Rajiv Sodhi Curated

Chief Operating Officer, Microsoft India


  • Why do GoDaddy's ads play so safe in India?

  • How to do you plan to get around the uphill task of opening people up to the various opportunities that lie online?

  • Why did you say that India is a DIM market?

  • How are small and medium businesses embracing cloud computing in India? How is the trend compared to in the West?

  • What have been some of the challenges in making businesses embrace cloud computing?

  • What are some of the entrepreneurship opportunities that may arise on account of rise of cloud computing?

  • What is the concept of Evangelism in Microsoft?

  • What would be your advice to those looking to get into technology marketing or strategy after their MBA?

  • Kindly brief about Microsoft One Commercial Partner (OCP) Program.

  • What GoDaddy is trying to accomplish in India?

  • How does GoDaddy US see the market in India in terms of players?

  • On why GoDaddy hasn't backed a Superbowl-sized sports event in India yet?

  • Could you explain Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner(OCP) and its need?

    Starting our last financial year, we made a big shift in our partner approach. The first change was making Microsoft more partner-centric. We are a fairly large and complex company. Previously, there were 17 different teams inside Microsoft who used to work with different partners to talk and manage partners; and every team had its own views on partners. Based on our partners’ feedback, we decided to merge all 17 teams into one unit called ‘The One Commercial Partners’ organization, a global initiative. The reason behind this move was simple. We’re bringing together partner-focused teams from across the company into one organization. One Commercial Partner harnesses our partner expertise and knowledge – technical, marketing, business development, and programs. It brings together the things that work so that every partner can benefit, regardless of size, business model, or geography. This organization is not just partner-led, it’s partner-first, and it was designed to put our focus on your success and growth. All of our partner-facing roles will have the responsibility to work with you in one of these three primary functions: Build with, Sell with and Co-selling. Earlier in the past we had combined ‘Build with’ and ‘Sell with’ team, but now we have separated the two out. One is focusing on building partners’ capabilities and other is taking them to market.

  • Can you dwell more on Microsoft-Partners co-selling concept?

    Our focus on selling with partners and bringing new solutions to market and connecting with customers is an area where we are seriously focusing. A third big change we had introduced was the concept of Co-Selling – what it does is, in this partners and Microsoft are selling together in front of the customers. As we want more solutions to the market and in co-selling, we retire our own sales teams quota based on the partners build solution/IP that he will sell. So now you have sales force team inside Microsoft which is fully vested in the partners’ IP and partners’ solution being sold in the market and paying our own people on their solution. In co-selling, we are taking these IPs which partners are building solutions based on our platforms and when the deal gets closed, we take the portion of that and retire the quota. This way we are reducing all kind of friction between Microsoft and partners. Co-selling provides comprehensive sales and marketing support for partners building solutions with Azure. Azure is the only public cloud providing partners with this incredible benefit through which Microsoft sales representatives are paid up to 10 per cent of the partner’s annual contract value when they co-sell qualified Azure-based partner solutions.

  • How do you ensure partners’ profitability within OCP?

    Partner Profitability is the most crucial proposition we offer to our partners whether you are doing business on cloud or on-premise or somewhere in between, Microsoft ensures partner profitability for our cloud focused partners with >50 per cent cloud mix having 2X growth, 1.5X gross margin than non cloud partners. Global research suggests Microsoft partners generate 19 per cent higher margins than competition. Moreover, we have doubled our investments in FY 18 driving Azure and CSP motions, our partners can earn >50 per cent of the revenue they generate via Azure on CSP range of programs supporting pre-sales, sales and consumption.

  • Will the new partner-focused initiatives will bring more business opportunities?

    The reason we carried these enhancements was to keep our partners ready to address the need of customers’ world. We know digital transformation is the over-arching theme with every customer, as the data is getting bigger and doubled. In every two years the total world data is getting doubled, but what is fascinating is that just less than five per cent of this data is getting analyzed. Without data insight, this data has no value. Having said that, we see that startups are investing more on driving meaningful insights from this data. For example, companies like Uber, Netflix, Flipkart and Skype do not control underlying asset they offer. The underlying strength of these companies is the software platform. Today, Microsoft sees these opportunities with every customers. With the wave of digital transformation, data is being used in multiple departments for better decisions. Every inch of a company is opening up that means we will need more solutions and partners who will build such solutions. We need partners to reach out to these customers using our platforms and drive our cloud business.

  • What are the top three channel directions Microsoft has set for its partners in 2018?

