The state of cloud computing in India

By Keith Sonia | 2 November 2016

With roughly 250 million Indians owning network connected devices, many of which rely on cloud computing, expansion of cloud based technologies in the country seems assured. Indeed, with the projected growth and expansion, spending on cloud-based technologies in India is expected to hit nearly $2 billion, a larger investment than anywhere else in the world. The projected expansion of cloud technologies in India has prompted behemoths like Oracle and IBM to offer cloud-based solutions for Indian start-ups – this might be because a 2015 survey tallied 61% of Indian business customers across a variety of industries that were cloud users, and 31% that were hoping to acquire the technology in the immediate near-future.

With enormous spending comes competition. Oracle and IBM are joined by Google, Microsoft, SAP, and Amazon, among others. While some service offerings between the firms differ, competition in the expanding marketplace is robust. Search for cloud solutions in India, and you would be expected to find saturated advertising and cut-rate pricing as each company attempts to gain a foothold in the country.

Much of the ability for India to meet its tech goals, including cloud computing, will be determined by the amount of care and investment of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s government seems aware of the importance of tech and infrastructure investment, with Gartner revealing that public cloud services spending in India amounted to $731 million.

The government is also keen on following through with India’s tech promise. This is not the first time that cloud-based services in India was expected to balloon, only for a variety of factors causing a slowdown, as happened in 2013 due to economic and currency issues, prior to the election of Modi as prime minister. With media outlets, including CNBC having spoken too soon, there was room for healthy scepticism. Additionally, despite the clear interest of tech giants in expanding cloud-based services, India’s flagging network infrastructure has been seen as an obstacle, particularly in relation to bandwidth, with organisations like the World Economic Forum and United Nations giving India a fairly dismal score on that front.

With that in mind, Modi has unleashed Digital India, a hyper-ambitious government plan that aims to improve on the aforementioned infrastructure issues that have often plagued the tech economy in India. With supporters and backers from Silicon Valley, including Mark Zuckerberg, Digital India’s goals are numerous, but continued investment in cloud services is seen as critical. This has manifested itself in both developing a more fertile ground for private investment, but also continued expansion of the public cloud, including DigiLocker, which hosts a variety of personal, public documents, including university certificates and voter ID cards.

With Prime Minister Modi’s government unveiling initiatives that set forth plans for ‘smart cities’, through the Smart City Mission, much of the competition in cloud computing, for now, is being centred on urban areas that the Indian government expects to see increased population growth by the middle part of this century. As more and more Indian citizens attempt to both find greater success, and in many cases expand their own lifespan, they do so by retreating from rural Indian and into cities. It’s with that in mind that a company like Oracle has concentrated its still new start-up cloud accelerator in Bangalore first (with an investment that includes the construction of a massive, 2.8 million square foot office in the city) but with plans to expand into city centres like Pune, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Chennai, and Gurgaon, among others. Oracle’s competitors will likely follow suit.

Microsoft has also come to view the goals of Modi’s Digital India as a blueprint for growth – all of which they aim to service through the cloud. This includes partnering with start-ups in India on SaaS offerings, as well as working with local government on citizen services. Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India, told the Financial Express that 52 of the top 100 companies listed on the BSE in India, local and global, utilized Microsoft’s cloud offering.

It isn’t just large corporations taking advantage of rapid investment in cloud technology. Small and medium businesses and start-ups in fields as wide ranging as healthcare and education are also customers, according to Pramanik. Highlighting the overall usage of cloud-based services, Google Apps, as opposed to a full suite of traditional software offerings, is used by an estimated 70% of small businesses in the country as well.

With such universal adoption of the cloud and tech advancement in general, another lingering problem area remains for India: security. Even with investment from leaders like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Oracle, there are definite concerns over the safety of public information on the cloud in India. Progress was made with the first ever cyber security laws enacted in the country in 2013, before Modi, but there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to better enhance the cyber ecosystem while also providing adequate security measures, including streamlining how government procures services.

With security in mind, the Indian government has continued to be supportive of foreign firms storing data in the country. With the need to monitor certain bits of data as it relates to things like national security, and with an eye on the growing number of transnational hacking and surveillance incidents worldwide, the Indian government has been all too happy to work with worldwide leaders.

With the explicit support of the Modi government now assured, it seems certain that cloud-based technologies, as well as continued improvements across the board, are on a sustained upward trajectory in India. From big to small, public and private, the way the average Indian citizen interacts with their government or starts a business seems more and more likely to interact with cloud-based solutions.

By Keith Sonia

Become a bobsguide member to access the following

1. Unrestricted access to bobsguide
2. Send a proposal request
3. Insights delivered daily to your inbox
4. Career development