Sharad Sanghi, CEO — Global Data Centres and Cloud Infrastructure (India) at NTT Ltd
This is part 5 of a series on how India’s biggest tech firms are helping companies deal with the Covid-19 lockdown, and what their biggest challenges and opportunities are. Read previous instalments here
While cloud computing was already on the upswing earlier, the current situation has further pushed clients towards it, says Sanghi in an interview with Forbes India. Edited excerpts:
Q. What are the biggest challenges (and any opportunities) your customers are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
NTT has a diverse clientele across major industry verticals and there are some across-the-board challenges posed by Covid-19. Some verticals like travel, hospitality, theatre, print media and real estate have seen a major impact while others like pharma and banking have seen limited fallout. In terms of challenges, the most prominent one is ensuring operational continuity during the lockdown. Offices are closed and there is a disruption of the global as well as local supply chains and manpower availability. Many companies may not have had a comprehensive contingency plan or were not prepared for these challenges ahead of time.
However, this is also an opportunity for organisations to become more flexible and integrate cutting edge technologies into their processes. It is time for businesses to adopt practices such as remote working, integrate technology into processes and increase automation.
Q. How are you helping your customers tackle those challenges?
We have helped our clients in running their businesses seamlessly by providing them services such as secured remote working, digital events and meetings, remote client experience, business continuity and data security solutions. Security becomes even more important since there is the risk of data theft when employees log in remotely.
During the current scenario, we have seen bandwidth demand from our clients rise by over 20 percent. As a provider of crucial services such as data centres, cloud and network, we have always provisioned our capacities in a way that maintains additional bandwidth to meet sudden surge in demand.
Q. Which products and services from your company are most in demand during these times? Why?
The disruption to regular business operations and the need to adopt remote working processes has led to a spike in demand for bandwidth and cloud storage. Our clients all over the world have made the transition to the 'work-from-home' system during this crisis. Hence, there has been an increase in demand for security technologies such as ‘zero-trust’ which provides users access to applications without a VPN. There is also an increased usage of cloud infrastructure, since sectors like banking and finance are promoting the use of digital channels such as online banking through apps.
Digital tools and automation have enabled clients to continue operating during the Covid-19 outbreak. Web video conferencing solutions as well as automation for calling and routing calls to remote employees have been in demand. We expect that after the restrictions are lifted, our customers will re-architect their IT and network. This will enable their human resources to work flexibly from any location and minimise the requirement of physical movement in a crisis situation.
Q. How well were your customers prepared for the work-from-home scenario?
Even before the pandemic, work-from-home processes were rapidly gaining popularity globally. Now that this is the only scenario available to continue business operations during the lockdown, clients have certainly shown greater adaptability.
Q. Are your customers accelerating their move-to-the-cloud plans during these times? Why?
While cloud computing was already on the upswing earlier, the current situation has further pushed clients towards it. The government has made data localisation mandatory and we had anticipated it to be a year of accelerated growth in the hybrid cloud market. We are witnessing an increased demand for centralised management of various workloads across multiple clouds.
To meet the increased demand, we are providing our clients with simplified end-to-end cloud management services across multiple cloud platforms. We expect more and more companies to move to the cloud to take advantage of the operational and cost efficiencies and improved profitability. We also hope that customers who were on-premises and faced challenges during lockdown will transition to cloud. Further, due to cash flow and logistical challenges as a fallout of the lockdown, customers will prefer cloud rather than incurring capital expenditure on buying and shipping IT hardware or software assets.
Q. How are you helping your customers accelerate their move to the cloud?
We are offering our customers multiple cloud platforms both internally (our public cloud — SimpliCloud) and through partnerships with global providers. Our approach is to help them choose the most suitable platform for their workload and plan the migration. We also offer them post-migration support. Our ability to provide cloud security services further helps our customers make a faster decision about moving to cloud.
Q. What are the biggest opportunities and challenges faced by your own company during these times?
Since our services fall in the essentials category, we maintain a robust contingency plan. The current pandemic has allowed us to test the efficacy of these plans and make any adjustments to be future-ready. We have employees working from home and have been following government advisories. We have provided employees with secured access to our systems, platforms and data as well as world-class collaboration tools. We have also adopted a 'split shift' approach for our critical operations.
Before the lockdown was enforced in various countries including India, we had put a moratorium on all non-client critical company travel. We have also been maintaining minimum staff presence at our data centres. About 93 percent of NTT employees are working remotely, with only 6 percent to 7 percent physically in the office. We have sanitised vehicles for employees attending office. Our facilities are being disinfected on an hourly basis and we have provided for food and stay at or near our data centres.
Since we had switched to the work-from-home process even before the lockdown was implemented in India, we have been able to ensure that lack of on-site manpower doesn't bring down our productivity. Our design and product teams are collaborating digitally and regularly coming up with new ideas and innovations. All our employees are connected via videoconferencing and we are committed to ensuring highest productivity levels.