Microsoft’s emerging tech push helps it accelerate in India

Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India
Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India

From using machine learning to analyze school drop-out rates in Andhra Pradesh to developing a localized Skype app for the Indian market with Aadhaar integration, to using Artificial Intelligence to identify eye disorders, Microsoft India is taking a series of calculated bets across India, as it tries to use innovation as a lever to drive its growth. For example, take a sector like education, where innovative usage of technology, can be used to create a big impact. The company is applying machine learning to analyze school drop-out rates, predict them and take preventive action in Andhra Pradesh. This solution has been taken to 10,000 government schools across Andhra Pradesh and has produced 600,000 predictions. It offers a 360-degree view of students, by mapping close to 100 variables. The machine learning model is being scaled further from 10,000 schools to cover 60,000 schools across all grades and could touch up to six million students in the next year.

To address the issue of last mile connectivity, Microsoft has piloted last-mile access projects in Srikakulum in Andhra Pradesh, and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, using its cost-effective technology called TV White Space. It has also partnered with the Government of Maharashtra to create the first smart village in Harisal. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh’s CM, Chandrababu Naidu uses Kaizala, Microsoft’s chat-based productivity app, to interact directly with citizens. The app was successfully tested by the Government of Andhra Pradesh at a 12-day mega event involving 20 million people and the state now plans to replicate it across many departments to implement real-time governance across the state.

Given Microsoft’s portfolio of solutions, the opportunity is huge in every sector, and more so, as India Inc keeps on accelerating on the digital path. Explaining Microsoft’s ambitions and vision for India, Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, says, “For us as an organization, our core priority lies in helping India transform and leap frog to the fourth industrial revolution by putting the power of technology in the hands of everyone. Our mission is to empower every individual and every organization in India to achieve more. With a mission as big, bold and ambitious as this, building the best-in-class productivity services and platforms for the mobile-first, cloud-first world is at the heart of our strategy.”

Betting big on India
Given India’s digital ambitions coupled with an aggressive government, Microsoft believes that India is a huge market for its products and services. Research from Microsoft corroborates the firm’s bullishness on India. According to a recent survey conducted by Microsoft, 92% business leaders in India believe that every organization needs to be a ‘digital organization’ to enable growth for their business. This is way ahead of the Asian average of 80%. States Radha Rajappa, Services Head, Microsoft India, “The opportunity is in every vertical and in every business segment – from large enterprises, to small and mid-sized businesses, and the public sector and governments. We are completely committed to Digital India. We are proud of being able to make a difference to the daily lives of our citizens – through innovations like Hololens, and Skype Lite and Skype Translator, initiatives like Project Sangam, and through partnership with institutions like LV Prasad Eye Institute, and many others.”

Instead of just customizing products for India, Microsoft has tried to expand this market by creating apps or products specifically for India. For example, the company created Skype Lite, which was specifically designed to be used in low bandwidth networks. This can prove to be advantageous in rural areas, where telecom network coverage is relatively low. In another first, the app can be integrated with Aadhaar, which means that the caller’s details can be verified. Similarly, Project Sangam enables users to register on LinkedIn using Aadhaar, and enroll for skill development programmes. This initiative is significant, as LinkedIn typically has a white collar network, and it is trying to replicate the same at lower levels through this project. The project has been launched in Andhra Pradesh, and is aimed at helping people in low and medium skilled sectors find work.

The cloud bet
Microsoft sounded off its intent for India, when it became the first public cloud provider to offer commercial cloud services from local datacenters in India. Today, 53 of the 100 top BSE companies are using Azure across sectors like BFSI, healthcare, manufacturing e-commerce, and startups. The local datacenter has been a big differentiator for Microsoft, as 22 of India’s leading insurance companies are using Office 365 and Azure from the local datacenter.

The public cloud services market is a huge opportunity. Gartner predicts that the public cloud services market in India is projected to grow 38 percent in 2017 to total $1.81 billion. This augurs well for Microsoft, which is continuing to see major growth for its cloud based services and solutions. “We continue to see significant uptake of cloud services among customers and partners. Just to give you a sense of the opportunity, there are 50 million+ small and medium-sized businesses in India,” says Meetul Patel, General Manager, Marketing & Operations, Microsoft India.

