The Microsoft Future Decoded India event being hosted in Mumbai today saw industry professionals, businesses and personnel from the Indian Government discuss the state of digital transformation in the country. Apart from a couple announcements made by Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft and Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, the event focused on the various projects and products that the company is using to help individuals and businesses move forward in their digital transformation journey.
Maheshwari pointed out that digital transformation has four core agendas according to the company, namely; customer engagement, employee empowerment to do more with data and digital tools, transforming operations and value chains, and reimagining products and offerings (citing an example of connected cars).
He said when it comes to modernization, India is dealing with two major themes from the Government’s side; Make in India and Digital India Initiative. “According to me we all have the power to make digital India. At the simplest level for Microsoft it could mean pulling all technological assets in the country – Microsoft research and development center to develop platforms, products, offerings that are designed for India,” added Maheswari.
Birth of India Stack
The company stated that in India, Microsoft’s transformational journey started 17 months ago when it invested in Azure Cloud. It wanted to bring a global cloud infrastructure to India, which was trusted and spoke to the real world need as it brought distributed needs in a hybrid fashion to shape the digital transformation happening in the country.
“Digital Transformation is focusing on businesses, governments and people. There is no walk of life or the sector of business that is not fundamentally driven by technology,” said Nadella.
“Everybody’s business is technology – and that is most exciting for us. What is perhaps interesting in the context of India is to be able to use digital technology to go from being digitally poor, to digitally rich, in all parts of our economy and society.”
He said that it was interesting to see the birth of the India stack. “The fact that the country now has, over a billion people that can be identified in real time, which has completely changed how people think about innovation. In a cashless and paperless world, people now can walk into a store and transact without cash. Which goes unrecognized but is inherently using the cloud,”
Can SMBs change the Indian economy?
Nadella explained that the fundamental change that cloud has bought about can be seen in the small and medium business sector. He said that the productivity, collaboration and communication tools that in the past were only privy to largest of businesses are now available to every SMB at a fraction of the cost. “You don’t need IT sophistication or the capital expenditure, you can use the what the largest of enterprises of the world are using. And that is how Microsoft’s Office 365 is making a difference,” he added.
Sea change in automotive and banking sectors
Microsoft’s CEO highlighted that the real change that he has seen when it comes to digital transformation is in the automotive and banking sectors. He believes that going forward there will be more processing power in a car than a computer, there is going to be more AI to be built in the Edge so that the self-driving cars can make predictions and he has seen more automobile manufacturers join this consortium of automotive transformation.
“We have seen an amazing set of companies that have come to work with us around the cloud – Toyota, Ford, BMW and Tata Motors. To see the change that is happening with Tata is great, as they build the ability to collect the data, rendezvous with the cloud, do predictions on top of it to reshape the maintenance, the warranty and most importantly the driver passenger experience. To me the auto industry perhaps is at the forefront of changing the business model where the growth margin moves from the thing, to the services that every auto maker is going to build in to what they build,” he added.
Continuing on that thought of digital transformation the other industry that Nadella mentioned is the financial sector. He states that financial services have always been driven by data but the ability especially in India with the context of the India stack have been phenomenal.
“Banks are being able to use that most important resource that they have, which is data, to be able to create more inclusion in banking, but most importantly being able to take credit decisions using data, so that there are more people who benefit from it.”
Skype Lite – Made for India
Nadella said that the India stack has made it possible for India to manage and control its own identity (in reference to Adhaar). Throwing an example of the conversation he had with Nandan Nilekani, Former Chairman of UIDAI, he stated “The ultimate dream is to empower every Indian citizen with their own data, so that everyone can be data rich. That journey cannot begin if the identity system of the services that you use is not controlled and not in the service of the Indian citizen. Adhaar gives Indians that opportunity and it also makes it Microsoft’s responsibility to support the India stack and support its services.”
The company, announced Skype Lite, which has been specially developed for the country. Microsoft claims that it can work on low bandwidth speeds, supports 9 different indigenous languages, has bot support and also has Adhaar identity built in. the company also stated that the Skype Lite will take about 13MB space on mobile devices and will integrate all communications in one app – messaging, sharing, calling and address queries and tasks with bots.
“With Skype we will support Adhaar identity, which means that you can take any of the services, whether its b2b or g2c services all of them can be managed using Adhaar technology. Instead of something that you integrate with, its going to be the fundamental system of the messaging client that is going to be available for every Indian citizen.”
Linkedin for India and Sangam
“Linkedin team in India is creating products that are India centric and customized to Indian needs. We are announcing LinkedIn Lite, a flagship app for phones that can work on 2G networks and can be accessed by everyone,” said Nadella.
The LinkedIn Lite will also feature LikedIn Lite for business, a starter pack to see hiring, talent management, marketing and sales for B2B; and LinkedIn Placements which according to the company is a more democratized way for college graduates to find jobs. According to the company, LinkedIn Placement will help college graduates project themselves and their talents and not only the brand or college they are associated with.
From the context of skills and jobs, Nadella explained that the most pressing need of digital transformation is that it cannot only focus on the urban population in metros but take that innovation to rural communities.
Post the LinkedIn acquisition last year, Microsoft’s CEO stated that both the platforms have come together for the first time in India to announce Project Sangam. The project integrates Microsoft’s cloud service with LinkedIn to tackle challenges of unemployment in the country. The project claims that it will give every person in the country the opportunity to skill themselves for available jobs, eventually countering the problems that low and middle skill workers face by up-skilling them and ultimately finding jobs.
Kaizala productivity app
The event also showcased Microsoft’s hybrid cloud being adopted by the public sector at a large scale, especially by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. As the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh also reiterated, Microsoft developed Kaizala, a mobile productivity chat app, that help bring all the departments of the state government under one umbrella. This application helps the different departments communicate, coordinate, manage and monitor all its activities and assignments in a central view.
According to the company, the app in its preview state is creating a data asset. The app was formed due to an insight about how digital transformation was being used to benefit various walks of life. It is not only being used by the AP government but also being tested by the Uttar Pradesh government for the upcoming elections, the Niti Ayog was using it for its operations, a few financial institutions and a few FMCG companies are also testing it out.