Cisco bets big on Bangalore

Bangalore, India – With a new one million square foot campus opened last month, Cisco Systems has tapped Bangalore, India’s high-tech hub, as its new Eastern hub and the base-camp for its emerging markets strategy.

With the official opening of its new US$50 million Globalisation Centre East, presided over by president and CEO John Chambers and former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Cisco also made a major commitment to Bangalore becoming Cisco’s largest office outside of its San Jose headquarters.

Cisco’s headcount in Bangalore currently numbers 900 and the vendor has set a goal of 10,000 in the next five years. The campus houses Cisco’s Globalisation Centre, plus R&D, IT and customer support operations. It houses a global briefing centre to showcase Cisco technology to emerging markets and foster partner collaboration, as well as Cisco’s largest data centre outside the US to demonstrate new virtualisation and SOA technologies.

Chambers emphasised that Bangalore isn’t going to be a branch plant, but rather an Eastern headquarters for Cisco, although Singapore will remain the regional sales office headquarters. The Bangalore office is headed by Cisco’s number three man Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s chief globalisation officer, who brought 20 top executives with him to India. Chambers also said by 2012 he wants to have 20 per cent of his leadership team in all areas, from R&D to legal, IT, manufacturing, public relations and marketing, based in Bangalore.

The Bangalore campus will be Cisco’s entry point to all emerging markets, a segment Chambers said he expects will soon contribute 60 per cent of the vendor’s growth. While India is often seen as an outsourcing destination, Chambers emphasised Cisco didn’t come to India for labour, it came for talent.

“We did not come here for a labour arbitrage,” said Chambers, adding he also didn’t come to India for growth in this country alone. “We came to India for growth in all the emerging countries and the talent that’s here. We’re focused on this engine for growth. This country understands how to partner.”

With the rapid growth in the developing world providing the potential to leapfrog older generation technologies rather than building legacy infrastructures, Chambers said he thinks the old model of technologies being created in the developed world and being pushed-out to developing markets is going to flip. In the future, innovation will be created in the emerging markets and brought into developed countries like Canada and the US.

“I’m a believer in globalisation. For Cisco, this is what our future will be like,” said Chambers. “It won’t be about command and control, it will be about setting broad goals and aggressively collaborating to fill them in.”

Cisco sees the network as the platform for the developing world. Once the network is in place, perhaps utilising high speed wireless technologies like WiMAX, services and applications can be built on top of the network to fuel economic growth, education and social progress.

Suraj Shetty, senior director of marketing for Cisco’s worldwide service provider marketing organisation, pointed to the company’s acquisition of Navini Networks, which also has significant operations in Bangalore, as a major step for Cisco along this path. Shetty said Cisco will initially be making its WiMAX play exclusively in developing markets.

“It’s about the experience.Technology should be like oxygen, you can’t see it but you depend on it,” said Shetty. “It can truly transform how emerging markets and how people that have nothing but their small piece of land can use technology to their advantage.”

At the campus opening Cisco also demonstrated a future application of its TelePresence video conferencing system that saw a Cisco executive from San Jose projected as a life-sized, walking hologram onto the stage with Chambers in Bangalore. The next generation “OnStage” technology is still in development.

“We asked this group to think like Star Trek, about how we could communicate anywhere,” said Chambers, saying he wanted to be like Scotty and beam people up.

Cisco expects this sort of 3D technology to be commercially available in three to five years as broadband speeds increase, while TelePresence itself should be commercially available at a reasonable price-point for home use within a few years.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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