Sumit Mukhija
In Conversation with Sumit Mukhija, Chief Executive Office, STT GDC India DCD Group in India recently caught up with Sumit Mukhija, CEO of STT GDC India and talked to him about their views on the Indian Data Centre market, their future plans and what the market has to offer in the near future. As our readers know, STT GDC recently acquired Tata Communications Data Centres.

DCD: What are your thoughts on the Indian data centre market?

Sumit Mukhija: The Indian economy is growing strongly and remains a bright spot in the global landscape. This growth is built on strong fundamentals driven by digitisation, connectivity, cash- and paper-less economy, and a start-up innovation ecosystem. High mobile penetration and rising tech adoption are further propelling our economic progress. There is a fundamental shift in the way end users perceive and consume data, and this has been a game-changing moment for stakeholders across the IT infrastructure ecosystem, yielding long term benefits. With an ever growing and always connected population, there is a surge in data being generated and as a result, industry reports have indicated India's digital data consumption is expected to grow nearly twice as fast compared to the rest of the world. This data needs to be stored, managed and disseminated to users ubiquitously through public and private clouds and is driving the strong demand for efficient, reliable and scalable data centres across the country.

The Indian data centre market is currently underserved, and there is an ever-increasing requirement for energy efficient facilities. The existing data centres need to be enhanced to meet the requirements of the evolving landscape consistent with global trends. As the fastest-growing infrastructure market that is poised to be one of the largest globally within the next few years, we anticipate strong demand for data centres across India. To capitalise on these opportunities, we are continually enhancing our existing assets and adding more new capacity to meet the market demand.

DCD: Can you share with us an overview of your current and upcoming data centres in India?

Sumit Mukhija: Over the past decade, we have created a mature data centre ecosystem and provided our customers the scalability and flexibility to grow whilst addressing the Indian market's unique infrastructure challenges. We are not just a leader but an innovator in the Indian data centre space. As the market leader in India with ~30% revenue market share, we manage the largest Pan-Indian data centre floor area and IT load, delivering more than 60 MW of IT load via our 14 carrier-neutral facilities with carrier-dense interconnections across eight key cities.

In the last few years, we have achieved more than 25% revenue CAGR, which outgrew the market. This growth has come from a well - diversified customer base across key segments like e-commerce, cloud, BFSI and government. To maintain our leading position and continue to address our customer's current and future demands, we have outlined expansion plans in cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune with the goal to double our capacity in the next 3-5 years. We are also exploring large data centre builds and data centre campuses to support requirements for large scale deployment. To overcome the challenge of limited natural resources and improve our data centre's PUE and overall efficiencies, we are reviewing ways to introduce new innovative technologies and solutions. At the same time, we will be able to deliver capacity more rapidly and cost-effectively. We are also focused on our human capital to ensure we have the right mix of resources to sell, create and support current and future capacity. We will continue to invest in manpower productivity and to introduce the right automation mix to support our growth plans.

DCD: What has been the impact of the transaction with STT GDC investing into TCDC (now STT GDC India) for your customers in India?

Sumit Mukhija: Since the completion of the transaction, we have focused on ensuring smooth continuity for our customers and employees into the broader STT GDC platform. Besides a name change, there has been no change and our customers enjoy the same high quality service. Overall, the customer feedback has been very positive. For customers, there is continuity of engagement as well as operations and they have been continuously engaged with us on their roadmaps and renewal projects. They are also appreciative of the additional benefits from the combined capabilities and platforms of two highly experienced sponsors in STT GDC and Tata Communications.

Our customers also appreciate that we are now part of the broader STT GDC Group. STT GDC has built an integrated data centre platform in key economic hubs across developed and emerging markets. Through STT GDC's platform of 50 data centres across China, India, Singapore and the UK, our customers gain immediate access to these markets. Besides geographic reach, they also gain from our enhanced capabilities as we leverage global best practices and expand innovation across the markets to serve our customers better. STT GDC has a strong and reputable parentage tracing back to ST Telemedia, an active investor with a proven track record in creating value for communications, media and technology businesses around the world.

DCD: How does STT GDC India intend to differentiate itself from its competitors?

Sumit Mukhija: In India, we are scaling faster than any other service provider in the market, serving close to 1000 customers including many Fortune 500 companies. We have an impeccable track record both in terms of our ability to execute as well as deliver large and complex customer deployments including operations. We are the only data centre service provider to have delivered multiple projects of more than 10 MW of IT power to our customers across multiple locations within a record period of six months. STT GDC India operates two of the country's largest data centre facilities in Pune and Chennai, and its BKC Mumbai facility as the country's only CEEDA Gold Certified data centre.

From a commercial perspective, STT GDC India takes a very flexible approach to the market and with our customers. Whether a customer is expanding organically or making an entrance into a new market, our teams are ready to support with operational experience, in-market expertise, and global insights. We also offer a suite of colocation services and data centre solutions that leverage global best practices, thus allowing our customers to accelerate innovation without the added investment. Our mission-critical solutions comprise best-of-breed platforms and vendors enabling STT GDC India to offer industry-leading SLAs to our customers.

