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Start-ups are born in the cloud: Madhusudan Shekar of Amazon

Sudhir Chowdhary
Start-ups, cloud, Madhusudan Shekar, Amazon, business innovation, industry news

They function differently compared to enterprises and directly push their business innovation to the cloud, says Madhusudan Shekar, head, Digital Innovation, Amazon Internet Services. "Not only do we see startups adopt AWS Cloud services, but the large and mid-scale enterprises, and traditional SMEs too are discovering the benefits of cloud computing," he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:

What business benefits can be observed in a connected enterprise?

Let us first simplify the term 'connected enterprise'. Connected enterprise is fundamentally the fact that an organisation has implemented sensors and digital components across all of its capabilities and business activities. Components constantly generate information about the infrastructure, manufacturing capability, fleet, force, its distribution network, and so on. You have to then bring the information together to some location, make sense of the behavioural patterns emerging out of the data, and then act. Cloud gives you the platform to bring all the information together as a data lake. You can bring data from multiple disparate sources in this phenomenal environment. Once you bring it in, you take it through a set of processing capabilities. Each team and independent business unit can drive the necessary visualisation and outcomes it needs, and apply machine learning and AI capabilities. HDFC Life is a good example.

HDFC Life has leveraged Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud to create a new data platform, Atom, to analyse customer expectations and to engage meaningfully with customers on online platforms. The objective is to simplify the entire journey across multiple touch points-right from understanding a life insurance product to purchasing it. More importantly, it analyses customer behaviour around the services they use, and maps the evolution in order to create new products and services that add more value to their consumers.

What is your vision for helping companies on their digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation is a very fundamental shift in the nature of how your business is going to operate. It is not a CIO or an IT problem alone, but a whole-of-business opportunity. The programme that I manage is the digital innovation programme, which offers our customers an opportunity to explore similar approaches and mechanisms that Amazon uses to innovate. At Amazon, we build a culture, follow a set of mechanisms, and operate a set of systems in a way that allows us to innovate rapidly. This is part of our customer obsession philosophy. AWS customers can try this approach and if they find that it is interesting for them, they can continue to scale and adopt it.

We focus on one small piece at a time instead of providing a multi-year strategy that may not be relevant to the customer in a few years. We pick what we call two-pizza teams-no bigger than 10 to 14 people at a time, which makes the teams nimble and fast-and validate whether the hypothesis they have about their customer is right or wrong. Amazon Web Services offers over 165 fully featured services a customer needs to build a highly resilient, digitally tested application or IT system.

What kind of traction is AWS seeing for its cloud offerings in India?

AWS Cloud has hundreds of thousands of active customers in India for a broad range of applications. Several startups were already using AWS Cloud before we launched AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region in 2016, and after the region launch, the adoption curve shot up. We have just added the third Availability Zone (AZ) in our AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region, and we now have 17 Points of Presence (PoPs) in India.

Has there been a change in the mindset of businesses when it comes to the adoption of cloud?

Definitely. The question has shifted from 'should we move to the cloud?' to 'when do we move to cloud?'. Another question is 'how should we move?', because most enterprises have legacy infrastructure. We help such organisations in their cloud journey. From a planning standpoint, startups function differently compared to enterprises. They are born-in-the cloud and directly push their business innovation to the cloud. Enterprises cannot do that, as they have to follow various procedures and processes. This requires competency and maturity and we now have an Amazon Web Services Partner Network (APN) ecosystem and training and certification teams, and a range of education programmes in India to help enterprises go through that learning curve.