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Veeam has taken lead in facilitating data protection, data recovery, and data freedom: Sandeep Bhambure, VP and MD, Veeam Software India & SAARC

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Express Computer interviewed Sandeep Bhambure, Vice President and Managing Director, Veeam Software India and SAARC, to discuss the company’s impressive growth and achievements over the past year. Bhambure highlighted the company’s success in combating ransomware, increasing customer awareness, and driving market share, supported by significant strategic partnerships, notably with Microsoft. He emphasised Veeam’s commitment to data protection, compliance with new data laws, and AI integration. 

Can you provide an overview of how the past year has been for Veeam Software India and SAARC?

It’s been perhaps the best year yet for Veeam India and SAARC. I just want to share with you that 22 members of my sales organisation were part of the Veeam Excellence Club in Mexico. As an organisation, we are well-aligned to the market opportunity, ensuring we stay ahead of the curve.

Ransomware continues to be the biggest impediment, biggest threat to business. We have been closely working with our customers to ensure swift recovery from ransomware attacks. About 76% of companies have faced ransomware attacks in the last year and around 25% have faced ransomware attacks four times. Statistics are really concerning for the organisations, companies are increasing their budget for data protection. Our report talks about a 6.6% increase in budget for data backups. In India, it will go beyond that number. As per the report recovery is still a major concern, only 13% of the companies are confident that they can orchestrate recovery from cyberattacks.

The recovery must occur in aggressive timelines with a guarantee that the data will not be reinfected. Taking one month for data recovery will adversely impact the business.  56% of the customers are apprehensive about reinfection of their data. Veeam as an organisation has done extremely well in taking the lead in letting customers know how Veeam can facilitate data protection, data recovery, and data freedom.

Today, our efforts extend beyond safeguarding just traditional workloads; it includes protecting cloud workloads. This year has been remarkable for further solidifying our market leadership in this space. According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Semiannual Software Tracker 2023H2 Veeam stands number one worldwide in backup and recovery again by revenue for market share (13%). The tracker reports that Veeam’s, year-over-year worldwide growth rate (not adjusted for constant currency) was 15.7%.  We are taking a lot of share away from our competition. 

Has your market share growth been driven by increased customer awareness and board-level discussions on data protection, resiliency, and cyber protection? How have these conversations evolved, and how have you developed more innovative offerings as a result?

India is the fastest-growing large economy, with a growth rate of 7-7.5%, Indian companies are increasingly competing on the global stage.  This, coupled with the implementation of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, underscores our commitment to ensuring the global competitiveness of Indian companies. Organisations can recreate infrastructure, they are able to compete with the best organisations in the business in the global market. Let’s say there is a downtime, they can bring in the servers, storage, etc. If they lose data, we cannot recreate data. The importance of data is now recognised by everyone.

Everyone is talking about DPDP, Data Protection Officers, and other roles. Organisations are held accountable for data loss. The law, like DPDP, is pushing organisations to take specific steps to keep their data protected, because like I said, infrastructure can be created but data cannot be recreated.

Today we are seeing 60% of the organisations are using Kubernetes. They are transforming. We recently announced a huge strategic partnership with Microsoft. Six months back we talked to customers about protecting their M365 data and customers would ask us why we need to stay protected as it is all in the cloud. Now more and more customers are realising that hyperscalers are coming and data protection is a shared responsibility. 

We have seen a huge pipeline built up for Veeam Data Cloud offering in which we are protecting M365 workloads and Azure workloads. Veeam Data Cloud provides backup-as-a-service (BaaS) for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure, enabling radical resilience and leveraging powerful data protection and security technology within a simple, seamless user experience. We are leveraging Microsoft Azure lock technology to recover data in a timely manner. There are more than 350 million M365 users worldwide. India has a significant share of M365 users and so many of them are not protected. Worldwide Veeam is number 1 when it comes to protecting M365.   

Could you please elaborate on how this partnership took place?

There are different tiers of SaaS solutions, and they offer different guarantees of recoverability options, but again coming to the point of data protection being a shared responsibility, there have been incidents that a rogue employee is responsible for bringing down jeopardising the data of their entire organisation. With heavy reliance on M365, effective communication is crucial, as internal employees can compromise data safety and security. It underscores the importance of shared responsibility.

Microsoft is aggressively educating its customers, with this awareness around data protection is increasing. Customers who have lost data on M365 recognise the importance of data protection. We have that edge.   

Now that you have that edge and this partnership with Microsoft, how are you going to meet the set expectations of the market and how are you going to capitalise on it? 