Service quality and professionalism are paramount to us and they are backed by our stringent Service Level Agreements. Be it a large technology company, e-commerce player or cloud service provider, our consultative and customer-centric approach towards colocation in India allows our customers to mitigate the risks associated with time, costs and operating their own data centre.

DCD: India is a complex yet dynamic market, what do you see as the key drivers and challenges for the business?

Sumit Mukhija: India's macro environment is highly favourable and our teledensity is the highest in the world with data growth nearly twice the global average. Rapid adoption of smartphones, increasing access to high speed data services and digitisation in the content and media industries are leading to strong demands for web hosting in the consumer market. In the enterprise market, increasing transformation to digital and e-business are pushing enterprises to migrate from captive to third party data centre service providers. As a result of this, we are seeing an increase in data centre traffic and demand for our services.

With the evolution of cloud computing, many captive data centres in India are unable to handle the demands of modern high density computing platforms pushing many organisations to look for reliable third party data services providers with modern facilities. Apart from the private sector, we also see that the government (both state and centre levels), are highly committed to roll-out IT-intensive services to improve their performance, increase efficiency and organise their services to citizens. The Digital India program, which is being promoted heavily by the current Modi Government, has a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy represents a huge business opportunity for the India data centre market.

Moreover, with new compliance and data privacy laws, the bar to deliver quality IT services is constantly raised. Business continuity and disaster recovery requirements are increasing, driving organisations to look for reputable data centre partners that offer agility, flexibility and the desired scale to support their new application workloads. As the market leader in both innovation and execution, we are committed to support the on-going evolution of the Indian infrastructure market and delivering personalised customer experiences that align to their accelerated business growth today and tomorrow.

Power constitutes two-thirds of the operating costs for data centres, and power requirements are continuously increasing. Getting highly reliable and diverse power feeds for a data centre is a challenge, and the unit costs for power are on the rise too. Due to power and other infrastructure challenges in many states, third party data centre providers focus more on major cities putting pressure on the space availability and limiting expansion potential while driving up costs. As an immediate solution, there is a requirement to develop a transmission and distribution network that provides reliable power connectivity in metros and non-metros across India. This will provide impetus to local economic activity resulting in overall development and growth, attracting companies to invest thus benefiting the local economy.

As the market in India matures and the topology expands, we will continue to be flexible in our approach and focus on adopting new technologies and processes that have been globally certified. These range from unique approaches in cooling to new management and operations standards, to sustainability innovation with efficient IT.

DCD: Where do you see the DC/Cloud market in India in the next 5 years?

Sumit Mukhija: Because of digitisation, the data centre business has been witnessing high growth and will continue to do so. Cloud computing is the most disruptive force in the digital age impacting IT strategy and expenditure, and adopting a cloud-first strategy has now become a business imperative. Rapidly growing cloud service providers will work closely with their trusted carrier-neutral data centre partners, to plan for their requirements including adjusting designs, up-sizing powered shells, and planning expansion of campuses.

The conversion of data collection, big data analytics, ubiquitous and constant mobile device usage have left IT infrastructure struggling to keep pace with accelerating resource demands. Owning and operating a captive data centre has become a complex and expensive proposition for enterprises. As businesses move towards the cloud to maximise business potential and realise business and cost efficiencies, they are choosing to colocate with us for services which cannot be taken to the cloud. Data centres increasingly need to support flexible deployments and system integration to fulfil their customer's rapidly changing needs to run short-term workloads, build their public and private clouds, and migrate applications between them.

DCD: Finally, in your opinion, what sets India apart from other markets in the region?

Sumit Mukhija: Some of these points have been previously touched on, but to reiterate, with the rapid pace of digitisation, accelerated move towards 4G and with proliferation of E-Commerce there is an explosion of demand growth for IT Infrastructure within Indian enterprises, the government and foreign companies in India. This is leading to huge amount of data being generated, which results in a surge in demand for our data centre facilities in India to house them.

India's power infrastructure challenges currently limit the expansion to Tier 1 cities where real estate is expensive and scarce and where there is a heavy concentration of skilled manpower. India is also a large land mass and the varied climates across the country can have an impact on data centre efficiency.

In summary, the Indian market undoubtedly poses challenges which are unique to the country, however beyond these challenges lies tremendous growth and opportunity. STT GDC India is committed to this industry for the long term and we feel that we are uniquely positioned to navigate through some of market complexities and challenges.
Sumit Mukhija, CEO of STT GDC India will be delivering the plenary keynote at DCD>Webscale Bangalore 2017 on 19th July 2017 at the Sheraton The Grand, Brigade Gateway, Bangalore. For more information about the conference, please visit DCD India