| Bill Gates at a forum of CEOs organised by CII in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Dec. 7: Microsoft will invest $1.7 billion in India over the next four years and hire close to 3,000 software developers as part of its ambitious expansion plan in the world’s fastest growing economy after China.
This was announced by chairman Bill Gates, who said the funds would be channelled into areas that fit into Microsoft’s strategic vision for the country. Gates said the investment would also be used to create a digitally inclusive society and to boost the knowledge economy.
“Microsoft has been in India for 15 years and our commitment grows. India’s exceptional IT talent and its vibrant software vendor industry is helping to empower a truly global knowledge economy.” Gates added.
At a function organised by the CII earlier in the day, Gates highlighted literacy, productivity, digital inclusion and innovation as the four thrust areas for India.
Gates stressed on the need to develop technical skills and human resources that could meet the growing demand of the IT industry. He lauded the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), but suggested privatising higher education would produce more skilled professionals.
Over the next three to four years, Gates said Microsoft would hire around 3000 professionals in India, where it already has a headcount of around of 4000.
The software giant signed agreements with the government on cyber security and launched a competitive enhancement programme for small and medium enterprises in the Indian manufacturing sector. Two innovation centres will come up as part of the pacts ' the Indian computer emergency response team (CERT-In) and National Institute of Smarter Government on security and e-governance.
Communications and IT minister Dayanidhi Maran expressed happiness over Microsoft’s decision to shovel more dollars. “This is an indicator of the value that Microsoft attaches to its development and R&D activities in India and to accelerate pace of growth of the ICT sector here. I am also pleased that Microsoft has offered its full co-operation on various matters relating to security. This is a key area of concern as we move into the digital era,” he added.
Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan said the company would work with systems integrators and developers on solutions and services suitable for this country.
The $1.7-billion investment will see Microsoft adopt 100 schools in states to provide an interactive learning environment. This, combined with classroom PC and projectors, would provide an engaging and transformational learning experience for students in local language.
The company will also offer affordable access to technology in rural areas. The software major was required to support the government's programme to establish 1,00,000 kiosks by offering a range of affordable products, services, advice, training and support.
“Microsoft will offer Windows XP starter edition licensed and built exclusively for use in India. The option to use English in addition to the nine Indian languages has been provided for the first time,” said Venkatesan.
Gates unveiled plans for Microsoft offices in 33 cities and 700 retails outlets across the country. A state-of-the art innovation centre will come up in Bangalore.