09
Business Management

India: NetApp President Talks Jugaad and CIOs

In a career spanning 27 years, Anil Valluri has worked at four major IT companies and was the last Indian Country Head for Sun Microsystems, prior to its acquisition by Oracle. Today he is President of India & SAARC Operations at NetApp India. Kathryn Cave catches up with him to discuss future trends, CIOs and what makes the local market unique. 

In rural India the Jugaad is a familiar sight. This makeshift vehicle usually comprises of a brightly painted cart, fitted with a diesel engine; a big rod with a wheel on the end is used for steering. There no gears and the basic break, which stops the wheels, often fails. Yet in the remotest parts of India… this make-shift form of transport is everywhere.

Jugaad is also a catch-all Hindi-Urdu term which, literally, means an improvised work-around due to lack of resources. In the wider sense it is also used to reflect a creative or innovative way of solving problems. “This is [the spirit of] ‘make it happen’”, Anil Valluri tells me over the phone. He believes this mentality has defined Indian IT to date.  “There is a ‘make it happen’ tendency [in Indian IT]. You can conjure up absolutely impossible things out of nothing in Indian data centres and IT infrastructure.”

“Everything is used,” he explains. “[Local CIOs] figure out all kinds of things to make it happen. Indian enterprises are [also] willing to take a lot of risk. I have seen a lot of multi-national companies which are very risk averse.  [Indian CIOs are] more savvy from a technology standpoint than elsewhere the world they get to a point beyond reason. They understand technology very well and are usually focused on technology, sometimes to a point of being very detrimental to their own interests.”

“Indians have traditionally been a lot more mathematical and science orientated. They take to technology like a fish to water and that is the nature of the Indian CIO.  They believe if you can’t relate to the technology you can’t be a CIO,” he continues.

In India, like elsewhere in the world, the role of the CIO, and nature of IT, is changing due to a range of external factors.  Traditionally Indian enterprises have tended not to stick to one vendor. They have bought different solutions at different points in time, and price has always been one of the most important factors. Over the last three years, though, this has started to change.  Now as the market begins to reach maturity, Valluri believes the challenge is bringing everything together and making it work more efficiently.

The technological changes which have gradually taken hold across the world now appear to hitting India all in one go. In September, the Times of India reported that this year India has seen an 89% increase in smartphone users from 2012. “Mobility is putting a lot of pressure on system,” Valluri stresses.  The Times of India article compared accelerated smartphone growth to that in Brazil, but with the important caveat that Indians are skipping a generation of multimedia phones. Prashant Singh, MD of Nielsen India told the paper: "Users will migrate straight from a feature phone to a smartphone.”

This in turn is having an impact on IT across the board, from BYOD to its corresponding security concerns… but above all in the explosion of data.  “Yes, the [sudden] data explosion has hit India harder,” Valluri agrees. “Because we didn’t have internet access in the remote areas [until recently], it was only the cities.  But with the smartphones taking over, the class B and class C towns are now all on the net.”

As a Storage Vendor, this puts NetApp in an important position, and Valluri foresees a series of trends which are going to prove especially pertinent.  Aside from the vast sprawling impact of mobility and Big Data, he believes the future trends will be: Flash, the rise of the cloud (“every organisation is currently looking at the cloud”), software defined data centres and companies’ new quest for best-in-breed partners.

“Flash is going to be a big deal with our customers,” he stresses. “It is going to dramatically change a lot of deployments that are happening. The cloud, shared infrastructure and software-defined data centres are also going to be very relevant. [In future] things are not going to be so siloed, [and instead will be] a lot more unified. Companies are now [also] looking at best-in-breed partners coming together and offering infrastructure - although it is all being offered by different vendors it will all still be stacked and scaled [as one].”

From Anil Valluri’s perspective of 27 years in the Indian IT industry, he sees a time of intense change in India. “[But] it is moving in the right direction,” he concludes. “This is music to our ears because [in the past] infrastructure was relegated to the lowest discussion of cost. Now it is moving more towards business benefit. To my mind we are maturing significantly.”

 

Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect

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