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Banking sector more open to embracing tech solutions now: Karan Bajwa

Interview with Managing director, Microsoft India


Bibhu Ranjan Mishra  |  Bengaluru 

Banking sector more open to embrace tech solutions now: Karan Bajwa

As it is getting ready to launch the newest version of its database management system SQL Server 2016, software major has given an open invitation to organisations that are using competing Oracle database to migrate to its platform, with free licences. SQL Server 2016 is slated to be released in June this year. India’s Managing Director Karan Bajwa explains to Bibhu Ranjan Mishra why the company is so bullish on its growth. Edited excerpts:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently said ‘data is the new electricity’. Why does the company believe so?

One thing which is very clear to all of us is, as we talk to the CEOs organisations belonging to all verticals and sizes, they are very keen on owning a digital transformation strategy. The reasons for that could be they are hugely disrupted by competition and those disruptions are normally coming through digital routes. Or, they really want to cause that disruption. The three key disruptions that have happened in the human history so far are steam power, electricity and information technology. We believe we are not entering the fourth phase of this disruption, which will be caused by data. Going forward, organisations would want to run on data-based outcomes versus running by the power of conviction.

What about businesses that are yet to become digital?

There are a few reasons why this whole digital transformation is happening. Every interaction today is generating some form of data. There may be some far-out examples where there are still non-digital interactions, but every interaction is generating some form of data. There is unstructured data coming from outside channels such as social, where the volume is much more. Businesses see that opportunity and say ‘I want to use those for decision-making’. Traditionally, if you had to do that within the enterprise, the amount of hardware required to handle that amount of analytics and storage totally go against the economics of doing so.

Is demand from the banking sector being driven by the new-age banks that are talking about branch-less banking?

The new banks have opened up a whole new opportunity – right from infrastructure to platforms. The traditional banking space (players) is also looking quite exciting as they are all looking at very disruptive ways to go to market. That opens up a new way of selling them technology. They are open to looking at new solutions; they are opening to trying out solutions from start-ups.

Some of the key attractions of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2016 is said to be the capability to churn data using algorithms and business intelligence (BI) tools. What kind of opportunity do you see for it in the Indian domestic market?

I see a very different kind of opportunity, not just about taking a share of the database market. We are chasing the game from the database to a data platform. We are building the latest capabilities on BI across multiple devices; we are building advanced analytics capability and data warehousing capabilities inside the same platform versus having multiple platforms and integrate all of them together. Besides, the offer that we have released in the market is a very attractive one for customers who are using Oracle to start using Microsoft SQL 2016 in a much more economical manner. We have discussed about an offer where we will give free licences to people who are using Oracle; they just need to pay for the ongoing maintenance and the software assurance fee over a three-year period.

How does the Indian market look like for technology products?

We are very bullish about the overall market. The software market continues to grow at 12-13 per cent range, and we are seeing the growth has been very positive this year. We are seeing (demand from) banking (sector) being quite robust once again; the whole sunrise verticals such as healthcare, e-commerce and media look very exciting. The traditional verticals are starting to buy again. The government is very bullish because of initiatives such as Digital India.

While the importance of data has been felt for some time, are you seeing a trend where data-driven decisions are impacting the outcomes?

Absolutely. I can give you umpteen numbers of examples of how people are using data that get generated within and outside, to make meaningful insights. We are working with one of the state governments (in India) to analyse the data they have on students to prevent school dropouts. There are almost hundred different data points available on each student at the primary level. We are using machine-learning algorithms to capture insights from the data to build fixes required to be done at an individual or at a local level to prevent school dropouts. We are also helping a bank to predict customer churns using complex algorithms with one of our products. Another example, which is a global one, is about an elevator company called Thyssenkrupp. Traditionally, they used to sell the elevators and then provide reactive maintenance. With the use of IoT (internet of things) devices, cloud and analytics, with the data that get generated through the elevators, we were able to predict instead of reacting to the maintenance.

And, that has suddenly changed their business model. Such examples are going to expand as organisations realise more and more benefits.

First Published: Thu, March 17 2016. 00:46 IST