Microsoft is using the foundation of cloud to create more opportunities and expand its core market. For example, the company partnered with Tata Motors to create personalized driving experiences for Indian customers. Tata Motors will leverage Microsoft’s connected vehicle technologies that bring together AI, advanced machine learning, and IoT capabilities on the Azure cloud, to create a highly personalized and safer driving experience across the digital life of a vehicle owner. Similarly, Indian healthcare providers such as Fortis Healthcare, Apollo Hospitals, LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Narayana Health, Max Healthcare are using Microsoft Azure, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, CRM online and Office 365 to enhance their efficiency and improve patient care. Fortis Healthcare is using the cloud for accurate diagnosis and the best possible clinical care. The Azure platform ensures that customers have a consistent experience across all Fortis hospitals. More than 4,600 start ups in India are utilizing Microsoft’s Cloud infrastructure and services. Other firms like e-Meditek, Zing HR, Altizon, CloudCherry, Resulticks, Ameyo, Shephertz are partner ISVs whose solutions are being used by Microsoft customers on the Azure platform.

CarIQ, a Pune-based hardware startup, is leveraging Microsoft cloud to enable deep analytics and scalability to process data and offer an exciting product to car owners. The device collects data directly from the car, uses big data analytics to understand this data, and recommends action points that enable the car owner drive safer and maintain his car better. Information and data on driving can help insurance companies offer better differentiated insurance to car owners States Peter Gartenberg, General Manager, Enterprise and Partner Group (EPG), Microsoft India, “Conversations as a platform (CaaP) is another area, which we envision will provide businesses the unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how they engage and interact with customers. In addition, CRM and ERP solutions are expected to further fuel the digital transformation of our customers.” For example, Max Healthcare has leveraged Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, to manage leads and contact center engagement, and enhance customer engagement. The solution has helped the firm achieve an increase in sales team productivity by 30%. In the retail sector, Microsoft Dynamics is used by 55 retail and DMS customers serving 74 retail brands, empowering 14,000 outlets, enabling 25,000 users in India.

Cloud for better governance
Understanding the critical role of the government, Microsoft has partnered with several state governments including those of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu to help the states leverage cloud, machine learning and mobile based solutions to improve citizen services, education, healthcare, and agriculture, among others. “The Indian Government continues to reinforce its belief in the transformative power of technology to drive socio-economic change, with its progressive vision like Digital India. For us at Microsoft, this presents immense opportunities to support the government in achieving its goals of digital transformation and inclusion. We want to ensure that the cloud, especially the public cloud, serves the public. Therefore, we extended our cloud services through local data centres – this is not only a big milestone for us at Microsoft, but also an important step forward in being a key partner to the country’s growth ambitions,” states Patel.

A case in point is the partnership with ICRISAT. Microsoft has collaborated with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) and the Andhra Pradesh Government in creating a Sowing App and Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard to provide powerful cloud-based predictive analytics on soil and weather conditions. The app empowers farmers with crucial information and insights, helping the farmers to determine the most appropriate time to sow seeds. This, in turn, helps reduce crop failures and achieve optimal harvests. Today, over 200 farmers are already using it. This is a significant start for digital agriculture and can reap benefits in multiple ways as governments and stakeholders discover the potential for technology to unlock and offer multiple solutions for the farming community.

Ubiquitous computing
Microsoft’s strategy in India is in line with the vision of its CEO, Satya Nadella, who wants Microsoft to be omnipresent in all forms of computing. This includes collaborating with rivals such as Apple to bring its Office suite to IPad or signing a partnership with Dropbox. In India, Microsoft realizes that the broader the markets it is present in – from the mobile to the cloud, the bigger will be the opportunities.
This strategy is summed up perfectly by Patel, when he says, “Microsoft’s mission – the cornerstone of the company’s business strategy and success, is what drives us to identify and eliminate the barriers that prevent people and organizations from being empowered. To that end, our three interconnected ambitions – reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing, utilize a unique set of assets that span productivity services, cloud platform, our device platform and our family of devices, which propels our strategy to gain momentum.”

In many of the customer examples, Microsoft is trying to create reference markets by giving startups or its customers the capability to create new sources of revenue, and thereby expanding its own market. For example, startup iBot is working with Luminous Power Technologies (Luminous), a leading home electrical player in India, to launch a next generation Connected Inverter. iBot has built a generic purpose IoT board that integrates into any consumer durable and makes it an intelligent IoT device. iBot’s customer, Eureka Forbes, is piloting this solution in their products as a way to take their customer centricity to the next level. It is a move that translates to quadrupling the lifetime value to the consumer on one side while bringing down the cost per liter of water for the end consumer, with proactive sales, predictive and preventive maintenance. Other providers such as Crompton Greaves are also considering it now.

Microsoft’s strategy is more like a consulting capability at play, but in a factory model. In India, the opportunities are huge, as each customer can create more markets for Microsoft in specific categories.

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