India's Top 5 IT Cos Use 2 Billion Minutes Of Cisco's Webex Every Year: Sameer Garde

There has been an explosion of networks in India in the last couple of years. This is the period that also saw the launch of Reliance-owned Jio which claims almost 99% of 4G connectivity across India and the Government’s ongoing Bharat Net effort which now boasts 316,275 km of fibre optic connectivity across the country.

These networks and a combination of them have obviously been leading to far more transformative changes in terms of how people have been using those networks, the multiplier effects on businesses and so on. One person who is well positioned to understand and explain what the power of these networks is delivering and will do is Sameer Garde, President, CISCO, India and SAARC.

Sameer, thank you very much for speaking to us.

Sameer Garde: Pleasure Govind.

You are at every point of the network with the hardware and the software. So what’s happening on the ground and what are you seeing from your 30,000 feet position and more importantly, where can it go ?

Just a quick clarification first Govind. We are yes, broad in network and we are very proud of the legacy. But we are a lot more than the network now. We have gotten into areas like security, areas like collaboration that you brought out just now and of course our data centre solutions.

So, it’s a pretty end to end kind of portfolio. But you are absolutely right, I mean, the single point, that kind of drives home this thing is that there are 3 people per second coming on to the internet in India. This was the data that I saw from The Economist, and I was pretty perplexed. Three people per second on the internet, right? Interestingly, two of them are enabled by mobile CISCO (laughs).

Yes, of course by mobile phones too. And that’s probably going to double. We are going from 400 million to around 800 million people. I think this is probably one of the biggest disruptions that is happening. We keep talking about the internet. Internet is already around 20 years old. But it is continuing to disrupt. And that is not possible withoutnetworks, and networks which can handle the increasing traffic of videos, the increasing traffic of content which is not just text.

I think to that extent we’ve been front and centre on roll-outs for, of course, Jio which has now got two-thirds; two-thirds of India’s data goes through the Jio network. We are talking about 250,000 being managed remotely, for a network that size. But I also feel the government has taken upon itself in a big way to drive the services on top of this proliferation of the internet.

So Bharat Net which has been heard and talked about from the past four to five years has become real now. There are at least five or six large states which have already adopted that and are rolling that out as we speak. I believe ‘Smart Cities’ is becoming absolutely real. A lot of people were cynical, like ‘How will this all help a citizen?’, right ? Personally, I feel of the 25 smart cities that have been ‘bidded’ so to say, we’ve won 21 of them.

We did a survey recently for one (Vijaywada) of those earliest smart cities along with IDC and we published a report around that, not to see what it takes to build a smart city but what is the benefit to the citizens. And what we realised was, you know just a simple thing like law and order, making sure that you have that latest video surveillance facility, you are just able to help law and order be a lot more effective, right?

And multiple benefits around waste management, traffic management and thus an increase in improving the life of the people. So I think what we do connects very well with what happens with the citizen, eventually. I personally feel that the enterprises, small and medium businesses (SMBs), governments, are on this band-wagon in a concerted manner altogether. I don’t see this being rolled back in any form. It is a juggernaut which is going forward and like I said we are front and centre in that.

What are the two or three things you see happening in the coming year or two because of this? You talked of video flowing through existing networks, but the new thing, for instance, you said that didn’t strike me was let’s say video surveillance and you can see quite visibly now in cities like Mumbai. All those images and data are flowing back to some point and people are scanning it I am sure there is artificial intelligence which is going to sit on it. What else could potentially come and that you in some way are spear-heading in coming ?

Multiple things, right? Let’s look at it this way, as the internet proliferates and more and more people get on to the net, there are two or three things that happen. Number one, the threat attacks increase. Earlier you would say it was just the enterprises or the government which were potential cybersecurity or had threats of cybersecurity.

Now, cybersecurity threats are proliferating even to a single individual user who is going on to let us say, a banking site or to an SMB which a supplier to an enterprise. So I think the first thing that happens is that the cybersecurity threat becomes real and much more pervasive. And managing that kind of threat, because you know there are artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) we keep saying is useful to prevent threats, but hackers or unethical hackers can use AI & ML to do the same thing.

So, now you have to be even smarter than them. So, just to give you a sense of this, we have an engine called Talos, which is basically all about threat intelligence. It gathers information from across networks, across various data points and today they are able to kind of see anywhere between six and a half to seven trillion threats a year. Trillion!

That’s the level of threats that we are talking about now, across the world. And give that information to enterprises, SMB, individuals, governments, to be able to prevent that proactively. Video surveillance is the physical security feature, let me give you a simple example of that.

So, in Jaipur City we have these surveillance cameras, a software which is very simple but very powerful. If somebody has left a bag somewhere for more time than it is supposed to be there, right, the camera can notice that, and it has been programmed from a software point of view to be able to detect that and create immediate alert to the nearest police station to say, “Guys go, pick it up.”

