Nutanix India MD Sankalp Saxena speaks on data localisation, product innovation and acquisition
The company has acquired multiple startups such as Minjar, Calm and Frame, in the last 2 years
Blockchain brings a heightened sense of transparency and simplification says Saxena
In the last decade, as startups and MSMEs have become internet-centric, India has turned into the new hotbed for cloud service providers. With the Personal Data Protection Bill which advocates for data localisation on the horizon, the demand of having local data centres will only rise. While IBM, Microsoft and AWS have been hugely popular in the field of cloud infrastructure, Nutanix and DigitalOcean have been fast emerging as popular alternatives. US-based Nutanix offers cloud software and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions and has been on an acquisition spree since the last year.
On the sidelines of NASSCOM Product Conclave 2019, Inc42 spoke to Sankalp Saxena, SVP and MD of operations at Nutanix India, about the company’s approach to the market, the traction it is seeing and what it thinks about the ongoing data localisation debate in the country.
Inc42: What’s your outlook regarding the India market? What has helped your journey?
Sankalp Saxena: I think if you look at our journey, overall as a company, Nutanix just turned 10 years old, so we’re still in our early stages in one sense. For us in India, the journey is six years old from our R&D innovation cycle perspective and from a go-to-market perspective, we’ve been in India for three years. The journey has been nothing short of spectacular because of talent and tenacity.
In terms of talent, we have an amazing assimilation of people from some wonderful top-tier institutions here. Our founder, himself is from IIT Kanpur, so on and so forth. So we’ve got very active internship programmes and we’re also working very closely with academia on research and issues. So at IIT Delhi and IIT Mumbai, for example, we’re driving collaborative research initiatives to help drive innovation in the spaces we want. So that’s been very good.
In terms of tenacity, if you look at the adoption in the market that’s taking place, we see the hybrid cloud evolution as being similar to what happened in telephony earlier.
Many parts of India missed the entire landline phase and went to mobiles very quickly, and we’re seeing the same advent happen in the hybrid cloud space. So India’s projection for growth over the next five years is roughly a 37% adoption from 13% to 14% now.
Inc42: Are we just talking about AI and cloud adoption among businesses?
Sankalp Saxena: If you look at hyper-convergence and hybrid cloud adoption, we believe the pendulum is going to be not one extreme or the other. It won’t be all on-premise, but it won’t be all on public cloud. So the hybrid cloud evolution is where you have a certain component of workloads sitting on-premise for you and a certain amount of workloads deployed across a multi-cloud strategy. Nutanix is this evolution to help make that experience seamless for the enterprise and minimise the complexity. That’s where we play into.
Inc42: So Nutanix India has also acquired a slew of startups? How do you incorporate their product model into your own, and what kind of startups or product models are you looking for in the market to collaborate or acquire?
Sankalp Saxena: So if you look at what we’ve done till date, we’ve done a very interesting acquisition in the cloud optimisation and management space, which was called Minjar to look at cloud governance, security and overall kind of process management. That team was a good size team for us to integrate and I think the company’s DNA compared to what we had brought in and we can’t question them as their team internally was very similar.
In that, we still have a very strong founder’s mentality among those teams. We acquired another company called Calm. They looked at the business process orchestration and automation. All of these fit in well with our DNA because we’re moving at a very high speed, developing and delivering these innovative solutions. So for us, I think that’s the genesis of what we continue to look for. What’s on our radar right now? We can’t really speak about that, but clearly the Indian ecosystem.
I think the journey will continue for us, not just in India. We also acquired a company in Belgrade, for example, Frame for the desktop as a service solution. So for us, the ecosystem is global but India certainly does play into that as actively as other geographies too.
Inc42: If we talk about the Nutanix business by countries, so where do you find India at this point of time? And what’s likely to be in the future?
Sankalp Saxena: I think India is a rapidly emerging market; it gives the sense and scale of our ambitions in terms of taking bigger and bigger bets and really leveraging the technology that’s available. We don’t have the encumbrance of legacy to a large extent and in that sense, India, for us, clearly is a large opportunity in terms of specifics. We don’t do a countrywide breakout of our revenue so that’s something I probably wouldn’t elaborate on.
