eager to adopt new technologies. On top of it, as we get integrated to a global economy, they feel the need to be there. We are no longer a closed economy. Because of competitive pressures, most of them within India and outside want to adopt technology faster. A lot of conversation is also happening on all new technology fronts and cloud is clearly moving to an adoption stage. 


What are some of the disrupting technologies in India?

Juan: First, let me tell you why I am seeing so much disruption, especially from outside India. India has the perfect combination and the ingredients for the recipe of disruption. Firstly, you have huge brain power that is, over 120 million developers in the country, who are well-educated, enthusiastic, and full of passion. Indian people try and don’t fear failure. You try and learn. That is the real entrepreneurial spirit. After talking to several individuals in various meetings, I found that most of them have been entrepreneurs at least once or twice in their lives. There is an entrepreneurial spirit that is driving this disruption. And it is because of that  you are now willing to try and test new things and you are able to find ways to disrupt the business model. It is actually a competitive advantage that we see in India. There is an absolute mix of passion and intelligence among Indians.


Rajan: If you see HCL’s journey since 1976, it was all entrepreneurship. In the early days, there were no computers in India and we decided to build the early ones in partnership with Microsoft. The first partnership of Microsoft in India was with HCL. It is more than 3 decades since we have been working together now. In the 70s, 80s and 90s if you were an entrepreneur, you were one among 1000 people. That has changed now. The failure is accepted as a part of our lives unlike 10 years ago. Earlier, failure meant failure but today, it is considered to be a part of the learning curve. I’m also seeing some interesting facets. For instance, lots of customers today are now talking about how can HCL and Microsoft partner in bringing IoT as a solution. I’m not sure if the worldwide adoption of IoT has started happening but the good news is that Indian customers have started talking about it. So by nature, I agree, that they feel that, “my bridge to success is to disrupt the business model. I can’t go by the traditional way and disrupt the market and so I must try new technologies.” The thought process and intellect along with the discussion is already happening. They are no longer bonded by the fact that they have to go from Step 1 to Step 2 anymore.  


What’s the roadmap of HCL and Microsoft partnership?

Rajan: We have two businesses, HCL Technologies and HCL Infosystems. Internationally, we partner with Microsoft in a big way. We are one of the preferred partners and vendors for Microsoft and do lot of work together. In India, we have been there since the start of the PC, enterprise IT adoption and now a number of disruptive technologies. In the last one year, we have upped out investments in cloud, IoT, and analytics significantly. We have increased our investments in terms of our partnerships, reach to customers, number of accounts that we are covering, and the number of conversations that we are building up. Although there could be possibility of working with multiple platforms on new technologies, but we have decided, at this point of time, to partner with Microsoft. When we are in front of a customer, he/she recognizes that we are a natural conversation holder. We understand the physical infrastructure for the last 30 years. The customer currently has a physical infrastructure and he/she wants to go virtual. So he/she needs a partner who understands both. So we carry that understanding and a large part of our existing relationship with Microsoft and consider ourselves a strong partner to building this conversation in the customer space.

I believe both of us have the entrepreneurial DNA in our organizations. We’ve seen Microsoft transforming in the last couple of years from where Microsoft was to where it is. We are doing the transformation from being a pure infrastructure on-premise player to building new technologies. So HCL and Microsoft are transforming at the same time and we are both seeing a natural relationship of taking this conversation forward in the customer space.  


Juan: We, in our partnership with HCL, are investing, re-investing, doing digital marketing activities that are going to generate new business opportunities for both, and drive more revenue for growth. By the way, when we talk about digital transformation, and  it applies to our partners and, to Microsoft. We are definitely committed to keep growing jointly with our partners in India.


What according to you are some of the technology trends for 2017?


It’s all about digital transformation. It starts in the mind, the attitude to be better, to learn and to disrupt. Microsoft is investing in three big areas of innovation. These are the areas where we are building and creating intelligent cloud platform and is one of our biggest investments. Clearly, data is the new business currency and we need to master the process of getting insights on the information that are going to help us take better decisions. The other area that we are investing is in the area of PCs. We are seeing that every day there are small-screen devices and large-screen devices and innovative devices like hollow-lens, with virtual reality on top of actual reality, and sensors. This is driving us towards a much more personalized relationship with available computing power. We, as users, are going to adjust our preferences, needs and desires. The third area of innovation is the need to re-invent productivity and business processes. Everything that we do is around a specific area. Therefore, we need to regain and reclaim the time in order to use the time for the things that matter to us. This is so because we are more productive and should be able to release time for doing these things. Everything that we are observing with machine learning and artificial intelligence, there are things that are really going to help us achieve this type of vision that we see in the mobile-first and cloud-first world.

Cloud is the enabler for all these trends. There is no other option. Everything that is IoT goes though the cloud. Machine learning with all these big datacenters with huge computational power is in the cloud.


Rajan: Productivity is one of the facets most of the organizations are looking at. As they run more for revenue and market share, they need to make sure how they are using productivity tools in partnership with Microsoft. We are seeing various organizations that are bringing IoT in healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, etc. Further, organizations have started focusing on Big Data and Analytics because one of the biggest success factors that they see is how easily they can access the customer data which will help them refine their strategy and stay ahead of the competition. It is a technology-cum-business conversation that is happening. A partner who understands the business also understands the technology. These  2-3 things are clearly on the agenda of the organization. Cloud, according to me, is on top of the agenda, and the workloads are already shifting to cloud.

Most of the time what I see is that if you are having a core application conversation, the customer is migrating on refreshing this core infrastructure. And there is a conversation about whether it should be physical or virtual. That conversation is already happening.


What tips would you like to give CIOs on align business priorities in their cloud journey?

Rajan: We advise CIOs to choose the right partner. Choosing the right partner, which could mean a platform-level Microsoft and implementation-level HCL, is a critical recipe for success. People, who have not looked at this as a decision point and have done it in haste, are those who are in trouble. They have moved on and are now rethinking whether they should move the next workload, etc. or not. People who have diligently decided to take a partnership approach in doing it over a period of time and need someone who understands this technology of going from physical to virtual, are those who have been successful in implementation.


Juan: It’s about the state of mind. We need to be willing to learn. Digital transformation starts in the mind. It is an attitude, a shift in the paradigm, and that’s the foundation piece. This helps in identifying early the next business model and the next revenue source for my organization. 

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