AFL focused on the global hyperscalers, colocation and enterprise data centers in India: Alan Richardson

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Mumbai: As India marches ahead in the digital age, it needs huge investment in the IT infrastructure, networks, data centers and country-wide connectivity. One of the core components of IT infrastructure and networks is fiber optic and the role it plays not just in connecting the IT infrastructure ecosystem but also in rapid transmission of data and information to last mile.

AFL, a global manufacturer of fiber optic cables and products entered into the Indian market in 2017 and forged a strategic partnership with Citadel Intelligent Systems in 2018 to cater to the local market.

In this interview, Alan Richardson, Business Development Consultant – AFL talks to Pankaj Maru of about company’s India market strategy, segments and demands, along with the technology adaption. He also discusses about AFL’s strategic partnership with Citadel for local manufacturing and shares his views on India’s IT infrastructure and technology needs as well as company’s business growth and much more.

Edited excerpts…

Q1. AFL is among the top global players in the fiber optic cable and networking market, so can share some insights on company’s overall business strategy in India?
Alan Richardson: AFL has been for some time looking as to how to enter the Indian market which is encouraged by the growth, demand and supported by strong focus of the government to streamline policies and the key decision of accelerating digitization.

AFL in India is very focused on the global hyperscalers, colocation data centers and the enterprise data centers. Certainly, we were encouraged by our global clients to have a presence in India to provide local support, logistics, customer service, build a presence and ability to produce locally manufactured products. The decision was also made easy by the rapid growth of the data center business in India with the colocation data centers and the booming enterprise data center sector.

Q2. Since AFL entered in India in 2017, how do you see the India market compared to other Asian markets in terms of the demands, market segments/verticals, and technology adaption and maturity levels?
Alan Richardson: Over the next 5 to 10 years, we will see an accelerated growth from the three sectors – Global Hyperscalers, Colocation companies and Enterprise. India is rapidly being recognized as the largest growth potential in Asia region.

However, the Indian market is still at a very early stages of development, though we are seeing the influence of the Hyperscalers presence starting to be reflected, adopted into sectors of the Indian data center markets. This is because several of the leading players, especially in the colocation data centers are introducing new services and connectivity levels to assist their client’s requirements moving forward. The enterprise market is booming but struggling to manage the amount of data it needs to process and questioning to what would be its road map for the future and whether to utilize the cloud or colocation companies or invest heavily in next generation hardware and software?

The greatest challenge for the further acceleration of the Data Center business in India is still being infrastructure, which is well known as power, fiber infrastructure, rights of way, and cooling. The government has a big role to play here if it wants India to be not just the Asia powerhouse of digitalization, but also recognized as leader in management and implementation of a digital society globally.

Q3. AFL has a strategic partnership with Citadel Intelligent Systems for local manufacturing in India, so what sort of impact it has made on company’s business and market position here against other players?
Alan Richardson: The local manufacturing strategy is paramount to our success in development of the business in India. Our clients rightly require local manufacturing capability. Our mission and ethos is to provide them with a high level of customization with an ability to meet short lead times. This can be achieved only by local manufacturing, supported by application engineering and a slick backroom operations team.

Q4. Given the tie-up with Citadel for local manufacturing, has AFL started to offer Indian market specific products? If yes, then what sort of opportunity does it offers to AFL in India ? Also, is this tie-up leveraged for just local manufacturing or there’s a possibility of exporting products to rest of Asia and other markets?
Alan Richardson: We are well on that track in adopting some of our products and this has been easy to do due to Citadel’s expertise and excellent vendor supply base which is exceeding our expectation. The great thing here is that AFL model is to provide what exactly the the client wants and we have been successfully achieving that.

Currently, the manufacturing in India is focused on Indian demands, which is potentially very significant and gives excellent scope for expansion of our capabilities and resources. As a potential export base, it is still an open question especially in the current “Geopolitical Tariff Wars” climate.

Q5. In recent years, there’s huge focus on building IT infrastructure, networks and digital transformation, both in the government and private sector. Given this scenario how do you see the future and role of optical fiber cable as technology tool in country like India?
Alan Richardson: Simple answer is to this huge potential. Without optical fiber and connectivity, things are difficult. Optical cable and connection solutions have now become an integrated part of any infrastructure development in the sphere of technology. India has to invest more and more in the optical networks and connectivity points in order to be a real player in maximizing the power of digital communication.

Q6. Lastly, what sort of goal has AFL set for India business in 2019 in terms of revenue, sales and market share?
Alan Richardson: We are now in our second year and the most challenging one too. Our clients and the industry are aware of our presence here and eagerly, looking to see what impact we can make. The appetite of AFL and the Indian team is immense and very committed to start building on the initial foundations. We are going to be aggressive and on track to increase our revenue by 3 fold in this second year. With regard to the market share, we are thriving to leverage on the opportunities that we see in the ever-growing optic fiber industry and hold a good market share as we progress.

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