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`Red Hat to leverage India for global growth'

It's been a journey from `why should we' to `why not' for consumers, Javed Tapia tells Prerna K Mishra

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 12:25 IST

The journey of open source in India is quite akin to that of liberalisation. Both started with apprehension and debate with only the more progressive adopting and accepting it first. But with time, the debate over their merits is over with experts now dabbling with how best to take them forward. "It's been a journey from `why should we' to `why not' for consumers," Red Hat India Subcontinent President Javed Tapia, whose company has a 65 per cent market share worldwide in development, deployment and management of Linux and open source solutions, told Prerna K Mishra in an interview.

Excerpts:

How can we say open source and Linux have arrived in India?

The acceptance of open source is most visible in the banking and financial services sector in India. Conventionally, the robustness of a platform can be judged by whether or not enterprises are deploying it to handle transaction-based mission critical processes. If that be the litmus, the fact that four out of the five insurance companies in India and banks like Canara Bank, Allahabad Bank, Vijaya Bank have joined the Linux bandwagon, is the proof of the pudding for the Indian enterprises. UTI Bank is using the platform for its call centre operations. In a nutshell, it's the heart of enterprises that are sitting on open source now and Linux is not just one of those things sitting at the periphery.

After having established a foothold in the enterprise space, what would your focus for the Indian market be for the coming year?

There are two more things that need to be ironed out for proliferation of open source in India -- one is to tap the desktop space and the other is localisation. We already offer five languages and will be offering eight more by November this year. Simultaneously, we are creating a desktop ecosystem where the desktop can seamlessly port to a printer, scanner, browser or biometric devices.

How soon will we see more of SOHOs and edu cation sector migrate to Linux at the front end?

We are pretty much ready for the desktop environment in the enterprise and education space. LIC already has 25,000 Linux desktops today. Education is a special focus as the next generation of users are going to come from this sector. We do not want to offer this market on a platter to some proprietary platform with some 350 million kids becoming a captive audience for it. The next generation should have the option of choosing between open source and proprietary systems. For the small and home office segment we have some work to do so that they can easily port their applications on to the open source platform. We are also working with application developers and content developers to raise the level of business for the smaller enterprises.

How do you react to special regional pricing rolled out by competition?

We would like to believe that we have driven the market in a specific direction where the total cost of ownership for the end user had to be brought down by competition. But they still have a long way to go in providing the consumer an environment where the platform can be played around with ease to customise it according to the customer preferences.

What is the biggest challenge for Linux in India?

The biggest task at hand is to get the developer community in India interested in Linux. We have to keep them in the loop to do well not just domestically but to crack the global marketplace. Also given that people are ready to adopt Linux, we are under pressure to scale out in terms of development of newer applications, have a sales and marketing, and above all, a support infrastructure in place for the big time rollout. Training is a big area of focus and we are working with partners to constantly train and update them.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 12:25 IST