Our priority is to help partners build their AI solutions and innovate better: Rajiv Sodhi, Microsoft

Rajiv Sodhi, General Manager - Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft India reveals how the IT behemoth fosters co-creation and collaboration with its channel partners through its unique ‘One Commercial Partner’ solution.

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Driven by its vision to make artificial intelligence (AI) accessible to all, Microsoft’s priority for 2019 is to help partners build their AI solutions and innovate better.

The USD 753 billion behemoth has identified the need to foster collaboration among its channel partners through a unified platform. 

Spearheading Microsoft’s channel strategy, Rajiv Sodhi, General Manager - Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft India reveals that the company is not only easing the shift from legacy solutions to the cloud, but also enhancing them with AI and IoT.

Sodhi joined Microsoft as a technology evangelist and eventually ran the SMB and cloud business for the company. He doggedly focuses on building a thriving network of partners that can help customers leverage the power of digital and cloud in their business.

Edited excerpts

How do you see Microsoft’s business growth in 2019? Which areas do you see this growth stemming from?

In 2019, we see businesses and the government accelerating their digital transformation journey, and we are excited to work with our partners to assist these organizations leverage digital technology.  

Digital transformation is here and now – it is not a buzzword anymore, it is all-pervasive. According to a survey by Microsoft, digital transformation will contribute USD 154 billion to India’s GDP by 2021. 92 percent of India Inc. leaders believe in the power of DT.

... With reference to small and medium businesses, India has over 50 million SMBs and a majority of them have little online presence. Again, this is an opportunity for us and our partners to build awareness among SMBs on how cloud services can make a positive impact on their business.
Rajiv Sodhi
General Manager - Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft India

We are working with over 9,500 partners, which include independent software vendors (ISVs), system integrators (SIs) and managed service providers (MSPs), to assist business and government organizations build the digital capability they need to thrive and grow. 

We are also working with 700+ partners to infuse AI and cognitive services in the workings of organizations across verticals like manufacturing, retail, healthcare, automotive, education, financial services, and government services, among others.
 
What challenges do you foresee in a company’s digital transformation journey? Also, how are small and medium businesses poised in adopting DT? 

“Our priority currently is to help partners build their AI solutions and innovate better. This includes recommending to our partners market needs for new solutions, making available to them technical specialists and architects to help build the solution and training our partners on AI.”

Rajiv Sodhi
  Microsoft India

We see this more as an opportunity than challenge - companies know that the DT journey can be challenging, and at the intersection of business and technology, they are looking for ways for their business to adapt to the promise of technology and hence turn to us to help them envision, design and deliver their future states. 

With reference to small and medium businesses, India has over 50 million SMBs and a majority of them have little online presence. Again, this is an opportunity for us and our partners to build awareness among SMBs on how cloud services can make a positive impact on their business. 

A recent survey by Microsoft and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI), has brought out that SMBs would get a 3x increase in asset utilisation, 2.6x improvement in employee productivity, 3.1x reduction in operating expenses from use of cloud services. 

What are the main priorities with respect to assisting Micorosft’s channel partners in 2019? Furthermore, what’s your role in democratizing AI for your partners?

Our unique model of ‘One Commercial Partner’, has enabled Microsoft and our channel partners to work as a unified team. Starting from building solutions together to creating go-to-market strategies and co-selling the solution, our ‘One Commercial Partner’ model has made it easier for channel partners to build their products or solutions on the Microsoft platform, and in taking the solutions to customers. 

With the OCP structure, our offerings are not limited to first party solutions. We can jointly take end solutions built on top of Azure to business decision makers who are looking for solutions for their line of business.

Our priority currently is to help partners build their AI solutions and innovate better. This includes recommending to our partners market needs for new solutions, making available to them technical specialists and architects to help build the solution and training our partners on AI. We are also fostering partnerships among partners, such as among ISVs and SIs, as we take a complete solution to customers.

Which technology trends, in your opinion, will have maximum impact on your channel partners in 2019?

AI and IoT are visible and significant technology trends. A Nasscom report estimates that the number of IoT devices in India is expected to increase from 200 million units in 2016 to 2.7 billion units by 2020, translating to a USD 15 billion market by 2020. 

“We offer AI practice development workshops to upskill partners on what they need to do to build their AI and IoT practice.”

Rajiv Sodhi
  Microsoft India

To help partners plan for the future technology needs of customers, we are helping to not only ease the shift from legacy solutions to the cloud but also enhance them with AI and IoT. We offer AI practice development workshops to upskill partners on what they need to do to build their AI and IoT practice. 

As an example, our partner ‘Precimetrix’ has leveraged Microsoft Azure IoT Hub to develop an IoT system for Jaipur Municipal Corporation’s street lighting network. The solution uses Azure Analytics to analyze data from sensors in physical objects, allowing Precimetrix to manage the street lighting system from a central location with optimum energy consumption.

Related: Inside the beating heart of Microsoft’s expanding Azure empire

Over 100,000 street lights are being managed through this solution, and together with use of LED lights, it is enabling 80 percent savings in energy consumption. 

If there is one key message for Microsoft partners in 2019, what would it be?

Reiterating what Satya remarked, we are jointly working with our partners to make a positive impact in the world and continue to be encouraged by the enormous potential for partners to have local impact that ultimately has a profound global impact.

While organizations embark on the path of digital transformation, we need to bring together our strengths and help the customers in India to be successful in these changing times and in expanding the opportunity in the market. 

As solution providers, advisors and partners we need to demonstrate a true understanding of our customer’s business, and empower them through information sharing and consulting. There isn’t just one path to digital transformation, and we need to make sure that our customer has a choice in implementing cloud services. 
 

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