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Last Updated : Aug 04, 2012 05:19 PM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

Here's why Microsoft is upbeat on India

Young Turks travels down under to cover Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2012, the world's premier student technology competition.

This week, Young Turks travelled down under to cover Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2012, the world's premier student technology competition where students use their imagination and passion to create technology solutions that help solve real world problems.

Sydney has been home to some of the world changing innovations like the black box flight recorder, the electronic pace maker and even the ultra sound scan.

CNBC-TV18 speaks to the man who looks after Microsoft India's development centre in Hyderabad and is the driving force behind the launch of Microsoft's R&D facility in India back in 1999 - S Somasegar, corporate vice president of developer division at Microsoft.

Somasegar shared his views on how corporates can help nurture an incubate innovation in India and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Innovation and entrepreneurship need a lot more support from academia and industry, Microsoft hopes to join those dots. Helping them bridge that divide is Moorthy Uppaluri, General Manager of Academic Programs. With over 23 years of global experience Moorthy believes in catching future developers and customers fairly young.

Below is the edited transcript of the interview with Somasegar and Uppaluri.

Q: Imagine Cup is in its 10th year, why tis he need of holding a competition like this and how does it really benefit Microsoft?

Somasegar: When we started 10 years ago, to be fair I am not sure that we knew what we were getting into. All we knew was today's students are tomorrows leaders. Being a technology leader, we felt that we have some kind of moral obligation to think about what can we do from our perspective to help the next generation leaders, who are students today.

What can we do to make technology, a fantastic level playing field for students coming out of colleges so that no matter what walk of life they are a part of or which part of the world they are coming from, that technology can be an equalizer.

Q: To boost the entrepreneurship ecosystem globally what do you think needs to be done. Do you think schools and universities need to gear up students for this?

Somasegar: The first step is to recognise that entrepreneurship is a key to economic growth in any part of the world. The second thing is, the government and the industry need to figure out how we create an environment where we let entrepreneurship flourish.

There are number of things that you need to do to help, nourish and nurture those people and help them go from zero to 10 to 100 to 1000 and that's where industry, companies like Microsoft and government can help. We need to invest in the infrastructure to be able to encourage these people to do that.

Q: Tell us about Microsoft's future plans with India and the Imagine Cup?

Somasegar: First of all Microsoft is extremely excited about India for a couple of reasons. One is the talent base in India is huge and it's only getting bigger and more qualified with each passing year. The second thing is we have a strong ecosystem of what I call IT enabled service providers in India. So, we have a very strong Sustainable Infrastructure (SI) ecosystem or a service provider ecosystem in India.

That's very exciting for Microsoft to figure out how we can effectively partner with them. The third thing is because there are a number of startups and number of developers that are growing up in India. The next application or the next set of killer application for the world could come in from India, how do we tap into that developer ecosystem is the question.

From Imagine Cup's perspective, the thing I always say is, if you believe that 1/6th of the world's population is in India, do I see 1/6th of Imagine Cup finalist from India? No. Why not? It is not like Indian student is any less talented or more talented than anybody else.

But there is something that we need to do to truly tap into the potential that we have among the Indian students spread out across the nation and give them the opportunity to showcase their talent and creativity. There is lot of work that we all can do to get there.



Q: In India quality education is really scarce, how does Microsoft's programs help?


Uppaluri: I would like to talk about Imagine Cup and Microsoft Student Partner. We have about close to 6,000 Microsoft Student Partners across the globe. Students while in school who are highly passionate and enthusiastic about trying out Microsoft Technologies we give them material, coaching, guidance and everything else.


We also have programs for the faculty which we call Faculty Connection. We have close to about 150,000 faculties globally on the Faculty Connection Program out of the addressable universe of 750,000.


One program that I have not mentioned before is DreamSpark. DreamSpark is free access to the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Design students (STEM-D). We had 50 million downloads for this globally and India has the highest number of downloads. So, what it tells me is, the appetite or the need is highest in India and we love to cater to those needs of the students.


Q: How big is the opportunity in the education space for the IT sector to leverage on?


Uppaluri: Just talking about Windows 7 we had close about 500 million licenses. So, with Windows 8, students can create apps that can run on multiple machines is huge. Windows Phones - India has the maximum number of Windows phones than any other nation, 800 million phones are out there. So, all of this gives an opportunity for the students to create apps. I feel Cloud at the back end is enabling the seamless functionality between Windows Phone, Windows 8 or a tablet.


IT industry has been good as service industry catering to the the world needs, but now with this innovation that can be fed through Imagine Cup and through competitions like this, you can create innovations. When India starts innovating I think that's when the power of India will be felt on the global stage.


Q: When do you see a Microsoft or a Google come out of India?

Uppaluri: The next Bill Gates or the next Zuckerberg is in that crowd. India has already made a foray in terms of the service companies, Infosys, Wipro, TCS of the world have made a mark in the service industry. Similarly on the product and innovation side there is lot of room. Indian students with all the passion and the access to technology, they need to innovate. When India starts innovating and competing on the world stage with their innovation, it will be the shining star.
First Published on Aug 4, 2012 02:28 pm