Indian market is the largest digital economy in the world: Ram Venkatesh, Cloudera

Cloudera helps organisations transform complex data into clear and actionable insights. Cloudera claims that the company delivers enterprise data cloud for any data, anywhere, from the edge to AI. The company advances digital transformation for the world’s largest enterprises. In an interview with Dataquest, Ram Venkatesh, chief technology officer (CTO), Cloudera shared his views on India as a market for cloud.

DQ: About Ram Venkatesh and Cloudera

Ram Venkatesh: I’ve spent about 30 years in data. For the last decade, I’ve been with Cloudera, and this is the company that created big data as a category, which is extremely unique and it’s now an ecosystem. There are so many players, and so many customers who’ve been with us for a very long time, it’s been a fascinating journey. Cloudera has over a billion dollars in revenue. So, the growth has been pretty phenomenal over the last decade. I think just more than that, the data ecosystem has really taken off. It’s amazing to see India’s digitalization journey in the last five years at that scale. A lot of these kinds of digital transformations are really powered by data. So what makes Cloudera unique? If you get down to it, it’s really about all of your data. Cloudera is one of the only providers of structured analytics over unstructured data. That’s our USP.

DQ: How has the cloud and data market evolved in the past two years, especially post-pandemic?

Ram Venkatesh: In the pandemic, the transformation was that remote is the only option. So we saw extreme usage of an adoption of public cloud, because for businesses that was the only way out. There was tremendous growth in public clouds. But I think as the pandemic is subsiding, we are seeing now that the cloud companies’ growth rates are coming down. It doesn’t mean cloud is going out of fashion, it just means that the hyper growth has slowed. But if you take the pandemic out of it, the growth is consistent. So, adoption of cloud has come back to pre-pandemic levels.

DQ: How is India as a market different from the global market? 

Ram Venkatesh: I think it’s a very exciting time to be in the Indian market because this is the largest digital economy in the world. We need to acknowledge this fact as heavily as we should both inside and outside India. The amount of digital exhaust that is being created on a daily basis within India likely exceeds any other nation on Earth today. The government’s view of making some of these data centric services available for everybody is at a scale that was just unimaginable even a few years ago. The scale of digitization being used to reach the common man is massive. I think that’s what is really unique about the Indian market. The government and the systems have operationalized scale, whether it comes to the vaccine rollout, or when it comes to elections, these are some of the largest coordination projects that have been pulled off very successfully. And I think what is exciting about being in the Indian market.

DQ: Sectors that Cloudera is focussed on in India?

Ram Venkatesh: The government, telecom and fintech financial services are areas that are of interest to us.  In India, all three of the largest telcos are our customers, and a number of the largest banks are our customers.

DQ: How Do You Help Consumers Overcome Challenges?

Ram Venkatesh: Data helps consumers’ lives become easier. I think that it’s very empowering. Consumers are not lawyers, and they’re not expecting to read a 17 page, click through to understand terms and conditions. All of us want to make this thing go away. It’s kind of what you’re after. But I think that it is concerns around data privacy, data usage, and being able to control your digital footprint. That’s really important for consumers. And I think this is where regulation has a valuable role to play, to make sure that you know the end consumers, the spirit of what they’re asking for, has to be adhered to. 

I think it’s interesting that this shows up globally. And I think, also, this is where, internationally, the US is not as ahead as parts of APAC and the EU are in terms of providing a framework or an umbrella in which consumers have more protection about how their data gets used. We believe that there are things that we can do from a data management standpoint, where the more you are in control of your data, that’s the best way we can enable it. This is why although we are not B2C, we help businesses comply with these consumer mandates. For instance, the way we’ve architected both our public and private cloud products, the customer is in complete control over their data. So then they can transitively have that same trust with their end consumers. 

DQ: How is the advent of ChatGPT expected to impact businesses?

Ram Venkatesh: Clearly the conversational mode of interaction is here to stay, and conversational analytics should also be expected. We will have to wait and watch as to what happens in this space.

DQ: How do you help customers with the changing data privacy laws?

Ram Venkatesh: When it comes to privacy, I feel like this is where regulations help clarify on what are the use cases that are locally important at a macro and a country level. So some of it is empowering consumers. We look for cues from the government for what are the macro things that are of interest regionally when it comes to compliance. For example, with the banks, we enable things that let the banks then implement what the government asks them to comply with so then the consumer has the right experience.

DQ: Cloudera has become a $1 billion company. So what were the key drivers for Growth?

Ram Venkatesh: It’s the appetite for data. I think our customers continue to expand the kinds of things they want to do with their data. There’s no end in sight. It’s also the volume, velocity, or variety of data. That’s one of the things and on the other side of it, is the number of different ways that people want to analyze data. I think on both, we are seeing a lot of innovation. The way you think about unstructured data is completely different today as opposed to what you thought about it six months ago. So if you think about Cloudera now, if 80% of our data is unstructured, what we can do for businesses is that they can build the equivalent of chargeability over their data. This is an example of how they were doing SQL analytics a year ago. And now the same data has to be analyzed in a different way. And I’m sure two years from now, there will be something else. So data continues to be analyzed in interesting ways. The two big drivers for our growth are the underlying appetite for data and the innovations, and how you process the data. We are able to participate in our customer’s growth with that.

DQ: What is the competitive advantage that Cloudera has to offer?

Ram Venkatesh: When there is large scale data analytics involved, having the flexibility to run where you want to be going is critical. Businesses that were on-premise maybe wanted to go to the cloud, but now they realize that there is a cost of running on the cloud. So if they choose to run on-premise sometimes and on the cloud sometimes, we have focused on making sure that we can meet the customer where they are. I think in an environment like India, where cost and efficiency are paramount, having that flexibility is going to continue to be a differentiator.

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