However, India clearly is rapidly emerging for us and we’re very bullish on the Indian market. And we have a sales presence across on a pan India wide basis. And we’ve seen very good traction with customers here.
Inc42: You spoke about the product development that’s happening in the market. However, the policy and infrastructure developments are clearly not in sync with the pace of ongoing product development in the country. How do you see these in the context of their impact on tech businesses?
Sankalp Saxena: Let me answer that in the context of one of the government initiatives that has been talked about a lot. Each of the states is talking about the Smart City initiative and bringing government services closer to citizens. I think that’s a great evolution of how they see technology going from being this large, monolithic offering that’s provided to us, either onshore or offshore, to now broken into smaller and smaller bite-sized elements that can be delivered either regionally or on a statewide basis or on a citywide basis. So for us, that evolution is absolutely hand-in-glove.
We see the advent of smart cities as a good way to visualize it. So whether it’s land registration, citizen services, passports, etc. technology is being dispersed to the edge and services are then being enabled to the clusters and those local edges and the insights are being aggregated and sent back.
With edge IoT coming out, we are seeing a distributed model be far more effective, not only from a time to value of services being deployed but also from the efficacy of not needlessly moving data back and forth.
And I think data protection absolutely plays into it. A lot of countries have looked at the sovereignty of data for its respective citizens to be maintained within those geographical boundaries, and I think India is absolutely the cutting edge of that.
Inc42: It is natural to compare India’s proposed data protection rules with GDPR but there is a huge difference in terms of data localisation. As a cloud service provider, how does Nutanix see this?
Sankalp Saxena: So I think there’s a segmentation of the nature of the information discussed in the Bill. So as you clearly pointed out, there’s certain information that’s going to be classified and characterised as being very critical to the individual and the individual’s identity that will then need to be maintained within the sovereign realm of that information.
There are other elements that are public domain information that can exist anywhere. I think the critical information is what we need to be more discerning about and put guidelines for, which is similar to what GDPR is doing in one sense.
So I think the hybrid approach again, in this case, is going to be the right approach. In terms of when the bill is going to get passed and all that I think it is an involved process. So I do believe the deliberations that would be taking place would result in a far stronger proposition. We can find a common global best practice and different nations aligned to it. I think it will be much stronger as a global community versus inventing a standard that is only India-specific.
Inc42: Blockchain is also disrupting the architecture of the existing database centres and there are multiple domains or sectors like fintech or supply chain where blockchain is fast-growing and capturing on this phase. So how do you see the advent of blockchain in the context of the data centres?
Sankalp Saxena: For India, with the distributed tapestry and size and scale that we have, I think the multi ledger system like blockchain provides you with the ability to only get transparency but authenticity. That information is going to be a very powerful driver for the economy because the trust index will follow up with that.
So I think in this regard, India can possibly play a more accelerated role in the adoption of blockchain technology. The banking sector, for example, can either become an advocate or an adversary, depending on how they’re going to derive value from the adoption of the second, which is happening.
I believe blockchain is very apt for India. It helps us on the trust index, it helps us on the authentication security protocols with having a distributed database structure, with a host of miners and things like that, the people authenticating information.
Today, that is missing to a large extent, there’s always doubt in our mind. Blockchain can be phenomenally transformative and disruptive and bring a heightened sense of transparency and simplification to the processes. I think it’s much required.
Inc42: Is Nutanix India also working around any blockchain project?
Sankalp Saxena: Not in the blockchain area, but in the database and structure area, managing databases employing them and making them far more efficient, we absolutely have initiatives in those areas. But we are not involved in the last-mile blockchain area. So we want to partner with our solution providers who can leverage the platform that we have available for the deployment, but we would not be a native blockchain solution provider at this stage at least.
Inc42: What gives you the optimism about the Indian market?
Sankalp Saxena: I think India if you look at what’s happening here, the metamorphosis for India is phenomenal. Our ambitions are very well-calibrated and I think the ecosystem is there. And in my mind, one could almost argue that 10X might be too conservative of a target, given the type of initiatives momentum, talent, tenacity, opportunity that we have out of India, I really think for India, the next two or three quarters are going to be the best that we’ve seen so far.
So we’re very excited, very bullish to be in this ecosystem, with a pretty large footprint out of India, in helping in whatever manner Nutanix can. And I think it’s in one sense, the best is yet to come.