Sanjay Motwani, Vice President Asia Pacific, Raritan, a brand of Legrand, speaks about data centers and various other aspects of IT industry matrix
How extensive is the use of IT in India?
You have to go to the villages and see. They are more YouTube savvy than you and me. Sure, you can’t compare with what’s happening in the metros, but what’s happening out there is an eye opener. Innovations are happening in every sphere. If you look at China, students can’t enter into a school without facial recognition. In Delhi government schools, if a students attend school, an sms goes to the parents saying the student hasn’t come. I’ll not call it so much an innovation, but in terms of technology deployment you see more an more that it is happeneing. Because of this the consumer behaviour is changing.
How is data center evolving in different sectors? Is there a difference or is it the same model that works everywhere?
No, it was the finance sector that adopted technology deployment of data centers first. Then the manufacturing and ERP systems came into play. In terms of technology deployment the financial sector is obviously at the forefront. Second level is the IT-related services. The third vertical which deploys technology are the R&D labs. Especially in South India, all the technology labs of global organisations are there. They’re doing a lot of research because they are R&D labs. So, they have massive data centers. Healthcare is another one which is picking up. Media is picking up because of the HD video formats. With the digital India movement you’ll see the agriculture sec tor coming into play. There’s going to be a far more interaction between the companies that are producing fertilisers, technologies, seeds etc. It’s educating the farmers about sowing the seeds, taking care of the crops etc. Distant education and e-learning are growing, but I guess with the infrastructure improvements it will pick up. Retail and logistics will come into play in terms of freight management, optimising delivery schedules etc. Online deliveries are mapped to avoid traffic congestion etc. So, you’ll their data growing. So, I’d say these are 5-6 sectors which will use technology to the maximum.
What are your thoughts about the emerging technologies such as AI, ML, IoT etc?
These are all I’d say, supporting technologies. You already have Alexa, which translates human voice into digital signals goes into the database and gets the required information, shows that ML is being used. Use of it in customer service such as chat bots is growing. Are we happy with it? No, we are not happy. We have a long way to go to make it customer friendly. Right now, these technologies are going through a learning curve. AI is used in very specialised, high end areas. They will come into play to help us in our work in manufacturing, production etc. Today everything is an IoT. Your car is an IoT. A Mercedes today would have more than hundred sensors. By all counts it is an IoT device. Different industries will adopt these technologies differently.
Coming back to data center, it is argued that migration and storage of data would have to take into count security issues. What would you say to this?
Honestly speaking, I think the mindset around the security issue has to change. Today there are strict controls over data centers to protect them. Today, everybody is responsible for security. Not only the IT personnel, but every employee has to be responsible. Most of the security lapses that happen are because of the employees’ lack of awareness, though 99.99% of these lapses are unintentional. For example, using Dropbox for transferring is compromising the company data on a public domain. But people do it because it’s convenient. That’s consumer behaviour. Hence, today the challenge for IT is that a lot of technology usage happens without the knowledge of IT. A CTO will refuse to allow transferring of large confidential files via Dropbox. So, to solve the problem, the IT department has to work out a solution for this. But the employees don’t have the time and the patience for that to come into existence. That’s what is happening today. The organisations are far more tech savvy than earlier and they have far more technology available to them. Technology is not limited to the IT department. For example, a company does market research, builds a database and forwards it to various departments. IT department is not involved in it. But the employees may be compromising the security of this data while working on it. People talk about network security, hardware security etc. All that is fine. But we need to build the sensitivity towards security. Employees use laptops and after some years, the data is deleted when a new laptop is used. But there is no surety that the data is complete deleted from the old laptop. That’s how your old passwords get hacked. It’s everybody’s responsibility. That is why I said that security is a process. It’s not about building firewalls; it’s a culture.
Do you think that there are enough technology professionals in this evolving technological environment?
No, not at all. The professionals have to adapt and upgrade.
There is an argument that even the technology institutions are not upto the mark as compared to the requirements of the industry
I would disagree. My experience is that if you’re looking for a certified course, sure you’ll not have a certified course to suit what the industry demands. But the question is, are you looking at a certificate or are you looking at skill sets? If you’re looking at skill sets there is enough knowledge available for people to learn if they want to learn. I’m being honest; I’m not a technology person. I read a lot. I do nothing else. But I don’t know anything about technology. If you ask the employees in my company, they’ll say that I don’t know anything. So, to answer your question, if people are looking at fancy certified courses, no they don’t exist. But if there is a will to learn, there is enough knowledge available in the space for you to go out and learn. People just have to make the effort of learning.
So you feel that the fresh graduates who are coming out of the institutes have to be on the job and they have to keep on learning while doing the job
If you’re looking at India, that has not change since I graduated from college. If you were to say that 30 years ago the college was teaching you things that you could apply, it was not. That has not changed. I’m by qualification a programmer. I did my BSc in Computer Science. I learnt more in my first year of job than I did in my three years of college. So if you’re going to bank upon the education system, then it’s your own expectation. The work environment always teaches you far more; life will teach you far more than education. It’s upto you what you want to learn.
Do you think the industry should invest in training graduates and it should work together with the institutions to evolve courses which suit their requirements?
It’s a larger question. Industry invests anyway in training its fresh hires. If you go to Delhi University and tell them to change a course, do you think Delhi University will change the course? The issue is the process. It will have to go through a whole process of the department of education, there will be a committee that will examine the course structure and then approval has to be taken from various governing bodies, which may take upto 5 years. By the time the approval comes, the demands in the market have changed. We have enough experts to teach. There are not enough jobs for the learned people today. They should be utilised. So, today learning on the job is the best learning.
Do you have training programmes for your employees?
Yes we do. According to the department they are in, they receive training. 70-80% of it is in-house. Again, to answer your original question, the institutes are not aligned with the requirements of the industry. When we go outside, we work with the outside agencies to customise the modules which would suit our needs, because it’s a very specific process. Even in sales – sales is not just knowing a product, picking up a bag and going and selling. It’s constantly evolving. And I’m not talking about the product. I’m talking about how to manage people. Sales is about managing people and expectations.
What kind of marketing strategies do you use?
Marketing is a different ballgame. When we launch a product, we strategise to educate the market. We did that about 10 years ago. We introduced a concept called intelligent PDU. Nobody knew what an intelligent PDU was and what benefits it had. It took us 3-5 years to educate the market. Then the marketing process was revolving around education. So, the marketing strategy depends the product, the maturity of the market etc. Today we’re leveraging the focus on how to optimise. So the strategy has changed based on the lifecycle of the product, maturity of the market and the geographical region itself. What we talk about in India would be different from what we say in Singapore.
How is the Indian market today?
It’s the fastest growing market in technology. There may be stagnation in other sectors, but not in technology.
What is the rate?
It would be about 9-11% and it will keep on growing in the next 4-5 years. This is the biggest market. We do business with every class of clients. Today every business needs technology. Even start-ups use technology to reach out to their customers.
Do you also invest in R&D?
In our own company, yes. We have R&D centres in US, Germany and France. We are innovating there and bringing the technology here.