We are the only telco to reach 50 million IoT connections: Satish Mittal, CTO, Vodafone Business Services

Satish Mittal, CTO, Vodafone India

The Internet of Things (IoT) is seen as a new industrial revolution, which is poised to support large-scale business transformation. In fact, organizations have started believing that IoT is critical for their future success. During an interaction with Nivedan Prakash, Satish Mittal, CTO, Vodafone Business Services, shares the company’s growth story in the IoT space and the unique opportunities it is eyeing in the Indian market

What sort of opportunities are you seeing in terms of expanding customer base and exploring new areas?

We are witnessing a good uptake of our business services. As enterprise customers are growing, they are investing into new technologies. This kind of trend brings us back into the forte, wherein the organizations are investing in cloud, IoT, and other digital technologies. All these are investments towards IT and telecom. This is where our story becomes very strong.

With regards to opportunities, I believe the government’s digital agenda, especially post demonetization, has given the biggest push to plastic or mobile money. As a result, we have sold as much IoT connections (point of sale category) in the last 4 months as we have sold in the last 2 years. This has been a great and motivating journey for us.

What are the technology trends being witnessed in the country these days?
While technologies like cloud and Big Data have been talked about, the good part is that they are now the ground realities. Analytics is no more on just a piece of paper; people have started using it. In fact, we have worked very closely with our enterprise customers to create a compelling analytics story for them. Secondly, with regards to cloud, customers now don’t ask ‘why’ but ‘how’ and ‘when’. Majority of the customers have started moving towards cloud wherein they are seeing the clear benefits. Thirdly, around 4-5 years back, we started talking about Machine to Machine (M2M). Now again, enterprises have started realizing the benefits of this technology.

Currently, we are in the era of IoT. Everyone in the market is upbeat about it and most of them want to start somewhere in this space. While a few may be on higher learning curve than others, it is gradually picking up. In terms of trends, be it cloud, everything mobile, and IoT – all these are actually happening.

Most importantly, today everything is becoming an app. And makes people hooked on to the mobile, as apps work best when you view it on your personal device. This is where mobility becomes ubiquitous for enterprise customers as well as consumers.

The other trend is that enterprise and personal boundaries are becoming weaker. For example, today, a smartphone is being used both in office as well as home. And these devices are carrying both office as well as personal apps. This is where security concerns start penetrating in. So, the efforts are now to go mobile but in a secured way. And the same logic is being applied for cloud and IoT as well, where the focus is on securing them.

While you are talking about apps, there are rumors in the market that with the arrival of concept like chatbots, apps will soon die. What’s your take on this trend?

I think the aggregation of apps will start happening in order to provide convenience to customers. But as far as chatbots are concerned, they will be complementary to the apps. For example, people use My Vodafone App to utilize all our services on a common platform. This is, in a way, helping the industry as well as user experience. It’s a win-win situation for both. I believe both apps and chatbots will co-exist. But yes, the aggregation will start happening, wherein there will be a Master App and then multiple apps within it.

Which are the key industry verticals driving the growth of Vodafone’s enterprise business?

Cloud is an important vertical for us. We are the only telco in the country to create a ‘marketplace’ for cloud-based offerings for customers who may not have a big IT setup with them, yet are looking for something simple to consume. In the Vodafone Marketplace, customers purchase cloud-based Software-as-a-Service without requiring a big IT set up or a deep IT understanding. It works on a self pay, self provisioned, and self fulfilment mechanism. We have launched very exciting products in this domain. For example, our customers can directly consume Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps and Workforce Essential from the marketplace. There is a wide array of products that help both large corporations as well as SMBs. Today, nobody wants to invest in CAPEX but instead look at consuming it as a service.

While there is an uptake of our cloud solutions amongst the large enterprises, we wanted to target the segment that is adaptable to change and ready-to-consume from something which is already centralized and cloud-based.

In the SMB segment, we are approaching our customers both horizontally and vertically through packaged propositions which are specific to industries like banking, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, etc. The same goes for large enterprises as well.

Any update on your M2M offerings in terms of technological advancements?

In the IoT space, we are a leader in India as well as globally. We are the only telco to reach 50 million IoT connections recently and be present in the leadership quadrant of Gartner in the IoT domain. We offer cutting-edge IoT solutions which are already tried, tested, and implemented in the market.

The market today is fragmented. There are people who either develop an application, manufacture a device, or provide connectivity. But the biggest challenge that arises is that machines cannot talk. To address this gap, we are creating a solution whereby you can manage the lifecycle of a machine from anywhere in the world.

While we are looking at complete management, the second area of concern is security. We don’t realize the threat an unsecured connection can create. Hence, there is a need of an architecture which is fully secured as well as manageable and provides a solution to the customers.

Which are the key focus areas for VBS when it comes to IT spend?

The major focus of our IT budget is on IoT and digital technologies. This is because we want to self-enable our customers as well as internal sales force and customer-facing employees. Another focus is on security, wherein we want to ensure how all these things stay secure while advancing our customers and employees towards mobility-enabled solutions. These are the areas where biggest investments are taking place.

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