Daniel Alex, President, Telecom Business, Sify Technologies Ltd

What is the secret of Sify’s consistent growth over the last 5 years?

Sify can proudly claim to be one of the largest integrated ICT solutions and services companies on the Indian subcontinent that meets all aspects of information technology and communications needs for an enterprise.

Our biggest advantage is that we take an integrated approach, which also works in our favor as we address challenges of an enterprise across various domains of the ICT spectrum under a single brand. While doing so we continue to build niche capabilities around the cloud space, supporting enterprises in their digital journey.

On the communications side of the business, we see the Indian telecom services industry going through the biggest consolidation so far, and also undergoing a major transformation to a completely data-driven model. Telecom services, were, until now, centered around voice calling, with 80–95 percent of revenues emanating from voice. Data remained as an overlay on the voice network, both from a network infrastructure and a revenue perspective. With the recent shift in the market making data the differentiator, other players are having to transform their respective networks to a more data-centric all-IP network.

Sify has always taken a slightly different stance. As early as two decades back, we chose to operate in the enterprise space, addressing the data communication demands supported by CUG-based VOIP services. Our focus in executing the strategy by building a highly resilient, all-IP network data network so much ahead of others, only reassures and endorses our strategy and this has been a key factor for our success.

We started our journey as India’s first private ISP. In 1998, we pioneered the Internet café and data services for enterprises customers. In the last decade, we focused on becoming an ICT provider of choice for our enterprises customers.

Our focus spreads across the entire value chain – from the origin of data in an enterprise, which is either on the cloud or in the data centers, we enable its transport through the network and supporting it with security and network management services, leaving the customers to focus on their business. And that is the differentiation, which Sify offers.

What is the roadmap you have visualized for the next couple of years?

The roadmap is in continuance of our strategy that has largely been responsible for our success. This involves making strategic investments and expansions in line with our business model. We are largely asset light from an infrastructure perspective. However, we remain invested when it comes to solving customers problems, be it on the services or access front.

Talking of investments, we have made some strategic investments in setting up a cable landing station in Mumbai, where we land sub-sea cable systems. From a network penetration standpoint, our best-of-breed network scores. Especially while being built across the challenging Indian terrain with the objective of meeting the demands of an Indian Enterprise. Today, this network and our solutions extend to over 1550 cities and towns, with about 2800 access infra points.

The digital explosion across India has spurred investments into the network where the density and demands are much higher. We have commissioned a 100 G capable metro network in Mumbai, and are rolling out the same across other cities in the second half of FY 18–19. By this, we should meet the growing data demand of enterprises, besides addressing the hyperscale transport requirement of OTTs and cloud players.

Besides this, we have built a robust, high-speed network between our own data centers and third-party DCs, making it again a very unique platform for enterprises to leverage upon. This opened up a unique market for us. Whether it was a client migrating from his data center to ours or from the data center to cloud, or to a DR or even commissioning cloud connectivity, provisioning them is now plug-and-play. This again dovetails into our strategy of enabling and assisting enterprises with their cloud journey, either on private or public clouds.

With the expectation of today’s CIO dramatically changing, and the change being driven by digitization of an enterprise, our focus remains on investing around strategic areas of building products/services, which supports the digital transformation journey of the CIOs around specific areas such as IoT, advanced security services, mobility in the enterprise and network automation with an enhanced focus on building managed Wi-Fi-LANs to support workplace transformation of an enterprise.

The digital world has always been fast paced, evolving and innovating quickly. These technologies are disrupting the digital landscape at a rate never seen before, forcing businesses to overhaul old systems and reinvent existing technologies.

Enterprise SMAC is one such differentiator; a digital architecture based on the convergence of four diverse technologies: social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud computing. There are over 2 billion active social media users and more than 4.5 billion mobile phone users in the world today. No industry or organization can afford to ignore the opportunity these staggering numbers offer for connecting directly with consumers.

And that is the bedrock of our SMACnet strategy. The smart network that connect these four pillars of social, mobile, analytics, and the cloud. The importance of SMACnet is such that we have a specific internal strategy in our division; the brief was to look at the network of tomorrow in a digital world and identify the big trends there.

The four pillars of the strategy are:

  • Secure the social enterprises – we see a fundamental shift in the way security will be deployed in a digital organization that seeks to enter and utilize the powers of the social media environment for its business
  • Mobility – enterprises mobility; not to be confused with mobile connectivity, will evolve significantly from where it stands today to a world of seamless movement across work, home, and across the enterprise.
  • Analytics – machine learning across the entire chain complimented by IoT that enables insight into the way business is conducted
  • Networks for the cloud – how do we make the network more agile and responsive in an era of borderless business

The fusion of these technologies has created a completely new way of using digital processes and systems to engage with customers and drive business growth.

What have been some major milestones for your company?

Nationally, our service is spread across 8500 enterprises across all tiers of business; both horizontal and vertical.

Our network grew, alongside our customer base, largely driven by the BFSI space. Sify today has built the network for a majority of public and private banks in India.

Our networks came of age when we enabled the transformation for the Department of Post, connecting close to 30,000 post offices across the country on a single MPLS network. Sify played the role of a network integrator, and not merely a telecom provider. The brief was to build two isolated networks, integrate them both, and manage them for the term of the contract. We have built two independent networks, one over Sify, and one over BSNL and are managing both. This project has won accolades across the globe for the sheer size and scale of the network that we have deployed and managed. Its successful completion put Sify into a different orbit as not just an IT service provider, but as a digital transformation specialist.

We have a broad spectrum of customers. We service retail players and run networks for large manufacturing companies. Several of our large customers have been with us for more than a decade.

Many large global telecom players, use Sify to access the Indian market, and meet their India-network demands for their customers through us. We have expanded our global footprint through our POPS, going eastward to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles. Westwards, we touch Dubai, Marseilles, London, and New York.

These locations have a strategic advantage as this is where we connect with global telecom players, so that we may meet the India-enterprises global connectivity demand.

Any challenges you foresee?

There are two forms of challenges I see for the industry.

The pace of change in the telecom industry, in general, is very drastic and erratic right now. There is a dichotomy between the capital spend cycle versus the rate of change of the technology. In the past, investments in the technology cycle would be for a period of 7–8 years. Today the technology churn happens every 2–3 years and committing and recovering that capital spend is a daunting challenge.

At Sify, we chose to invest only in specific areas augmenting our businesses. Our metro networks, will support the market needs in these times of digital explosion and is our current focus.

The other challenge I see is the constant innovation that is required to meet the changing needs of the customer. By innovation, I refer to building more and more differentiated services. We believe we are addressing these challenges adequately too, as we are working on several new age services like IoT and security and other such products for enterprises and with that we hope to tide over these challenges.

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