For Microsoft, the flourishing startup ecosystem in India has become one of the new growth engines for its cloud business. The usage of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud offering and infrastructure services among Indian companies including independent software vendors (ISVs) and partners has jumped by 150 percent in last one year. Icertis, Yellow Messenger, Vymo, OYO Rooms, Enlightiks, Tarnea, Precimetrix and others are on the long-list of 2000 plus startups that have adopted Microsoft cloud and infrastructure services in past 12 months. In addition, Flipkart, India’s top e-commerce player has also signed an exclusive public cloud deal with Microsoft to support its expansion plans.
Many of these startups are relying on Microsoft’s advance cloud services including big data, advance analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and cognitive services. In addition, they are leveraging Microsoft’s bot framework to build chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) based products and services
One of the key reasons why Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform has gained popularity among startups and organizations across domains is its ability to act as an ‘ingredient’ for other platforms and services. “The more I think about how technology evolves, it’s short-sight to think about just one platform. You have to have an architectural worldview that says whatever we are building as a platform has to be an ingredient for someone else who wants to build a platform. So, its composability, in other words everything has to ultimately fit into a network model,” said Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Nadella said this on the sidelines of his chat with Nandan Nilekani, Chairperson and Co-founder of EkStep Foundation, during company’s recently held event in Bangalore. “In our case, for example, I would love for our services whether it’s Office 365 or Dynamics 365, or Windows itself to be great participants in the India Stack,” added Nadella. He meant that users should be able to log in using Aadhar and use any of Microsoft applications in a secured way.
Further, “We would like to be able to pave it so that any entrepreneur here, who wants to build for the India Stack, can get the security enclave, can get the core have infrastructure to be able to rapidly build,” Nadella emphasized about cloud infrastructure. In 2015, Microsoft had announced the launch of its Cloud Accelerator Program for Indian enterprises and organizations with the key aim to provide Azure and Office 365 cloud services from local datacentres in India. In fact, today one third of the startups in India run open source solutions on Microsoft’s cloud platform. According to company, these startups are leveraging its cloud infrastructure to build a range of IT solutions for retail, e-commerce, banking, logistics, energy, healthcare and FMCG companies. “I think the centre of the entrepreneur energy at least for us right now in India is all around the cloud. And it's fantastic to see the quality of the entrepreneurs, the ideas, obviously for the Indian market itself which is huge,” Nadella commented on how cloud has become central to entrepreneurs, ideas and startups in India.
For instance, Yellow Messenger has leveraged Microsoft’s cloud for AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to build an AI based chatbot for ecommerce that helps users in making shopping decision across multiple brands. Icertis, one of the largest ISVs on Microsoft Azure cloud in India has expanded its SaaS platform using Microsoft’s India datacentres. It has over 750,000 users and manages more than 2.5 million contracts across 90 countries in 40 languages on the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform, which also includes top companies like Cognizant, Airtel, MindTree, Genpact and Lupin. Interestingly, besides the startups in India, many of the state governments and agencies in past few years too have tied-up with Microsoft for its cloud services. Some of them are Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The Andhra Pradesh government has leveraged Azure’s machine learning capability to predict which students will struggle or drop out of school across its 10,000 schools. It helped officials to create over 600,000 predictions using the tool in order to increase retention of students in schools. Likewise, Tamil Nadu state election commission had used Microsoft cloud during the last local polls for enhancing the electoral experience for citizens by deploying interactive electoral information boards and live streaming of polling process from 30,000 booths on their website. As many as six crore local voters were able to interact with the commission due to cloud platform.
Microsoft although has made some inroads into the cloud market in India, but still it has a long way to go before it could take on the dominant Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Note: This article was first published in ET CIO - https://cio.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/cloud-computing/microsoft-hones-enterprises-of-future-empowers-over-2000-indian-startups-with-its-azure-cloud/57284079
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