So this is not about humans any more this is an inanimate object lying there, right, which could be a potential threat. So security is not just about the cyber portion but also the physical security of it. So I think that’s one. The second piece that is happening is data proliferation. It's all good to say you know, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” !

But this data proliferation is pretty maddening right now. The other day there was a gentleman Dr Sumantran, who came to one of our events. He said, “All the data in the US Library of Congress is around 234 Terabytes. In two hours of an Formula 1 , you generate that much data. So you can imagine that’s 234 terabytes of data in two hours. And that the kind of data proliferation that is happening.

So the questions are:

  1. How do you manage the data ?
  2. How do you get insights of the data
  3. What actions you can take on an automated manner ? That is another area we are focusing on, with various solutions, on the application side, on the data-centre side like deter-ration, app dynamics and a lot of other solutions.

And I think the third area what is happening is, it is building a tremendous amount of complexity of managing all these things, you manage cyber-security on one end, how do you manage this proliferating of routers, switches to manage all the work ?

So this complexity that gets developed as a result of this, the customers and governments are saying, “Make it easier for us to manage that. Make it more automated, making it more self-healing so that we don’t need individual people to do that, to manage that.”

So when we were given the Jio network to build and manage, that’s 250,000 routers. In the past, if I had to send an update for 250,000 routers, it would have been a 6 months to a 1-year process, to just update the routers with the latest software. Now we do that overnight. So that’s the software and automation piece that is coming on top of this hardware.

And it's going fast because of the same network..?

Exactly, so I think these are the three things. And I think the most important thing that we are seeing is employee experience or people, the kind of experience that they get in terms of connectivity. I think I was telling you earlier that for example for collaboration, which is becoming a big thing out of this, you can’t really travel the way the traffic is in a country like India, so collaboration becomes very critical both for consumers, for enterprises, for SMB.

Now, Webex is a platform we acquired a few (12) years ago. Today India's top 5 IT companies are using 2 billion minutes of Webex meetings in a year, that is like a million or a million and a half employees using 2 billion minutes in meetings with voice, messaging all converted into one platform and content.

So its a pretty mammoth thing and one thing that we were looking at is, if we could save that enterprise just one rupee per minute because of this usage, either because they are using VoIP calls instead of PSTN calls or because they are not travelling, just one rupee, its a very conservative estimate that is $32 million dollar of saving, a year for these five companies.

And that's not trivial, if I take the assumptions right, it could be much larger than that. So, I think its both employee experience and customer experience and the cost benefit that you get out of it, so I think these are the 3-4 areas we are seeing.

And what are you personally looking at and looking out for in the year ahead as CISCO as even including in the retail fund as you have Linksys which many of us have or own?

We continue to be focused on the business side, enterprise, SMB, public sector. I think there are three or four areas that we are looking at in the future. I don’t know how familiar you are but we did what we could do what is called a country digitisation acceleration programme in the top 13-14 geographies, we did some investments over the last three years in various areas like smart cities, defence and Bharat Net.

We are doing the second tranche of investment now. Starting this year the areas we are focusing really on are:

  1. There are 62 million SMBs in India. Only 5% of them are internet enabled and that’s going to improve significantly over the next few years. We believe we can help those SMBs in a way that is more efficient for them to manage their businesses and not just from a cost perspective but also from a customer experience perspective.
  2. The second big area that we are looking at if of course, you know, India is going to spend anywhere between $400 to 500 billion on transportation, transportation could include airports, railways, ports and highways.

Between these four areas, India is going to spend half a trillion dollars over the next five years. So follow the money, right? So that's another big focus area for us in terms of helping airports modernise, airports digitise, highways digitise. Railways are looking at new signal system so I think those are some of the areas that we are looking at.

Third, the area is, with GST being rolled out one of the outcomes of that is that you don’t really need a warehouse in every city, every state, right? Because now you have a common tax, as now you have a common structure across the country, so consolidation of warehouses into more larger warehouses is a new way forward.

So, recently for a very large automotive company in India, I can't take the name. They are building a half a million square feet warehouse in Mumbai. We are helping them digitise the entire warehouse and where they can manage it through Wi-Fi through video surveillance through a more up-to-date network.

So I think their warehousing is going to be the next big thing, in my opinion. And lastly, I think 5G. 5G is going to be real in a few years and we are very focused on. So we are doing a partnership with BSNL in IIT Chennai to build a showcase for what 5G can potentially do. It’s not just about the feeds in speeds, right? It is also about what use cases in areas like healthcare, education you can do and so on.

Let’s look forward to 5G and all your exciting plans. Thank you so much for speaking to us.

Sameer Garde : Thank you.

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