‘Our approach to business has always been long term, and we don’t pull out resources or defocus them because of a short-term downturn or a slump’ – Sanjay Mirchandani, MD, Microsoft Corp India Pvt Ltd

–Sanjay
Mirchandani,

Managing Director, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt Ltd.

While Sanjay Mirchandani has
been with Microsoft since 1995, he has only recently, in January 1998, taken up the role
of Managing Director for the Indian sub-continent. His continuing stint has already seen
announcement of major initiatives including the launch of the retail channel, SQL Server
7, Digital Nervous System and voluminous increase in certified programmers and authorized
training centers. Before coming to India, Mirchandani spent much of his time in the
Microsoft offices of the Middle East and Africa and at Arthur Andersen and Bell Atlantic.
He has a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. In an
interview with Dataquest, Mirchandani describes the current Microsoft outlook for the
country.

What are some of the recent
business initiatives taken by Microsoft in India?

In reality, Microsoft India reflects Microsoft internationally. One of the investments we
are making this year, which is being driven by our customer unit, is reaching out to the
three segments within the IT space. In our minds, we broadly categorize the IT
professional to be either a developer, someone who works in an IT department or a channel
partner who needs access to technical information. Another initiative that we launched in
July this year, is a community development program. There are three brand umbrellas that
we classify this into: Microsoft Developer Network, TechNet and Microsoft Direct Access.
We work through a combination of online, subscription and physical seminar sessions; a
three-fold continuous process and we do this countrywide.

Are there any particular market
segments on which Microsoft is focusing in India?

Though it is hard to define and separate, the small and medium businesses are very
important right now. Having said that, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done
in the enterprise space, with large corporations and the governments. Then we have a
process by which we touch small and medium businesses through seminars, through
partners-one-to-many relationship. And we use things like subscriptions, the web and
community activities to make sure we are engaging with this segment. So it’s a business
model that we build across the world that complements our strengths with the strengths of
our partners, letting us focus on our core competency.

Considering the current slump in
corporate spending, do you plan to change your product and market focus?

Our approach to business has always been long-term, and we don’t pull out resources or
defocus them because of a short-term downturn or a slump. We had already put people on the
ground to focus on nothing but internet technology before the internet or the ISP policy
was even conceived.

A lot of organizations are
upgrading, putting in servers and building infrastructure. Coming from a different
perspective, these are tough times for organizations, and this is where we feel our
technology can help them become more efficient. We are moving from purely delivering boxes
to offering Microsoft Consulting Services, as an integral part of doing business with the
enterprise. So, while there is a slowdown in the market, we are working with organizations
to see how they can become more efficient using our technologies, getting them to network
faster, do their processes faster, have a faster turnaround time and rotate their money
faster. The slowdown can probably make companies want to get more efficient, and
technology is one way of getting there. We really feel that the opportunity today is the
medium size organization and initiatives with the government.

How does the Enterprise Customer
Unit manage its accounts?

We use a combination of direct customer involvement on a one-to-one basis and work with
our partners to ensure, high levels of customer satisfaction and coverage. We have key,
one-to-many events that are focused on the enterprise space. For example, the Executive
Summit held in India and in Redmond every quarter, where we invite key decision-makers
within customers to attend to get a perspective of where we are going. We also have CIO
Round Tables, quarterly events in every city, where we bring in a speaker, usually from
Redmond, and invite our customers for a discussion on a hot topic.

What is your strategy for
Microsoft Consulting Services?

MCS has two roles, one is risk mitigation, and the second is skills transfer. For risk
mitigation, the MCS team members are agents that come to an organization with a partner or
work with the IT staff and show them the best way to deploy Microsoft technologies in a
risk-free manner. In skills transfer, our goal is to cover as many partners and customers
as need our skills. These are the two focus areas-one being to make sure the technology
can work correctly, and the second to transfer our skills to them.
This is unique because other consulting organizations don’t perform the skills transfer
component. Why are we different? Like our certification program, we focus on our core
competency-software. Our MCS consultants are some of the most highly skilled professionals
within the Microsoft team, and we want them to go out and touch as many partners and
customers as they can and transfer skills. The influence an MCS consultant has on our
technology being deployed correctly, is the important criteria.

