India is a critical market for cloud-based software company Salesforce.com Inc., having grown to be the largest centre outside of its headquarters in San Francisco. The India unit is currently hiring to address growing demand from its customers, especially small and medium businesses (SMBs). In an interview, Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson and CEO of Salesforce India, talks about the growth in the India business, the SMB opportunity and drivers for cloud solutions. Edited excerpts:
How has the India business grown and what are your hiring plans?
We have doubled our headcount in the last 18 months in India alone. When I came in, the headcount was around 2,500 and it’s around 5,000 now. We plan to exit the fiscal year at about 6,500 people (Salesforce’s fiscal year ends on 31 January). So, we are doing a lot of recruitments currently. We may not double exactly, but then our plans are pretty large. And we will definitely be growing quite fast, even the next year. Our people are not just doing sales and distribution, but there is also a very large team that supports our global operations. Like most other large multinationals, we have global innovation centres in India comprising engineering, R&D, support and all of the services. We are the largest centre for Salesforce outside of the US.
For which skills and roles are you hiring?
Almost 90% of the people we hire are for technology roles and they are basically engineers. There are, of course, people in other areas like sales and finance, but most of the roles are very technology-oriented. We look at people who are Salesforce certified. Salesforce has a very nice gamified platform that is already available in the public domain and is free as well. It’s called Trailhead, and you can actually get on to Trailhead and certify yourself. But even if someone is not Salesforce certified, it does not prevent them from coming in as long as they can do Java programming and things like that. We are also recruiting in the area of HR because if you are doing so much of recruitment, you also need recruiters and employee success business partners. The roles will be across all areas of a rapidly growing organization ranging from general administration to technology to sales.
What is the opportunity from SMBs in India?
SMB is probably the largest opportunity for Salesforce. When Salesforce was initially set up 23 years back, it started with the SMB segment. The enterprise segment only came about 10 years later. The idea was to solve the SMB issues. For instance, in India, most SMBs are not capital-rich, so they do not want to lock their capital to get the best of the systems. We offer subscription-based solutions so that they are not required to set up their own hardware. And it’s a monthly subscription, which also ensures that we stay on our toes to give them the best service possible in order to ensure that those subscriptions get renewed year after year. Three quarters of our customer base constitutes SMBs.
A recent Salesforce-IDC report stated that cloud-related technologies will account for 27% of all the IT spending in India. What’s driving the demand for cloud?
India is a capital-poor country and on-premise systems can be very costly because you are not only having to put down your servers in one place but you will actually be needing them in three pieces because you need the business continuity plan at a near site as well as disaster recovery at a far site. So, getting the servers itself is a long process. Whereas, if you look at cloud applications and you do the same job with a cloud service provider, the cloud service provider can provision you in a matter of hours. What could have taken days and a lot of money can actually be got done in a matter of hours. It’s not only a question of convenience, but also about cost as with cloud, you are paying as you go.
When you are trying to be aligned to your customer, you need a number of analytics and artificial intelligence tools. The larger the data set, the better will be the outcome. To have such kind of elasticity in an on-premise system would be very costly.
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