    We are very clear with our channel directions; one is that partners need to have complete insight about its customers’ businesses by spending more time with the customers and their business needs and challenges, so that our partners can build a strong alliance and contribute largely for business success. The second direction is building the right capabilities. We have invested resources to bring out the right capabilities in our partners and their teams. We are emphasizing on these directions at various forums developed for our partners. Recently, we have concluded our quarterly partner leadership conclave in Gurugram, where 200 partner leaders and 100 of Microsoft’s top leaders met together. It’s a giant partner networking event in which we carry out around 300 meetings in six hours.

  • How well are your customers prepared for the work-from-home scenario? How are you helping them?

    Organisations of different sizes and complexities across sectors are facing a variety of issues as they grapple with the situation. Transitioning employees to work from home in the initial days was a big challenge. To support this, we made Microsoft Teams available free of cost in early March, even for organisations that didn’t have Office 365. Leading Indian companies have placed their trust in Teams, and are now using it for daily calls, meetings and collaborating virtually. Traditionally, sectors such as BFSI, ITeS and manufacturing have not equipped their employees to access work related content or systems remotely. Our team has worked around the clock to help ITeS giants deploy Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). This has allowed large workforces to access internal apps, develop and even publish solutions through a desktop hosted on Azure. And they are doing so using different browsers from home PCs, laptops and personal mobile devices in an absolutely secure manner. Moving to Azure WVD also did away with the need to scramble for new devices, a relief at a time supply chains are broken, and retailers are shut.

  • What sort of role can technology companies like yours play in such a crisis?

    Microsoft engineers are spending time with doctors and management at healthcare institutes to understand their challenges and requirements. Healthcare Global Enterprises (HCG), which specialises in comprehensive cancer care, has launched a Virtual OPD on Teams for 23 centres across India to provide uninterrupted care to its patients. We are also helping Fortis Healthcare pilot a virtual consultation service that runs on Teams. We are also focussing on helping pharmaceutical companies and their partners stay productive and keep medicines and critical supplies available. Intas Pharmaceuticals, a leading Ahmedabad-based drug manufacturer, uses Office 365, our collaboration platform, and our team helped them in rapid and successful usage adoption in the current situation. They have also adopted Windows Virtual Desktop, allowing their critical workforce to access internal content from home and support the company’s operations securely. Over the last few weeks, we have imparted training to over 4,000 educators and students across 100 schools and higher education institutions to adopt remote learning tools. The British School moved to Microsoft Teams even before the COVID-19 lockdown started to enable its teachers collaborate and interact with students for online learning. Amity University, Noida, on the other hand, has moved 80 percent of courses online to Teams in two weeks.

  • How can companies tackle the cybersecurity risks that come from moving operations digital?

    An unprecedented number of people working from home using multiple devices and apps also means an increased cybersecurity risk. New challenges could include expanding deployment to additional devices, adjusting security policies to enable productivity from home, enabling BYOD, supporting broader SaaS application usage, securing sensitive data and more. The single best thing companies can do to improve security for remote working is to turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA). Longer term, security admins can also consider programs to find and label the most critical data so that they can track and audit usage when employees work from home. It is also important to continuously track how remote working is affecting compliance and risks.

  • Are your customers accelerating their move-to-the-cloud plans during these times?

    We have seen a 775 percent increase in Teams' calling and meeting monthly users in a one-month period in Italy, where social distancing or shelter in place orders have been enforced. We have seen a very significant spike in Teams usage, and now have more than 44 million daily users. Those users generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes on Teams daily in a single week. Windows Virtual Desktop usage has grown more than 3x. Government use of public Power BI to share COVID-19 dashboards with citizens has surged by 42 percent in a week.

  • How successfully has the brand convinced SMEs to get online?

  • What is the biggest challenge Microsoft is facing?

    As demand continues to grow, if we are faced with any capacity constraints in any region during this time, we have established clear criteria for the priority of new cloud capacity. Top priority will be going to first responders, health and emergency management services, critical government infrastructure organisational use, and ensuring remote workers stay up and running with the core functionality of Teams. We will also consider adjusting free offers, as necessary, to ensure support of existing customers.

  • Please tell us about your journey from GrapeCity India to GoDaddy.

    I started working with Grapecity India about 15 years back as a software developer, looking at the engineering side of things. Post that, I moved to Microsoft, where I started out with Developer Evangelism practice and built out the entire ISV Evangelism business. I then graduated to start the cloud business for Microsoft and in my last stint, I was leading the entire SMB and Cloud business for Microsoft in India. That’s when I decided to take this opportunity with GoDaddy to lead their business operations in India.

  • Why do you think that the quality of customer service is comparatively more important in the web hosting industry and is sort of a ‘Litmus test’ for checking the reliability of a web host?