Where does Windows 98, Windows
NT, BackOffice Server and, now, Windows 2000 fit in the Indian end-user space?

Today, we have a very distinct strategy on the desktop operating systems. If you are a
corporate, and have a footprint that can support Windows NT Workstation, and are concerned
about total cost of ownership, manageability and security, the Windows NT Workstation-NT
Server combination is the way to go. That is the clear direction for a corporate customer
that wants all these benefits.

If you are a corporate customer who
does not have a footprint on your machines to run Windows NT Workstation or have DOS-based
dependencies, or don’t need the security of Windows NT Workstation, Windows 98 is a
compelling upgrade. Windows 98 is a value package for multimedia, plug-and-play
technologies, and does appeal to the small business, homes and some corporate environments
that do not have the Windows NT Workstation footprint.

BackOffice Server is a key platform
to help Indian customers build infrastructure for taking them into the future. Components
like messaging, database, internet and systems management are key to doing that. The
BackOffice Sever platform is also a key component for our digital nervous system
architecture.

We don’t have products for the
short term, so Windows 95 was launched in August 1995, and Windows 98 in June 1998, and
that is a three-year window where we built the product. Windows 2000-workstation and
server-is around the corner. And the road map will continue to be defined. But whatever it
is, we have always been backward compatible with our technologies. In fact, we still
support all the DOS code through Windows 98, because we understand that there are millions
of users out there.

So you really have to see which
pieces of technology make sense in the local environment. While the uptake has to go up,
you have to look at it from a local perspective.

Has the penetration of SQL
Server been slower than your expectations?

It has been a steady climb, and we cannot ignore existing market players. At the end, it
is the customer’s choice, and it is our job to deliver the value with our products. The
whole point here is that we understand the space-there has been 25 years of Unix, NetWare
has been there, Oracle too has been there. We have a clear strategy of being able to
coexist and demonstrate the relevance of our products. We have over 1,000 certified
professionals in the last three months, who understand SQL Server 7.0.

We know we are the best performing
database on Windows NT, and this is our strength. Our tools dovetail with our products
well. So our approach-the BackOffice value proposition-customers using Exchange and
Windows NT, and the integration of SQL Server into this environment with intranet
solutions, hybrid workflow applications, makes it very effective. It is also in its own
right, a cost-effective, high performance database that runs on an Intel or Alpha
platform.

Can you describe the Microsoft
sales channel strategy?

As the traditional Microsoft approach, because we don’t sell directly, we would never go
in and fill an order directly. We only work through partners. We work closely with all our
channel partners, developing and getting them skilled and updated on our technology, to
leverage corporate account opportunities. And this has been the traditional Microsoft way
of doing business. What really makes us unique is that our partners and the channel
dealers know categorically that there will never be an instance when Microsoft will go in
and do business directly. Simply put, we have no process for doing that.

What is Microsoft’s role in
education and certification in India?

We started certification as an initiative in India in 1996. As more of our products were
proliferating down the stream, we soon realized we needed more people with the technical
expertise to support, maintain and develop our products. This initiative is also in an
investment mode in India.

We have authorized technical
education centers like NIIT, Aptech, STG, IIS Infotech, about 30 companies that partner
with us, and run over 60 centers. The curriculum offered is the Microsoft Official
Curriculum, designed by the product team in Redmond, and is uniform around the world. So
the Microsoft Certified Professional from India or anywhere else will be the same. As
there also needs to be a validation of the skills of the professionals, we have partnered
with Sylvan Prometric to administer the examinations, once again designed by Microsoft.
The success rate for these exams is 54%, and this ensures that the caliber of the
professionals is consistent worldwide.

Other streams are the
Microsoft-certified systems engineer, a product specialist who implements our platforms on
a network and the Microsoft-certified solution developer, who develops products and
solutions on Microsoft platforms and technologies. We also have an Authorized Academic
Training Partner Program working with colleges to offer Microsoft training and
certification, and the University Advanced Technology Labs program, sharing product code
and information with universities and educational institutes for their research.

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