Cloud computing in India: Are we on the verge of explosion?

Two separate stories have reached CloudTech HQ which show that cloud computing adoption in India is showing more than just potential. But is the hype justified?

Earlier this week it was reported that Microsoft is offering its Office 365 Personal suite to users in India for Rs 330 (£3.24) per month or Rs 3299 (£32.42) for a yearly subscription.

According to reports from New Delhi, Redmond is hoping to recruit 25 million new Indian users for cloud services, with country general manager Chakrapani Gollapali telling reporters: “Today’s consumers are seeking a more optimised experience across their phone, tablet and PC and the combined power of Microsoft devices and services provides the best experience they can have today across all these.”

Fusing Office 365 with cloud and mobile was the first item on new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s list, with the long-awaited move to bring Office to the iPad being seen as an example of the company loosening up its tight licensing restrictions.

Speaking to the press at the launch of Office for iPad in March, Nadella noted the integral use of cloud and mobile today.

“Cloud that is not connected to devices is latent potential because how can you connect with the real world?” he asked. “A device which is not connected to the cloud just cannot complete the scenarios.”

This is a prescient point. Office 365 Personal can offer up to two devices to be connected to the service, and India’s love of smartphones is blossoming. According to a report by Mediacells in January, India will overtake the US in smartphone usage by the end of 2014, with 225m phone sales in India compared to 89m in the US, and 283m in China. 92% of these (207m) will be new smartphone users. To add to that, Gartner observed that for Q413 India had the highest smartphone sales growth worldwide.

One gets the feeling that the market will explode once all these stars are in alignment. However, not everyone is in agreement that India is ready for the cloud.

The Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA), whose mission statement is ‘accelerating the growth and development of cloud computing in Asia Pacific in 2010’, placed India in a miserable second bottom out of 14 nations in its latest Cloud Readiness Index (pdf here).

Given in previous iterations India ranked at #9, the hope would have been for the ranking to go up rather than down. India scored lowest in international connectivity and by far the lowest in data centre risk. The report notes that there were updates to Internet and data centre management legislation in Indonesia, India and Vietnam over the last 12 months – coincidentally, the three lowest scorers in the overall ranking.

Worryingly, the ACCA had little advice for underperformers, noting that the countries which rank highly – such as Japan, which remains the most cloud-ready Asia Pacific nation – score well across the board, in infrastructure, government, legal and business framework.

“While the converse is true – that the lower-ranked countries tend to also rank lower in each parameter, it is often not due to the lack of trying or lack of responsiveness to the changing environment,” the report notes. “Rather, it is often a gauge of country capacity to keep up with the challenges of technical and regulatory convergence which cloud computing brings with it.”

If the ACCA paints a bleak picture on the whole for India, then there are still some good individual stories out there. CNBC reports on the story of 32-year-old Yogesh Shah, founder and director of Pune-based iResearch Services, who claims that moving to the cloud has transformed his business operations.

“It has transformed my business and my work life,” he said. “Productivity is up, costs down and iResearch Services is cruising.”

The report quotes a variety of analysts who all say that cloud is set to go big in India, but one stat leaps out from Ricky Kapur, managing director of Google Enterprise Asia: “India is home to around 47 small businesses, yet only 1% are online.”

The discussion therefore goes full circle to Microsoft, who is looking to increase its already large stake in India with the Office 365 Personal unveiling, as well as offering customers the chance to throw in their old server for a brand new Azure platform.

So where do things go from here? Even though Redmond’s various launches will get market share and ensure many Indian businesses’ smooth passage to the cloud, the underlying infrastructure and security issues remain key. It’s enough of an issue for the ACCA to make India one of the least cloud-ready Asia Pacific nations in 2014 – and no amount of analysis can make the security worries go away.

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