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Bajwa and Bhattacharya: The Turnaround Faces

Two high profile appointments in the last two days could lead to a turnaround for Google Cloud and Salesforce in India


March 18:  Karan Bajwa appointed as MD of Google Cloud India

March 17: Arundhati Bhattacharya appointed as Chairperson & CEO of Salesforce India

Two business appointments announced this week that would in normal circumstances have caused ripples across the tech business ecosystem in India. However in these COVID19 times, perhaps these apparently significant future game changers have been relegated to the business pages only. Hopefully by the time the panic subsides, the industry and the overall tech ecosystem will look at these appointments in more detail and at the potential windfalls it could cause for two vendors who are yet to strike absolute gold in their respective domains in India.

Even as we try to analyse the positive changes they could usher in, it would be prudent to highlight how the two companies have officially perceived them and the messages they have sought to play out for the public domain.

According to Rick Harshman, Managing Director of Google Cloud in Asia Pacific, “Karan is a veteran in the industry with a proven track record of building and growing successful enterprise businesses. His experience will be a tremendous asset to Google Cloud’s business, our partners and our customers as we embark on this next phase of growth.”

Salesforce too has been equally enthusiastic. “Arundhati is an incredible business leader and we are delighted to welcome her to Salesforce as chairperson and CEO India,” says Gavin Patterson, President and CEO of Salesforce International. “India is an important growth market for Salesforce and a world-class innovation and talent hub and Arundhati’s leadership will guide our next phase of growth, customer success and investment in the region,” he adds.

Can Bajwa Bolster Google’s India Cloud Game

Bajwa will be responsible for driving all revenue and GTM operations for Google Cloud’s solution portfolio that includes Google Cloud Platform and G Suite. Google Cloud’s field sales, partner and customer engineering organisations in India will also report to him, and he will advise Google Cloud’s continued work with the local developer ecosystem and India-based Global System Integrators (GSIs).

Bajwa too makes his priorities clear. “Leveraging cloud computing technology to modernize and scale for growth is on the agenda of almost every enterprise CEO and CIO and Google Cloud is committed to help every organisation accelerate their digital transformation.” But will the industry veteran who had headed IBM’s and Microsoft’s operations in India and also worked in a senior position in Cisco  be able to upwardly swing Google’s cloud fortunes in India?

That is definitely a multi million dollar question and precisely the reason why Bajwa has come on board. For Google in India is keen to emulate the successful enterprise cloud gameplans that Microsoft and IBM have devised over the last few years. Let’s understand the scenario in a little more detail.

In India the spotlight has been primarily on the hybrid cloud strategy of the 5 global biggies — Microsoft, AWS, Google, IBM and Alibaba. Of these, both general perceptions and business numbers prove that Microsoft and AWS are on the top of the pile. Microsoft, through its Azure and Office365 offerings, have sort of captured a significant mindshare of both large enterprises as well as mid-market organizations. Even AWS has not been far behind but rather these two have been slogging it out for the enterprise cloud pinnacle. While IBM has not exactly competed on the lines of Microsoft and AWS, it too has carved its own niche especially thanks to its long-term strong services engagement with several large enterprsises. The acquisition of Red Hat further bolstered this strategy of IBM. Amidst all these Google has got sort of left behind in the cloud game especially amongst enterprises.

Bajwa is definitely supposed to redress this shortcoming especially counting that he has driven IBM’s recent cloud strategy in India (especially post Red Hat acquisition) including the launch of the 5 Cloud Paks. He has guided IBM’s comprehensive and end-to-end cloud solutions suite, right from bare metal servers via SoftLayer to all in IaaS presents an impressive alternate for enterprises in their digital transformation journey. Bluemix, the app development platform, developed in house has catered to the requirements of the developers and entrepreneurs. The complete breadth of solutions that is available from IBM – IAAS, PAAS, SAAS – on Open Standards is a compelling draw.

Similarly though Bajwa moved out of Microsoft quite a few years back, definitely he must have been involved in the strategy to launch the hybrid cloud Azure Stack in 2017. These are strategically areas where Google has got left behind in the cloud marketshare stakes. When businesses are looking to adopt multi-cloud approach where they are not dependent on one vendor for their cloud needs, the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has somehow been left behind and has struggled to sell its services to enterprises in India as effectively as AWS and Microsoft have done. While AWS had the first-mover advantage, being an incumbent player in almost all organisations across the globe helped Microsoft.

The appointment of ex-Oracle executive Thomas Kurien to head Google’s cloud business worldwide was aimed at a turnaround both globally as well as in India. The cloud division which deals with computing services, online data storage and productivity software has ambitiously set a plan to generate more than $1 billion in quarterly revenue. As part of this, a large enterprise wide scale up of its cloud services has been done by Google in India. For now it appears Bajwa’s appointment is a strategy for that execution in India. It resonates with Kurien’s appointment—get someone who has driven a similar successful strategy in a competitor.

Can Bhattacharya Emerge as Salesforce’s Strong Local Face

While Salesforce has been present in India for more than a decade as a SaaS player, it has always lacked a strong local face. The appointment of former State Bank of India MD Bhaatacharya can prove to be a masterstroke. This is also a first for such a high profile appointment from the PSU banking arena to join the corporate world.

Bhattacharya, who served as the chairperson of the state-run State Bank of India for nearly four decades and oversees financial services group SWIFT India, will be tasked with helping Salesforce scale rapidly in India, one of its fastest growing overseas markets. Arundhati will report to Ulrik Nehammer, General Manager of Salesforce in the APAC region.

Salesforce offers a range of cloud services to customers in India, where it has over 1 million developers and more Trailhead users than in any other market outside of the US. The company, which competes with local players Zoho and Freshworks, counts Indian firms redBus, Franklin Templeton, and CEAT as some of its clients. “I could not be more excited to join the Salesforce team to ensure we capture this tremendous opportunity and contribute to India’s development and growth story in a meaningful way,” said Bhattacharya.

According to IDC, Salesforce and its ecosystem of customers and partners in India are expected to create over $67 billion in business revenues and create more than 540,000 jobs by 2024. Salesforce itself expects to add 3,000 jobs in India in the next three years and turn the nation into a “leading global talent and innovation hub” for the company. While these are ambitious plans, there was a need to have a high-profile face well known to not just the tech industry but the overall enterprise ecosystem to drive this and Bhattacharya can just be that face.

Bhattacharya has been active on the digital technology front too. Not only she led India’s largest public sector bank during a crucial four year period when other public sector banks were facing challenges with loans, but she also stepped up investments in technology during that time. She was instrumental in hiring a CTO from global rival Barclays, to prepare SBI to compete with smaller and nimble tech focused banks and fintech firms. Now, YONO, the digital banking platform of SBI has over 20 million customers, emerging as the largest consumer platform outside of the ecommerce companies in India.

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