FEATURE STORY / THE DIGITAL EDGE
PUBLISHED 5 AUGUST 2015
Unleash the democratizing force of the cloud on government, finance, telecommunications, education, retail, energy, utilities, transportation and agriculture.
A good idea alone is never enough. Sometimes that idea needs to meet at the well timed confluence of commitment, change and circumstance.
For India, the world’s largest democracy, that time is now.
Last year, Narendra Modi swept into power on the back of populist support for his track record as a business-friendly administrator, who would slash red tape, improve education, and deliver a bigger and better-run economy for the country’s 1.25 billion people.
So far, he’s delivered.
According to the IMF, India will grow by 7.5% this year – best in show for major economies. Inflation has fallen by half. Debt has been slashed. The stock market is booming, and, most importantly, the economy is more stable than it has been for years.
India is the new pick of the Asia investment litter. There isn’t a market on the planet that will serve up the same cloud, IT and communications opportunities as this key country in the Emerging Markets Corridor.
“The market offers one of the largest growth opportunities for cloud computing across the globe. Three characteristics make it an exciting market: a large SMB population that is still behind on their IT potential, one of the largest number of start-ups in the world and a fast growing economy,” said Manoj Menon, managing partner of leading market research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Already home to a highly skilled IT-services industry, global outsourcing giants and the rise of billion-dollar tech startups, Modi, who has more Twitter followers than Paris Hilton, Kanye West, Leonardo Dicaprio and Dali Lama, wants his new Digital India initiative to dramatically expand consumer Internet access, applications hosted in the cloud, data centers and additional bandwidth between data centers and Internet service provider points of presence.
The idea is simple: support rural Internet connectivity, digital cloud services for all and communications and productivity services for the government. Unleash the democratizing force of the cloud on government, finance, telecommunications, education, retail, energy, utilities, transportation and agriculture.
“As the head of a leading Indian and world player in the integrated and converged telecommunications space, it gives me immense personal pride to be at the heart of this new initiative,” said Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani at the Digital India launch. “A crucial pre-condition for the success of Digital India is the availability of ‘unlimited cloud computing power’, the building block of which is data centers.”
According to tech market research firm IDC, India’s cloud business will surge from $688 million in 2012, to a forecasted $3.5 billion by 2016. Indian analyst firm Zinnov Management Consulting goes further, expecting the market to grow to $14.8 billion in 2020, roughly split between the private and public cloud markets.
“India is the tip of the spear for economic growth across the emerging markets corridor,” said Bill Barney, former CEO, Reliance Communications (Enterprise) & GCX.
“Indian enterprises also will require sophisticated new levels of support for their expanded e-commerce operations, while support for e-government services grows with the ‘Digital India’ program.”
Enterprises also will need more cybersecurity and “software as a service” support. Indian e-commerce, for example, is expected to grow to about $100 billion over the next three years. India is the ideal location for content and cloud-based hosting services for other emerging markets, especially including video collaboration and video content delivery The Reliance Communications global vision was built on the fusion of modern computing and communications. It also helps that the company spotted these opportunities early.
“We are the largest owner of cloud computing facilities in India, with 11 data centers fibered together with the largest terrestrial fiber network in the country and the world’s largest subsea cable infrastructure,” said Barney.
“Through our nodes, the governments of the five largest government municipalities will be able to access 240 times the amount of compute power currently available in the government data centers and more than six times the high speed storage currently available in all of India,” Barney said.
And that’s not all. It can literally replicate capacity every 90 days.
Reliance Communications’ Global Cloud Xchange can do so because it is activating five Cloud Xchange points in India for the first time, giving Reliance customers access to the latest cloud technology from Silicon Valley and India’s most advanced data network capabilities. And that’s what is needed for a market quickly considered a cloud hotbed by tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon IBM and Google. In a global space of Internet company overvaluations, India still offers competitive book value in an exploding market.
Mary Meeker, a leading technology oracle and partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, certainly thinks so. In her Internet Trends 2015 report, Meeker, who championed Dell, Microsoft, Intuit, Netscape, AOL, Amazon.com, Yahoo!, eBay and Google early on, writes that India is at an Internet penetration growth inflection point. She predicts that the country’s Internet penetration rate will reach about 40 percent by 2017 and points to catalyst firms such as Netscape, Yahoo!, Amazon.com, Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com in the US and China as already being dominant at the same stage of development. Meeker writes the country adding 63 million new Internet users in 2014, a spike of 37 percent year-on-year as evidence that it’s a matter of when and not if.
Meeker should know.
She’s been called the Queen of the Net and was listed as the 77th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2014. According to Meeker, India is already Facebook and LinkedIn’s second largest markets. For Twitter, it’s the fastest growing. It’s at this coalface of growth, opportunity and investment that Reliance connections to more than 1.1 million buildings, more than three dozen enterprise voice and data services, largest country wide data center services business of 10 data centers featuring more than 1.1 million square feet of capacity, comes in.
The company’s current corporate clientele includes over 39,000 Indian and multinational corporations, small and medium enterprises and over 290 global, regional and domestic carriers. Analysts expect that number to skyrocket. India is home to about 47 million businesses but only about one percent of them are online. The company’s next generation, integrated convergent (voice, data and video) digital network is capable of supporting best-of-class services spanning the entire communications value chain, covering over 21,000 cities and towns and over 400,000 villages. It’s also cheaper, more flexible easier and more productive for India’s army of SMEs. Beyond that, sheer economic growth, rapid adoption of e-commerce and use of the Internet will contribute to robust demand for bandwidth and cloud services Reliance can deliver to enterprises across India and application providers in North America.
Some 325 Fortune 500 companies in India already agree.
“Almost every telco and ‘over the top’ player does business with us in India today. GCX alone added 61 new customers over the last year, in key markets,” said Barney. “From our perspective –early entry, massive network and services will turn India’s Internet disparity around.”
“Cloud computing has already made an impact on the everyday life of many Indians. It is driving business model innovation and helping businesses,” said Menon. “Going forward, the impact will be even more pervasive with innovative solutions around safe cities, smart homes, connected cars and better healthcare.”