The big cloud companies are already here in India, but that does not seem to bother Alibaba. It is confident about its experience in China and the Asia Pacific, and its technology investments. It positions itself as a Digital Transformation company. It wants to use its experience and expertise to help companies in their digital transformation journeys. It is targeting startups, small and medium businesses as well as large enterprises.
A few days ago, Alibaba Cloud announced a partnership with HCL Infosystems in Bangalore. It believes that partners like HCL are crucial for its success in India.
In a tele-interview with Digital Creed, Alex Li, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Asia Pacific spells out the plan for India.
DC: The competition is already here in India and it is a late entry for Alibaba Cloud. How do you differentiate your cloud offering?
Alex: We don’t want to be just another player in this space; we want to be different and to add value to our partners and customers.
The first differentiator is our strong presence in Asia, China and the South East Asian countries. Alibaba Cloud has 47.6% market share in China and has become one of the top two players in the Asia Pacific region. We are the best choice for Indian customers who do business globally, particularly in Asia or in China. We call these the Go China and Go Asia business customers.
The second one is the product portfolio. We offer a unique proposition through the public cloud service. Then we also have the private and hybrid cloud services. In other words, we give the customer more choice. Customers and partners are looking for all three solutions and Alibaba Cloud will be one choice.
The Cloud Marketplace service is growing in popularity. The other product in the portfolio will be the solutions based on the latest technology, that includes AI, Big Data, IoT, blockchain, machine intelligence etc. Alibaba has invested heavily in these technologies and we just announced an R&D investment of USD 15 billion over the next three years. This will give us an advantage.
Today we can help companies become successful in their own digital transformation. That’s because Alibaba Cloud developed the solution from our internal business transformation. This is different from the other players. As you know, Alibaba has logistics, retail, e-commerce and Internet businesses; the scale and customer requirements are completely different. Alibaba has the best practice in those areas, particularly in Internet and digital technology.
The last one will be the ecosystem. Alibaba Cloud is more transparent and more open to partnerships. In fact, we just announced a strategic partnership with HCL Infosystems in Bangalore. They are our value added distributor and will help us improve the reach and the coverage.
We also announced our training program for 1,000 professionals (sales and technical) in the cloud space, from March 2019 onwards.
And we already set up our HQ in Delhi, with branches in Mumbai and Bangalore.
We can help companies become successful in their own digital transformation. That’s because Alibaba Cloud developed the solution from our internal business transformation.
— Alex Li, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Asia Pacific
DC: Can you explain your channel structure and go-to-market strategy?
Alex: Our partner structure includes the value added distributor, the resellers, the ISVs, SIs, and cloud native partners. They support us for transactions, local services, and solutions architecture. We also partner with local cloud service providers (such as Netmagic Solutions, Tata Communications, STT etc), who offer managed services. They help our customers in system migration, with consulting. We partner with consulting companies to come up with competitive solutions for their customers.
DC: Do you have your own data centre in India? What are your plans?
Alex: We launched our data centre in Mumbai, in January 2018. That shows we have a long-term commitment to the market.
DC: Which segments are you targeting? And which micro-segments?
Alex: We see all segments growing very fast in India. We will focus on a couple of areas. One is the small business, especially the startups. Our philosophy is to make it easier for startups to do business anywhere. We will offer startups a competitive cloud platform and some special incentive programs to grow their business. Startups are very active in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi.
The second area we want to develop is the enterprise segment. We have set up a dedicated enterprise team and we are confident of helping enterprise customers transform their businesses. We want to be experts in digital transformation.
We have developed the solutions from our own business practice. Alibaba has invested in the logistics business, in financial services, the entertainment business.
We want to share our experience with our enterprise customers to help them improve their competitiveness.
Partners are very critical for the success of Alibaba Cloud.
We will offer startups a competitive cloud platform and some special incentive programs to grow their business.
DC: Many startups and small businesses in India are already on the AWS cloud and Azure. Why would they want to come on to Alibaba Cloud? Are you better on pricing? Are you better at delivering services?
Alex: Cost is one of the factors but not the only one. Those customers are also looking for value, the best support, and the best technology. Most startups are Internet companies, and the startup entrepreneurs know Alibaba well. Both Alibaba and Jack Ma are popular in India. They want to know how Alibaba made their business so successful. So, the awareness is good.
We also collaborate with VCs and entrepreneurs to drive some programs. A year ago, we did not have any presence in India, but today we already have many startups registered in our system. They use our resources in Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, and Europe. Startups are already quite confident about their choice of Alibaba. It’s because of our continuous investment in the latest technologies, and the best tools for startups to drive their business goals.
DC: Can you give us some details about the programs and incentives you offer startups?
Alex: We just launched a program for startups called Create @ Alibaba Cloud. This program enables startups to compete at a global level. We will select the best six performers to go to China, and they will get the opportunity to meet prospective investors. And we will also give them some credits to enable them to grow their business at lower cost.
DC: How do you support developers? What are the incentives and services you offer this community?
Alex: This is our strength. Initially, Alibaba was working with developers only in China. We have multiple programs, for instance, there is one for the Big Data developers. There are hundreds of thousands of developers in the system. And we give them tools, IoT and AI solutions. This will help them to build their own solutions that will make their job easier. There is special support, free credits, tools etc.
DC: You have solutions for the Gaming industry as well. How do you see the gaming industry in India?
Alex: Gaming industry is booming in India. The market is similar to China and some South East Asian countries. We have a customer in the media and entertainment industry. Our customer built their solutions on the cloud. They can accurately predict which games will be popular and which ones won’t. They launch their games in several countries simultaneously. So, there is a large coverage.
In India, we worked with Reliance Entertainment and helped them launch their game, WWE. It was the top-ranking Android game that day. We helped them launch the game in more than 100 countries. It was highly successful.
The gaming business is very different (in terms of infrastructure requirements). You need to be highly stable and need fast networking and the quality of the live stream. And we are strong in this area.
Alibaba has its own gaming business named AG Tech, which produces gaming solutions. AG Tech recently launched the gaming platform on Paytm.
DC: How are your positioning your AI and IoT solutions? Can you give us some business use cases?
Alex: This is definitely the sweet spot for our business. AI Brain is a series of solutions based on AI technology combined with Big Data, IoT, Blockchain for the different industries. And we have developed a lot of solutions. For instance, we launched the City Brain project in Macau and Kuala Lumpur last year. We also successfully launched it in many cities in China. This is a smart city solution and we help improve the transportation, the traffic, governance. We can help the police to track criminals.
We used Environment Brain to help the government of Kenya to protect the elephants. It was an IoT-based project.
And recently, we announced a project for agriculture and industry.
If you saw the news very recently, Alibaba Cloud did a strategic partnership with Siemens for industrial IoT. This is a huge market that will have a big impact on the IoT industry. Siemens is planning to host their entire service on Alibaba Cloud.
We also launched Finance Brain. Standard Chartered Bank is using this solution to help the Filipinos working in Singapore and Hong Kong to remit money to their home. Before that, it would take weeks to complete the remittance. Now it takes a few seconds as our solution is based on Blockchain.
So we are helping different industries to be successful with their digital transformation.