Interview With Navdeep Manaktala, Head- Business Development, Amazon Internet Services

Indian companies use AWS Cloud to reduce costs, migrate mission-critical applications, and enable agility, scalability, experimentation, and cultural change as they remove legacy debt


In a recent interaction, Navdeep Manaktala – Head, Business Development, Amazon Internet Services Pvt. Ltd talks about key products & services and managing large enterprise customers in India.

What is the key focus for AWS in India? What is the business approach to realize organizational goals?

Today, AWS Cloud is being used by hundreds of thousands of active customers in India for a broad range of applications including website hosting, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, IoT, social games, mobile applications, e-commerce platforms, and running mission-critical business applications like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft. We are focused on reinventing the customer experience and on security and operational excellence while offering the broadest and deepest range of services and functionality. 

One thing that is constant, is that we will continue to lower prices on behalf of our customers. Every single one of our teams has goals around taking cost out of their own cost structure, and every year we lower our prices on multiple occasions. We've reduced prices 72 times since AWS launched in 2006.

Indian companies like NDTV, HDFC Life, Aditya Birla Finance, Vistara, L&T Infotech, MakeMyTrip, Dream11, ArisGlobal, and many others use AWS Cloud to reduce costs, migrate mission-critical applications, and enable agility, scalability, experimentation, and cultural change as they remove legacy debt. AWS is focused on helping them build a culture of digital innovation within their organizations.

AWS recently announced its New Amazon CloudFront and AWS Direct Connect Locations in India. How will this expansion of infrastructure help in driving business goals?

AWS Direct Connect enables customers to establish a dedicated network connection from data centers to AWS Cloud in a simple manner, reducing their network costs, increasing bandwidth throughput, and providing a more consistent network experience when compared to Internet-based connectivity. Amazon CloudFront is our content delivery network that allows customers to cache content like web videos and other bulky media closer to the customers. This improves the speed for downloading the content. Customers across diverse industries experience the benefits of instant scalability with no minimum usage commitment or long-term contracts. Amazon CloudFront enables use cases such as video distribution, software downloads, music downloads, and delivering frequently accessed website images and objects seamlessly. 

The new locations provide low latency and high data transfer rates to AWS customers to deliver dynamic and static web content to end users, while providing the full suite of benefits of Amazon CloudFront that include deep integration with compute, and security services and features, such as Lambda@Edge, AWS Shield and AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF). 

What are customers’ most common problems and how is AWS helping in solving those differently?

Indian customers demand more of their IT framework, and are coming to us to help them remove barriers to ideation, and innovation, and help them respond to business demands in real time. They are choosing AWS over other providers because AWS has more functionality, the largest and most vibrant community of customers and partners, the most proven operational and security expertise, and the business is innovating at a faster clip – especially in areas such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Serverless Computing. 

Let’s look at some of the challenges. Some of our customers are constrained by commercial databases that are expensive and tend to have a long lock-in period, with too many licensing terms. Customers want the performance of commercial grade databases with the pricing and friendliness of open engines. That’s why AWS spent a few years building our own database engine in Amazon Aurora, a fully managed MySQL and Postgres compatible service that has at least the same durability and availability of the commercial engines, but at one-tenth of the cost.

At AWS, 90 percent of the time we build what customers ask for and the remaining 10 percent is focused on strategic interpretations of our customers’ needs. 

What is the differentiation factor for AWS, especially when Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, etc are rapidly closing the gap?

I don’t believe we’re ceding ground and it is our customers who choose AWS over other providers. With millions of active customers every month, AWS has many times the usage of other cloud providers.

AWS has more significant services, and features than any other cloud provider. AWS is innovating faster, and the gap in capability continues to expand. In 2011, we released over 80 new significant services and features, followed by nearly 160 in 2012. In 2018 we released 1957 new significant services and features. And, we’re not done innovating and introducing new services and features.

With millions of active customers and tens of thousands of partners globally, AWS also has the largest and most dynamic ecosystem. There is a real network effect when you use AWS, and customers are able to experience firsthand, the value that this network offers. Customers across virtually every industry and of every size, including start-ups, enterprises, and public sector organizations, are running every imaginable use case on AWS. 

As AWS grows, we will continue to differentiate on three things.

First, we are very customer focused. Ninety percent of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters, and the other 10 percent are things we hear from customers where they may not articulate exactly what they want, but we try to read between the lines and invent on their behalf.

Second, we’re pioneers. While most large companies acquire their innovation, we like to hire builders, who are always looking at ways to improve our customer’s experience. 

Finally, we are unusually long-term oriented and in this for the long haul. Whether it’s relationships or technology, we are building our businesses to outlast us all.

AWS is helping democratize AI for all. What are the key technologies in your portfolio that are enabling this change? 

AWS has always taken technology that was traditionally only available to well-funded organizations and made it accessible to a much broader audience. We approach AI/ML through the same lens as any other technology: our customers. We want to help all our customers embrace machine learning, no matter their size, budget, experience, or skill level.

As AI becomes the new normal, every organization is focusing on gathering accurate data, getting it organized and labeled. AWS recently announced 13 new machine learning services and capabilities, including a custom chip for machine learning inference, and a 1/18 scale Autonomous Race Car for developers. 

While training rightfully receives a lot of attention, inference actually accounts for the majority of the cost and complexity for running machine learning in production (for every dollar spent on training, nine are spent on inference). Amazon Elastic Inference allows developers to dramatically decrease inference costs with up to 75 percent savings when compared to the cost of using a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU) instance. 

TensorFlow enhancements and New Amazon EC2 P3dn instances drive faster machine learning training; new custom designed machine learning inference chip - AWS Inferentia, will drastically reduce costs.

The new AI services bring intelligence to every app and developer, across industries. Amazon Textract for instance extracts text and data from virtually any scanned document. Amazon Personalize and Amazon Forecast bring the same technology used by to developers, with no machine learning experience required, while Amazon Comprehend Medical provides natural language processing for medical information.


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