Cisco Systems, the $49.24-billion networking equipment giant, is omnipresent across global markets. And Amit Phadnis, President – Engineering and India Site Leader, runs almost 25 percent of its business. YourStory had the opportunity to chat with Amit at the graduation of the first cohort of Cisco's Startup LaunchPad.
The bottom line for Cisco this year is digitisation. Amit says, “People believe that we are very strongly placed to help countries, societies and customers from a digitisation perspective, because the base technology platform that we develop is itself the backbone as far as digitisation is concerned.”
Unlike most of the past developments in the technology space, digitisation requires a very large ecosystem. It requires big companies, small companies, partner communities, research institutes, and policy and government involvement.
Many of the applications that are being talked about are going to be consumed by citizens in any shape or form. Whenever there are large population bases and citizens are involved, it is necessary to make sure that there is a policy framework in place.
“That is why Cisco is at the centre stage of the digitisation conversation. We do realise that we cannot do it alone, that we have to work very closely with the government, policy engine and startups,” says Amit.
The wave of digitisation is getting stronger, not just in India, but across the globe. It is the base theme through which a lot of governments and societies are working because it is transformative. Irrespective of the level of digitisation, connectivity, mobility, internet penetration, and cloud adoption, people realise that this is going to be transformative for societies.
YS: What is in store for Cisco in 2017?
Amit Phadnis: Across the globe, we see digitisation as a big play. The next big thing that we are seeing, which is fundamental to the conversation of digitisation, is security. We are going to be, in many senses, security-led.
Digitisation cannot be tackled without security; they go hand in hand. The level of threats increases with every stage of digitisation and automation.
Whenever there is more visibility given to customers, there is a higher propensity for attacks in a newer form. And that is why we feel that security is going to be an important element and play for our company over a period of time. We believe that unless one takes care of security, digitisation, from a business viability standpoint, cannot be successful.
The financial segment is going to be an important one for us. In the last decade, we have been associated with most financial segments across the globe. We have innovated a lot and created new platforms and technologies. Fintech today, with how it is panning out from a digital payments and e-wallets perspective, is going to be an important aspect of Cisco’s plans.
We believe that the way financial services are consumed will undergo change. Instead of going to a physical outlet, you are moving to the mobile phone, but you still need transaction visibility, customer protection, great experience, virtual services, and real-time visibility.
We are going to be central to this change and experience transformation in the financial services segment. We will be closely working with the payment industry in particular, which will be a very important segment.
YS: How does Cisco continue innovating despite being a large corporation?
Amit Phadnis: Innovation is a central part of Cisco’s culture, and it doesn’t get built over a day. We have invested in this for decades now to ensure that, even as we grow, we stay nimble. Especially in terms of responding to markets and being focused on customer needs, in what we are doing, what our investments are, why we are making those investments, and what problems we are solving.
I must give credit to our field teams and sales and go-to-market teams, which gather deeper insights from the ground and markets. They give us the focus on the real problem that we want to solve. This is what makes us successful in innovating over a period of time.
Inside of Cisco, we say that we are a large startup, or rather, we are made of many large startups. We will continue to be like that irrespective of what the size of our company is. We have realised, for the past couple of years now, that if we have to innovate at the pace at which the market demands, then we have to bring our engineering teams closer to the customer base.
We have therefore invested in people, and have encouraged them to focus on consumer needs and solve their problems in such a way that they are scalable across industries. We have freed up people’s bandwidth, letting them interact with the customer, sales team and field organisations, and have enabled the creation of programmes.
YS: How is it working with startups?
Amit Phadnis: When Cisco develops a technology, we look at a large customer base. For startups, they need to begin with a lighthouse customer. The way we work internally is that we begin with a lighthouse customer, make the product successful with them, and then spread it.
What really defers is the resources available to a startup, how many problems they can work with, and how quickly they can scale. A Cisco engineer, however, knows that there is a go-to-market engine behind him. And they can scale quickly.
When you work with startups, you need to understand the limitations that they work with and help them get over them. That is where Cisco comes into play. We can complement the speed at which they are innovating with our go-to-market engine.
Large corporations can, in fact, learn to be nimble, fast-paced and passionate, picking up that go-getter attitude and drive from startups. And startups can learn from large corporations on go-to-market strategy, business modelling and revenue building.
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