India’s Tata looks to partner with Chinese Internet firms

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In recent years, technology and innovation coming from the East have been steadily changing the global business landscape. It’s no longer simply a case of western corporations tapping new markets. New giants have emerged in the Asia-Pacific region and they are becoming major players on the global stage.

Sumeet Walia, the Executive Vice President and Head of Sales for India & the Asia-Pacific at Tata Communications, a Mumbai-based global provider of telecommunications solutions under the umbrella of the India’s multinational Tata Group conglomerate, sees “a very big market” in helping local firms from Asia-Pacific countries go forth into the world. Chinese internet firms, he adds, are at the top of the company’s list in terms of partnerships.

It has become fashionable to talk about three of China’s biggest internet companies – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – as BAT. As Walia observes, however: “All of these companies operating in the internet economy didn’t even exist one decade back, and they were ‘born in the cloud.’ Thus they don’t have much of a legacy in terms of physical infrastructure.”

Having grown globally over the last 15 years, Tata Communications has the world’s largest wholly-owned submarine fiber network, with over 500,000 kilometers of subsea cables, in addition to 210,000 kilometers of terrestrial cables.

Constituting over 24% of the world’s internet routes, Walia believes the company’s global network offers the capacity that firms, across numerous sectors, now require to transmit data across borders. And as the demand for cloud services grows, Tata Communications is well-placed to profit as a ‘cloud enabler.’

“We help businesses to break into the public cloud, and we can also offer solutions for them to build a private cloud,” he says.

Sumeet Walia, head of Global Enterprise Business at Tata Communications. Photo: Asia Times / Lin Wanxi

Sumeet Walia, the Executive Vice President and Head of Sales for India & the Asia-Pacific at Tata Communications. Photo: Asia Times / Lin Wanxia

To date, the company has partnered with Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, in a tie-up that allows businesses from 150 countries to connect to Alibaba’s ExpressConnect network service via Tata’s IZO Private Connect, a technology that links businesses’ VPNs to cloud service providers.

McKinsey estimates that by 2018, 51% of enterprises will adopt cloud as their primary IT environment, rising from just 10% in 2015. And according to research from Forrester, the public cloud services market in the Asia Pacific region will double in size over the same period to become a US$20 billion market.

Keeping up with tech cycles

Tata Communications’ first-mover advantage in investing in infrastructure is well-established. However, it has also been trying to diversify its portfolio and strengthen its software offering.

“What has brought us here won’t take us to the next decade,” said Walia. “Every three to four years, we have to shuffle off old skins and acquire new ones because the technology cycle has been shortened to even less than three years.”

In order to keep in step with what the next “cycle,” the company is betting big in two areas: the Internet of Things (IoT) and cybersecurity.

Serval IoT projects are afoot across the Asia-Pacific region, covering such varied sectors as elderly care in India, bike sharing in South Korea, and waste collection in Singapore.

The company previously reported that it was set to invest about US$100 million in IoT in India over the next two to three years. So far, it has rolled out its IoT technology in 38 cities across the country.

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