Satya Nadella's India Visit
of Poetry, Aspirations and Dreams

Industry By Surbhi Arora

“Hazaaron khwahishe aisi
Ke har khwahish pe dam nikle,
Bahut niklay mere armaan,
Lekin phir bhi kam nikle”

(A thousand desires such, each worth dying for... many of them I have realised...yet I yearn for more...)
- Mirza Ghalib (The celebrated Urdu and Persian-language poet)

Evoking Ghalib’s verses at Microsoft’s ‘Tech for Good, Ideas for India’ event in India, the 48-year-old India-born Satya Nadella said, “I interpret it differently each year. There is so much to it ... It also tells us that it is not just your dreams that need to be fulfilled. It's also your ability to dream that is worth dying for”.

He has often compared poetry to code. According to him, pages and pages worth of prose can be easily clipped to fit into just 2 lines of poetry that still capture the complete essence of the prose. Thus, poetry is the best form of coding.

It was Satya Nadella’s third visit to India after taking over from Steve Ballmer as CEO in February 2014 that coincided with the twenty-fifth year of Microsoft in India. Microsoft opened three data centres in India around that time, making it the first ever global provider to offer its Azure cloud services from local data centres in India. Nadella’s second trip to India was in December 2015 which was largely a personal visit to Hyderabad to meet his family residing there. There had been many speculations about his third visit to India. When Nadella was appointed as the CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates who had retired by then, but re-joined Microsoft once again to become Satya Nadella’s personal mentor and assist him in his initial days.

India is a country with more than one billion people and only about 350 million are connected to the Internet. Microsoft has been in India for more than two decades and has found success especially in Indian government and public projects. Like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., Microsoft, is also looking to bridge the digital divide between the world of digital haves and digital have-nots. In 2015, the software company launched a new fund under the Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative programme aimed at serving the underserved markets. Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative aims to democratise access to the Internet through grants, commercial partnerships, connecting new leaders and community engagement. Grant recipients are based across five continents in 11 countries that include India, Indonesia and many African countries. Their goal is to support at least 20 projects in at least 15 countries by 2017.

Nadella’s strategy focuses on cloud-computing and is one of the key drivers for the company’s growth. According to Microsoft data, India’s cloud is set to grow to about $1 billion by 2020. And Microsoft’s cloud is mirroring that growth statistic.

Fifty percent of the top 100 Indian firms listed on the BSE covering a broad range of sectors ranging from financial services, healthcare, e-commerce and IT, are on Microsoft cloud.

The Microsoft CEO said cloud computing and virtual reality will drive technology in the future. He also said that it was inspiring to see the broad spectrum of student developers, entrepreneurs, e-commerce companies, artists and even some big brands, who were changing the landscape of India and thereby, the world. Nadella later met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and the Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha. They discussed various issues pertaining to the IT sector and enhancing partnership for initiatives such as Digital India.

Nadella sounded confident in the concept of virtual reality and what it could enable in future. He said that until now computing was just a digital manifestation of what was physical. But with virtual reality, the digital and physical worlds can finally mix; creating something can be called mixed reality. This, he says, opens all the new frontiers that developers can explore to create innovative concepts. "The virtual reality changes the way you see the world. [And] when you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see," he said.

In the world of virtual reality the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are hogging all the limelight, but Microsoft is working on HoloLens, a wearable headset that mixes the virtual and physical world for its users. Unlike the other virtual reality solutions, which aim to create the full virtual world in front of a user's eyes, the HoloLens lets the user superimpose virtual elements on top of the actual physical world.

With growing competition between the tech giants and competitive policies, Microsoft is looking to tap into the huge entrepreneur pool in the country, by way of an ‘accelerator programme’. Through its YouthSpark initiative, the company is trying to offer digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programmes.

India seems to be an active hub for technology giants. Within weeks after Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella arrived in the capital, while Google’s Sunder Pichai paid a visit in December 2015.

“It’s not about celebrating our technologies; it is about really celebrating the technologies that you all in India create. In fact, I want US to be the platform creators that foster the ingenuity of what is happening in India”, Nadella told developers and entrepreneurs. His vision is clear; he wants the company to be a platform “that invokes the ingenuity of people” in the country.

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