    Customer support is one of the most important aspects of this business, especially in India, because as Internet penetration in India increases, a new breed of customer is coming online. This customer probably does not understand IT completely. He is not bothered about understanding or mastering the aspects of IT, he is more concerned about growing his business, and therefore, a lot of hand holding is required, a lot of support is needed as he grows on this internet journey. That’s point one. The second point is, this business is not about a hit and run, where you sell the solution and go away. A lot of time, customers need advice as to what should they be doing, should they go in for, let’s say, a shared server or a dedicated server. Customers need to have this at the back of their mind that they are betting on a credible player who would be able to provide support to them. So customer support becomes one of the hallmark any which way. And again, this is one area where our tech support offering excels, because you can call into our care center free of charge and take advice from our consultants as to what kind of solution you would need.

  • In your year long experience in India, have you noticed visible competition or general tendency among organizations to go for providers they’ve been accustomed to through the years?

    Actually if you ask, now that we have spent 12 months in India, I would say our biggest competition has been the market. At 10 percent penetration, I don’t think we should be worried about competition because there is such a big market that is out there waiting for us. The biggest competition is breaking the perceptions and the barriers in the customer’s mind as to why he should come online. So as long as we do our job of reaching out to the customer, explaining to him how simple it is to come online and making him come online, we should be fine.

  • What would you like to tell your potential employees about the work and culture at GoDaddy?

    I have been with GoDaddy for about an year and I think the work and culture here is pretty phenomenal. If you want to work in an environment which gives equal opportunity regardless of where you come from, then GoDaddy is the place to be. Your merit and the work that you do is most important here. As Blake said a while back, there is just so much more to be done and this is definitely one company that can lead the change in the world. So if you are looking for a place where you can change the world, then GoDaddy is pretty much it.

  • Who are the ‘partners’ Microsoft is working with?

    The ‘partners’ are: —Independent software vendors who build software applications using Microsoft cloud capabilities, like an ‘Executive Assistant’ that provides analysis from a database, built by Rockmetric. —System integrators which include consulting companies that define the technical requirements for an IT system that meets an organisation’s business needs, such as Cognizant and Wipro. —Managed service providers which manage a customer’s IT infrastructure and end-user systems, such as NIIT and Netmagic. —Channel partners which develop and enable a channel to service customers directly, such as Sonata Software and Redington.

  • How is Microsoft helping its partners use technologies like Artificial Intelligence?

    Microsoft has created a global Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Research group to bring AI to every person, organisation and company, to empower them to achieve more with the help of AI. Microsoft organises for partners trainings and hackathons on AI, Machine Learning, robotic framework and IoT, and also offers practice resources to help them develop capabilities inhouse. Around 650 Microsoft partners from India are using the Microsoft AI platform and cognitive services to build solutions for India.

  • What are the opportunities and challenges in selling cloud services, especially to SMEs in India?

    There are over 50 million SMEs in India, most of whom have little online presence. This is more an opportunity than a challenge to build their awareness of how cloud services can make a positive impact on their business. A recent survey by Microsoft and TARI, on socio-economic impact of cloud services on SMEs, brought out the correlation between increase in cloud adoption and increase in socio-economic indicators of SMEs. There would be a 3x increase in asset utilisation, 2.6x improvement in employee productivity, 3.1x reduction in operating expenses. There would be a 2.8x improvement in customer satisfaction, 2.4x improvement in customer base, 3.6x improvement in footprint in national and global markets.

  • How would you explain the ‘One Commercial Partner’ structure of Microsoft?

    Microsoft, since its inception, has been a partner-led organisation. We have invested further in our founding principle with the creation of the One Commercial Partner organisation, which is structured to deliver three functions to our partners: —The ‘Build with’ team which helps our partner ecosystem build solutions. Under this function, Microsoft technology experts help partners build intellectual property and their tech capabilities. —The ‘Go-to-Market with’ team, to help partners market their solutions. Under this function, Microsoft marketing experts help partners differentiate themselves and develop business models. —The ‘Sell with’ team, to help partners connect with customer opportunities. Here, Microsoft channel managers bring to customers partner solutions that fulfill latent needs of customers. With the One Commercial Partner structure, our offerings are not limited to first party solutions. We can jointly take end solutions built on top of Azure to the market to a broader BDM (business decision maker) audience.

  • The outlook on the SME growth in India.

  • On how a domain registration brand differentiates itself from the competition?

  • Apart from domain names, what are the other services that GoDaddy provides which are equally good but relatively unknown?

  • Why do you think that the quality of customer service is comparatively more important in the web hosting industry?

  • What would be the 3 reasons that make GoDaddy the 'go-to' choice for SMBs around the globe?

  • What would you like to tell your potential employees about the work and culture at GoDaddy?