–Shekhar Dasgupta, Country
Manager, Oracle India.

Challenges are not new for Shekhar Dasgupta, the
new country manager at Oracle India. He is one of the few who has seen how the shift from
mainframes to client server has happened in this country. At 40, Dasgupta is a 15-year-old
veteran in the Indian IT industry, first with PSI and then with Oracle. At his new job,
Dasgupta has his task cut out for him. Oracle in India has publicly declared that it will
achieve a target of $ 100 million in sales by the year 2000 for his company. Dasgupta sat
down with DATAQUEST within the first 100 hours of the announcement of his job to discuss
his next avatar. Brief, candid, and fiercely blunt, Dasgupta outlined his priorities for
the next near term, preferring specifics to broad generalities of strategic intent.
Excerpts from his conversation with Surajit Agarwal and Asim

To begin with, what do you see as
your main focus areas in the year? What is your agenda as the new Chief of Oracle India?

First of all, it will be business as usual. Continuity is something that will be there. We
will continue to focus on areas we have always done well. Apart from this, we will be
looking at consolidating on the start we have got in the ERP business. We now have 45
implemented sites and I think that is a significant achievement. We will be building on
this strength to go out and really get more ERP business. We will also be looking at
significantly expanding our verticalization strategy. The components for us to attack the
vertical segment are more or less in place. We have acquired a number of companies
[internationally] that have built vertical solutions. So, we see business in this area
doing well, especially in areas like banking, consumer goods, telecom etc. Other areas
which I think are going to be hot in the coming months, and which we will be taking full
advantage of, include datawarehousing and network computing.

Talking about ERP, which you say is
a major focus area, don’t you think you have been somewhat left behind in the race? After
all, SAP and BAAN seem to have garnered the major chunk of the market.

Yes, it is true that SAP has got most of the mindshare as far as ERP in India is
concerned. That is only because we were not talking about ERP. We have instead chosen to
prove ourselves in the field. Today I think we have done that. We already have 45 live
sites in the country, that is more than what either SAP and Baan have. Now that we have
the proof we are intending to go out and talk about our strengths in this area. You see,
in the ERP business it is not what you have sold but the number of sites implemented. And
there we have the edge. Now, we will be capitalizing on that edge. Because you see we do
anyway have the better technology.

How can you say that? After all,
Oracle is seen as the poor man’s SAP….

I suppose you refer to General Electric as a poor man. Or for that matter Kelloggs. We
have some of the biggest multinationals in the country. This is not true at all. All I can
say is people have been terribly misinformed.

But what is the technology edge you
claim over SAP or Baan?

Look at the two companies. SAP, for example, was set up as far back as 1976. The solutions
they have are essentially for the mainframe market. They have simply adapted that to the
client server environment. So, the core still remains this huge monolithic structure. This
makes implementing it very difficult. On the other hand, we began as late as 1989 and,
therefore, our core was built to be modular. This is our biggest advantage. Now the others
too are trying to redo their systems.

You say one of your focus areas is
going to be the vertical segment, but isn’t that a very small market in India?

Yes, it is small but here the potato principle applies. Twenty percent of the companies
will account for 80 percent of the business so that is a big enough segment for us.
There’s enough action in this market to keep us interested. Especially as different
segments like telecom are beginning to open up.

Apart from telecom what are the
attractive areas in this market?

Consumer goods is hot. So is telecom. Power. Petroleum. These are all segments where we
have the alliances and partnerships in place and these are also the segments where we see
a lot of growth potential in the Indian market. We will be going after these sectors.

Oracle has been harping on the NC
for quite sometime now. But nothing much seems to be happening here?

That is not true. You see for something like the NC it is important to have the
infrastructure in place first. It is almost akin to the situation faced by the auto majors
in the US in the fifties. They decided that if they had to expand their business then they
had to ensure that good roads were in place first. Similarly, with the NC we are first
ensuring that the supporting infrastructure is in place. Telecommunication facilities is
something we do not have too much control over, but we are confident they will improve. As
far as strategic partnerships are concerned we have those in place. One of our partners
has just sold JavaStations to Price Waterhouse. Similarly, if we get a few more such
companies to implement the JavaStations, we will have something to talk about.

How soon you think you can be ready
with really going to town about the NC?

Well! I think we should have most of the components in place by the end of the year. After
that we can really begin to push the NC forward.

Coming to your core bread and
butter business, the RDBMS. You were the first to come into the Indian market. But
subsequently competition has caught up with you. Is this hurting you?

Not at all. Show me where the competition is. Sybase nobody talks about. Ingres nobody
talks about and Informix too is non-existent.

But the fact that CA has come in,
in a big way, is surely going to hurt you.

With Ingres, no way. Unfortunately they have lost too much ground. Ingres has changed
hands so many times that it really doesn’t belong to anyone now. They cannot hope to
really give us a run with Ingres.

But what about SQL Server? You do
not think you have anything to worry about from them?

Well! Yes, they are competition. You see though we might not perceive competition from
many sides we also must realize that we cannot get complacent. So we will be watching out
for SQL server. Our advantage against SQL server is that they are restricted to the NT
platform whereas we are much more broad-based than that.

But NT is also your biggest
platform. In fact, Oracle on NT is much bigger than Oracle on Unix.

Yes, and that is why we are not taking them lightly. But on the other hand we outsell SQL
server on NT. So, we are the number one RDBMS on that platform too.

How does your tie-up with Novell
fit in to the whole picture?

That’s a plus point we hope to capitalize on. After all, India has a very large installed
base of Novell users. For us, as a database company our competition is not just from other
products it could also be from some flat-file COBOL program. So the tie-up will help
create a new market for us.

Finally, your predecessor Anil Kaul
had declared that he will be able to take Oracle India turnover to $ 100 million by the
year 2000? Is that also your goal?

[Thinks for a long time and answers with a wry smile.] All I can say is he has left a
challenging goal for us.

Are you saying then that you will
not be able to achieve the goal?

No. If that is the target then we will do our best to achieve it. The thing is there are a
lot of other factors also that come into play. For example, the economy was in shambles
for the last two years. It has only now started recovering. We will try our best.

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