Tata Comms makes 'big bets' in cloud, biz video

Indian telecoms company expands from providing core networking capabilities into areas such as infrastructure-as-a-service and videoconferencing services. CEO also aiming for continued growth in emerging markets globally.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

DUBAI--Tata Communications is placing its bets firmly on enhancing its cloud computing, enterprise video and mobile broadband offerings to better target emerging markets around the world, as well as address ongoing convergence of data traffic on Internet Protocol (IP) systems and growing need for managed services.

Vinod Kumar, managing director and CEO of Tata Communications, said these three "big bets" on cloud computing, enterprise video and mobile broadband were aligned with how the world expected services and content to be delivered and consumed anywhere, anytime. The executive was speaking at the company's third annual media and analyst summit held here Wednesday.

With cloud computing, for example, Kumar noted that this would be part of the company's managed services offerings, which would be key to addressing the needs of companies in emerging markets. He said these businesses lacked the necessary IT infrastructure to scale without huge capital investments, and added that Tata Communication's InstaCompute infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering was built to meet this need.

The company launched its Singapore data center in March last year to offer the IaaS service to customers in the city-state as well as other Southeast Asian markets including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also has data centers in India to host InstaCompute.

Kumar noted that today's technology landscape continues to change and evolve quickly, which makes specialized IT professionals with the right skillsets a hotly demanded, and increasingly costly, asset. This also means it is difficult for companies to always have the right in-house talent to manage all aspects of their IT infrastructure and service and, thus, presents third-party, managed services as viable alternatives to solve their conundrum, he added.

Elaborating on enterprise video services, the CEO pointed out that video will continue to take up most of the bandwidth needed, with consumers in particular driving up demand for better quality videos streamed through the Internet.

Enterprise customers, too, are catching up in terms of requesting for video services at work as part of their unified communications (UC), he said, adding that Tata Communications is hoping to tap this demand to increase its presence in the videoconferencing arena.

He pointed to the company's recent tie-up with Formula One, as its global technology partner, as an example of how far the Indian company has come in terms of providing complex IT services beyond just networking capabilities. He hopes this case study can help the company win more potential enterprise customers.

Kumar also outlined his goals for the company in fiscal year 2012 to 2013, stating that Tata Communications "established profitability" in 2011 across its various business units and he wants to "make profitability a habit" this year.

He added that the company was hoping to become the "Singapore Airlines of the telecoms industry" in terms of providing exceptional customer service and industry disruption. "I don't believe the telecoms industry provides the necessary benchmark for customer service, so we had to look to other industries," he explained.

Hiring, retaining and developing the right talent for the company is another priority for the CEO, as the company needs people who are versatile enough to handle and flourish in today's fast-moving IT landscape.

Indonesia, Vietnam potential "second home markets"
Within the Asia-Pacific region, Tata Communications have identified Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia as key developed markets on which to focus, said Srinivasa Addepalli, the company's senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications. It is also targeting to build its presence in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, he added during a breakout session at the summit Wednesday.

Addepalli said while the region is already home to a high Internet user population, mainly contributed by China, there is still a huge room for growth.

He noted that high Internet growth can help boost traffic on Tata Communications' networking infrastructure, which gives the company insights on consumer patterns and allows it to tailor related services to various service and content providers. The company's data revenues from Asia-Pacific, excluding India, grew 5 percent to reach 14 percent in 2011, compared with 2009, he revealed.

The executive also pointed to Indonesia and Vietnam as two markets that could potentially be established as "second home market" status, such as that of South Africa, in the company's eyes. Addepalli said the two markets are generally large and growing, with a strong telecoms and IT base, and attracting much investor attention and activities from abroad. These are factors that Tata Communications value when considering investing in emerging markets, he added.

That said, he reckoned that Indonesia would likely be the first among the two to achieve that status as it has a more stable regulatory regime in place than in Vietnam. He did not disclose a timeframe of when this might take place, though.

In terms of industry verticals, Laurie Bowen, president of sales and strategy for global data and mobility at Tata Communications, told ZDNet Asia at the event sidelines that the financial services industry continues to be a main market for the company because its strength in networking robustness and low latency appeals to investment banks.

Media and entertainment, too, is a growing sector for the region and for the company, even as videos and online games grow in popularity among consumers today, Bowen noted. For instance, there was a "big uptake" for InstaCompute among games companies when the Singapore data center was established, she stated.

Bowen also said that while public IaaS providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) might appeal to these media and games companies for its low cost and ease of use, she said Tata Communications' knowhow in enterprise-grade infrastructure helps its customers to be better able to customize their backend systems. 

Kevin Kwang of ZDNet Asia reported from Tata Communications' annual global media and analyst summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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