We are building one of the best tech teams in India: Puneet Chandok of AWS | #education | #technology | #training

In an interview with Mint, Puneet Chandok, president, Commercial Business, AWS India and South Asia, Amazon Internet Services, talks about AWS’s India strategy for 2022, key growth drivers, and its approach to infuse artificial intelligence (AI) in its offerings. Edited excerpts:

What is AWS’s strategy for India in 2022?

Our mission is empowering builders and businesses to build a better India. Given the democratisation of technology with cloud and AWS, and the scale of growth in India, we want to be a force that moves the country forward. We are committed to investing in India and putting the power of AWS Cloud directly in the hands of customers and partners, be it enterprises, startups, SMBs, or developers. We will continue to double down on our efforts and initiatives from 2021.

Our key focus areas in 2022 include helping customers modernise their applications faster and in a risk-free manner. SMBs are key to driving India forward, and we are committed towards Jeff’s (Bezos) pledge of digitising 10 million SMEs by 2025 to generate employment and are also focused on upscaling education for SMBs. Third, we continue to invest in India. In November 2020, we had announced the expansion of our services to include a second infrastructure region in India by mid-2022. We are also building one of the best technology teams in India so that we can bring the best of AWS to our customers.

Which sectors are driving the demand in the India market?

The pandemic has led to a perfect storm of digitization, and every sector has undergone digital adoption. Here some of the areas where we are seeing increasing demand and innovation. 

A) Gaming: The Indian gaming industry is expected to grow to $7 billion by 2026, according to RedSeer. Most of India’s leading gaming startups like Dream11, FanFight, and MPL are on AWS because we empower them to experiment and innovate faster and more frequently. Given the boom in this sector, we expect this to be a significant growth area. 

B) Financial services sector: This sector saw a massive opportunity during the pandemic. This was mainly driven by the increasing need for digital banking services, new payment modes, and evolving consumer and business needs. 

C) Media and entertainment: In the past 18 months, this sector, especially OTT, saw an increase in usage and revenues. We are therefore creating unique and seamless customer experiences for customers like Hotstar, DishTV, YuppTV, and Discovery. AWS is helping OTT platforms develop and bring solutions faster to market. 

D) Healthcare: Healthcare organisations were pivotal in mitigating the effects of the pandemic by implementing tech enabled innovations. Digitisation in healthcare technology is set to increase thanks to the government-led Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). AWS works with several healthcare organisations and startups in India such as Innovaccer, HealthifyMe, 1MG, Dozee and others for innovative solutions in diagnostics, patient care, telemedicine, and vaccination drives.

You recently launched the re/Start program in India to develop cloud skills in local talent. Is there is talent gap in cloud and to what extent have you resolved it?

According to an AWS commissioned report by AlphaBeta, digitally skilled workers currently represent only 12% of India’s workforce. The report estimates that the number of workers in India requiring digital skills will need to increase nine times by 2025, and the average worker in India will need to develop seven new digital skills by 2025 to keep pace with technology advancements and demand. 

Additionally, 76% of the digital workers in India today expect cloud computing will be a required competency for digital workers to perform their jobs proficiently by 2025. Given the huge talent gap and the demand for cloud skills, AWS works with students, developers, employees as well as enterprises to improve the digital quotient. 

In October 2021, we launched the AWS re/Start program in India, a free skills development and job training programme to prepare unemployed or underemployed individuals for careers in cloud computing. Five local education organizations – EduBridge Learning, Edujobs Academy, iPrimed Education, Rooman.Net and Vinsys IT Services – will help deliver the programme across six cities in India. 

Capgemini is providing financial assistance for AWS re/Start, and plans to interview and hire select programme graduates into various cloud roles. Globally, AWS re/Start connects more than 90% of graduates with job interview opportunities. This programme is unique as it taps into a new talent pool in India and helps people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to build cloud skills and launch cloud careers. This translates into a pipeline of diverse, non-traditional cloud talent to help close the skills gap.

In December 2020, Amazon committed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to provide free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people by 2025, reaching people from all walks of life and all levels of knowledge, in more than 200 countries and territories. On this mission, Amazon has already helped over 6 million people gain cloud skills, and the latest efforts build on the existing commitment by putting skills training into the hands of millions of people.

What is AWS’s strategy to infuse AI in its offerings?

Our mission at AWS is to put AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) into the hands of every developer and data scientist. AWS has always worked towards democratizing AI and ML services and making them available to the entire developer community, not just data scientists and specialists. Our fully managed services, frameworks, and tools are now being made available to just about everyone, irrespective of their level of technical skills and abilities, including enterprises, start-ups, developers, and data scientists.

Organisations of all sizes are building their AI and ML solutions on AWS because our services enable open innovation and collaboration, they are easy to manage, agile enough to scale to any size, and offer the required security for sensitive public domain data.

In 2020, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog collaborated with Nasscom to launch the “ATL AI Step Up Module”, with a focus on driving AI education and innovation among school students in India. The ATL AI Step Up Module is supported by AWS to provide a comprehensive set of advanced self-learning, through a program called AWS Educate. In March 2021, we announced the AWS DeepRacer Women’s League in India to help foster community learning and help with the early adoption of AI and ML technology for a more diverse workforce of the future. The initiative aims to bring together women students to learn collaboratively and get hands on with ML through a cloud-based virtual racing simulator. India is a growing economy, and our customers are using these technologies to reinvent entire areas of their business.

How does AWS differentiate its offerings in a highly competitive public cloud market?

The year 2021 saw an even faster adoption of technology and cloud in the new normal, which created more opportunities. We are now seeing a larger number of businesses in India, including some of the largest enterprises, unicorns, digital businesses, and SMBs/MSMEs think about cloud and migrate to cloud in a much more meaningful and faster way. Customers are migrating to AWS Cloud for three reasons. One, AWS Cloud helps them reduce cost and brings in agility. Second, AWS Cloud provides scalability, and we are witnessing customers see growth in their online and digital channels by up to 10 times. And the third is, propelling innovation for customers and enabling them to drive a set of experiments, reduce technical debt and try new ways of working with their consumers.

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