Interview: Big question is how fast businesses can move to …


It’s a great time to be a technology company, says Bikram Bedi, head of India region, Amazon Internet Services It’s a great time to be a technology company, says Bikram Bedi, head of India region, Amazon Internet Services

It’s a great time to be a technology company, says Bikram Bedi, head of India region, Amazon Internet Services, an Indian subsidiary of the Amazon Group which undertakes the resale and marketing of AWS Cloud services in India. “There is so much potential in a market like India and it really excites us. Our founder Jeff Bezos loves to say, ‘It is still Day One!’ and we are always deeply focused on how we can innovate and build solutions for our customers.”

In India, AWS are the pioneers in the start-up segment and have established considerable market share and have built significant momentum in this space. “We are equally focused on the enterprise space; we work with large conglomerates and multinationals. The breadth and depth of what we are doing with customers, and the pace of innovation and transformation in this market, is exhilarating,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:

What is AWS’s focus area in India and what is the strategic roadmap to achieve it?

AWS has grown significantly since its launch in 2006, and we expect that it will continue to grow both in size and significance to our customers. We now offer over 100 services on the AWS platform. The market we address comprises hardware, software, solutions, IoT, mobility, artificial intelligence, machine learning, networking, security, and content distribution network. It is a market worth trillions of dollars and we find that the benefits of cloud computing really deliver results for the entire market.

In India, AWS are the pioneers in the start-up segment and have established considerable market share and built significant momentum in this space. In fact, a recent report suggested that over 90 of the top 100 start-ups in India run on AWS. We are well-aligned to this globally and in India, it has always been an area of expertise for us, especially with customers such as Delhivery, Ola, and Haptik, among others.

Tell us about your focus on the enterprise segment.

We are equally focused on the enterprise space; we work with large conglomerates and multinationals who are driven by two key goals. The first is to build hubs of digital innovation within their own organisations, to drive experimentation and creativity. The second is retiring technical debt, helping to optimise existing IT infrastructure and migrating legacy applications such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, to cloud infrastructure.

For example, Larsen & Toubro Information Technology (L&TITL) went live on S/4 HANA Business Suite on AWS Cloud in just five months, and is possibly one of the largest implementations of SAP on AWS in the world to date. We are seeing traction especially with financial companies, including customers like Bajaj Finance, Aditya Birla Finance, HDFC Life, and Axis Bank. Super-Max, a global company with operations across five continents and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of razor blades, migrated their SAP solutions on AWS.

The SMB sector—which is the economic heart of India—is also an important area. We see this market adopting core workloads, building a digital presence and retiring technical debt. They tend to make decisions quickly, and then adapt at a fast clip. SEW Infrastructure, a leading engineering firm, run their Oracle apps on AWS and discovered that the cost of running these mission-critical apps, was less than the cost of their air conditioning. We are seeing significant adoption in the ERP workload space.

What are some of the important tech trends that are playing out for AWS?

One very interesting area is machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). In the fullness of time, most applications will have some form of AI/ML infused in them. Today, in terms of usage of the technologies, it’s still relatively early days. However, virtually every enterprise and start-up is interested in it.

At Amazon, we have been investing deeply in AI for more than 20 years, and in fact more ML is built on AWS than anywhere else. Our mission is to share our learning and ML capabilities as fully-managed services, and put them into the hands of every developer and data scientist. Several features that you see in our Amazon consumer business is fuelled by machine learning. Product recommendations, the pick-pass that we optimised for robots in our fulfilment centres, what we are doing with Prime Air, and the delivery drones that we are piloting, natural language understanding and short-form automatic speech recognition in Alexa, Amazon Polly (our text-to-speech engine) are all fuelled by ML and deep learning. With this, businesses do not need a team of developers with specialist skills for building a speech-to-text or a text-to-speech engine; existing teams can leverage services and an API from AWS.

Tell us about some of the adopters of these solutions?

Haptik—a chatbot platform—uses Amazon Polly to call users after sending notifications for reminders. Policybazaar.com moved their entire IVR onto Amazon Polly. Shaadi.com uses Amazon Rekognition for content moderation and facial analysis. Amazon Lex offers automated speech recognition and natural language understanding allowing you to build conversational apps.
We are seeing increasing interest in images, voice, and videos. Helping companies to enable their customers to use their applications effectively around these technologies is something we are driving through our AI and ML offerings.

What are some of the other technology trends that AWS is focusing on for its growth here?

Analytics is the second technology essential for growing businesses, especially in the areas of sentiment analysis and predictive churn of customers. Amazon Redshift is a fast, fully managed data warehouse that makes it simple and cost-effective to analyse all data using SQL and existing Business Intelligence (BI) tools. It allows businesses to run complex analytic queries against petabytes of structured data.

Visualising the data is another element for which we have a tool called Amazon QuickSight—a fast, cloud-powered business analytics service that makes it easy to build visualisations, perform ad-hoc analysis, and quickly derive business insights from data. We have created a comprehensive end-to-end analytics portfolio, and we are seeing it being adopted widely in India, among banks, non-banking financial companies, manufacturing companies, start-ups or internet companies, and SMBs.

The third key trend is mobility, which is so important in a mobile-first nation like India. AWS offers services to help our customers build these mobile solutions, and then serve their customers better. We are focused on high-value solutions, where we help our customers work with us in terms of differentiated offerings rather than just storage and compute.

AWS cloud solutions are widely accepted amongst start-ups in India. Is there a strategy to grow the adoption rate amongst enterprises and SMBs?

Cloud has become the “new normal” as companies of every size are now deploying new applications to the cloud by default, and looking to migrate as many of their existing applications, as quickly as possible. For enterprises, the question isn’t
“if” anymore; it’s really just “How fast can we move?” and, “What are we going to move first?”

Speaking about AI solutions like speech recognition, text to voice services, visual search plus video services, how is it impacting industries?

With videos, images, and audio playing a big role in the internet space, we see a significant impact from AI/ML technologies. At re:Invent 2017, we announced a new class of apps that exhibit human-like intelligence, including Amazon Rekognition Video, a deep learning powered video analysis service that tracks people, detects activities, and recognises objects, celebrities, and inappropriate content; Amazon Transcribe, an automatic speech recognition engine which converts speech to text, and Amazon Comprehend, which allows users to understand natural language from textual data stored in AWS.

The media and entertainment industry generates a huge volume of videos that are stored in different digital asset management solutions. Amazon Rekognition Video tags and marks the video by scene, by actors, by location, even facial expressions, and so on. Digital asset management solutions don’t allow you to do that. For call centres, there is Amazon Translate, which uses deep learning for language translation. Amazon Transcribe, on the other hand, allows voice to text conversion with a time stamp on each word. Any technology that simplifies interactions with customers around these areas is going to be important.

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