Cisco bets big on digitisation: plans investment in startups and co-development with partners

Amit Phadnis, president, Engineering and India Site Leader, Cisco

With an aim of accelerating local innovation to enable digital transformation of enterprises, Cisco unveiled its strategy for taking advantage of the digitisation wave in the country at the recently organised iExpo 2015 at the India Engineering Centre, Bangalore. The flagship event kick-started with a brief presentation by Amit Phadnis, president, Engineering and India Site Leader as he shared the core values and vision of the company for the Indian market. “From a vision perspective, we want to create a product culture and inculcate a sense of ownership in our engineering team.” said Phadnis.

The company sees a huge opportunity in the field of digitisation and firmly believes in getting a strong hold through co-development, partnerships and investments in startups. Phadnis stated that the company was actively working with startup companies as it believed that partnering with system integrators, co-developers and startups were key to riding the wave of digitisation. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Cisco announced its intention to invest $240 million in the startup space. The investments will be targeted at startups that have a global appeal and specialise in technologies such as cloud computing, mobile technologies and Internet of things (IoT).

Giving a brief insight about the investment, Phadnis said, “We are not just investing in startups with returns in mind, but we are looking to partner with startups, that build products which can be used by Cisco. We have invested $240 million so far from a fund perspective in the country. We have not yet exhausted the entire investments yet but are focusing on 25 startup companies in the country at this point in time. The rest of the fund is available for us to invest further in new innovations.”

The focus of Phadnis’ presentation revolved around digitisation and how it was transforming businesses across the world. Phadnis also spoke in brief about co-development, which Cisco is experimenting for about 18 months now. “Our partnership with Philips is a good example of the co-development model. We bring significant amount of technology with respect to the network in the lighting space.” Recently, Cisco announced a global strategic alliance with Philips to create new value in energy savings, building efficiency and employee productivity, made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT) in modern offices. This alliance brings together Philips’ LED based connected lighting system and Cisco’s IT network to address a global office market estimated to be worth EUR one billion. Details were also shared about the company’s increased investment by $20 million from last year in the network academies which was very significant investment from the skill India perspective.

Pipeline of Innovation

Today, India is at the center of Cisco’s global plans. For example, Cisco has 27 principal engineers who are true global leaders with 25 – 30 years of industry experience. These engineers have created some significant product lines for Cisco. From a scale perspective, Cisco has around 11,000 engineers. During its 20 years in the country, Cisco India has contributed to filing 1000 global patents and 600 such patents have been issued for innovations across all major technologies. Some examples of innovation were revealed when Cisco unveiled three products, (1) Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS) 1000 Series; (2) Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS) 5000 Series and (3) 5520 and 8540 Series Wireless LAN Controllers, at the event.

The three products, showcased at the event, continue Cisco’s tradition of ‘reverse innovation’ where engineers in India contribute to developing products, to address requirements of emerging countries like India, which in many cases turn out to be globally attractive and competitive. Such efforts are tightly aligned with Cisco’s global strategy, research and development. These products have been conceptualised, designed and developed in collaboration with some of the world’s leading web companies based on their operational best practices. Cisco said that these new products will enable service providers and large web companies to reinvent the way in which services are built and delivered.

Spanning the areas of mobility, cloud and computing technologies, the networking products have been designed to enable the digital transformation of enterprises that rely on technology-enabled networks to exchange digital value, including data and transactions.

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