We have extended our partnership with Microsoft by 5 years. We are co-investing to build the Veeam Data Cloud to incorporate Microsoft co-pilot and to integrate AI and ML. As a part of this partnership Veeam will co-sell Veeam Data Cloud for Microsoft Azure and for Microsoft 365 with Microsoft which builds on the world’s number one data protection solution protecting over 18 million Microsoft 365 users. 

We are also engaging the security players in the market to make sure that the AI/ML they are employing is actually helping our customers to better protect their data and also recover their data. All these algorithms put together can give us an alert. At the time of data recovery, when your data is corrupt, what is important for you – if the AI/ML integrated in your technology can give you an alert that ‘hey, don’t recover this data, this is infected’. 

All of these integrations and partnerships with security players and Microsoft co-pilot is essentially enhancing Veeam Data Platform and Veeam Data Cloud to bring in all these capabilities which we believe are keeping us far ahead of our competitors. 

Now that you mentioned AI, we are seeing various use-cases of AI. How are you looking at bringing innovations to your offerings? Are you also looking at partnerships with specialised organisations that are working in the AI domain bringing a joint offering?

First I will talk about the Indian market. Till 2023 the focus was more on awareness but in 2024 many companies are putting together concrete plans to adopt or at least pilot AI-led initiatives. They have been allocating certain budgets. How will you implement or pilot an AI project? I cannot use AI just for the sake of it. Let me pick a use case of it and see how it can improve my logistical system and the delivery of my goods. 

IT companies are using AI in a different sense. We are keeping up with our strategic partners like Microsoft. We always had intelligence between our systems that could prompt our customers that ‘hey, this data could be infected, or this data is already infected, so be careful at the time of data recovery’. We do not want to reinvent the wheel. I am saying that when a security vendor is introducing AI in the attack surface, we want to ensure that Zero Trust is using the same capabilities to protect organisations’ back-up defence surface. 

Being a data protection vendor, we have to be the best line of defence. While all these algorithms are built to help customers recover data effectively, error-free and without any malware, we are protecting them by being in partnership with companies like Microsoft. 

Do you see a similar trend in AI deployments regarding data protection as seen with cloud security challenges?

Every organisation has an agenda to have AI deployment. AI majorly focusses on getting data on-prem. The scenario, I know from my interactions with customers, is that either the source of data is coming from the internal system, but they are also egressing the data onto the cloud. We’re witnessing a trend where many customers are evaluating the commercial viability of cloud offerings. If enterprises can freely move data, I believe AI adoption can accelerate significantly.

How are you able to do things differently, especially when customers are more focused on the business outcome?

One thing is transforming our go-to market itself.  India is a hyper growth market for Veeam. In 2023, Veeam witnessed a massive growth in net new customers. We add hundreds of new customers every quarter. Worldwide our customer-count is 4,50,000. Today enterprises are taking data protection very seriously. We have aligned our sales team to reach the top-end of the market. Customers in India include, Hero MotoCorp (India), Mahindra Group (India), Granules India, (India), Parul University (India) and Future Generali (India).

We have a very vibrant partner ecosystem, we have over 700+ partners in India. Partner ecosystem includes partners of our Reseller Alliance Ecosystem like HPE, Cisco, Lenovo and also Cloud Service Providers, GSIs and ISVs. Our tie-ups with cloud service providers are extremely strong. 

We are aligning very closely with ISVs. Your point on customers being focused only on the outcome, I would like to point out here that ISVs are outcome oriented. They have specific applications, specific use cases. We have onboarded many ISVs as cloud partners. These are the few things we are doing to take lead on our competition. 

You mentioned India becoming the fastest growing market in the APJ region. In addition to rising customer awareness, what has made Veeam widely accepted? 

The first trigger is the big risk of ransomware. The second trigger is the recoverability of the data. If organisations are not able to recover within the SLAs, they are not only non-compliant, but this can also become an existential crisis for them. Third is data freedom. When it comes to containers, we are far ahead of everyone. Instead of having point solutions to protect different kinds of data in different sources, we have built Veeam Data Platform with the vision that you have a single pane of glass. 

We are going a step further. Let’s take ransomware. We don’t talk only about data protection and the first line of defence. We focus on pre-, during and post events. We have gone beyond that as well. For the post-event scenario, we are building capabilities for cyber-attack incident response – we can do triage, negotiate with bad actors. No other vendor can give such a comprehensive service.

Which are the key focus verticals for Veeam in India?

The key focus verticals for us in India are enterprises, BFSI, government, manufacturing, ITeS, and PSU. Amongst these, ITeS and BFSI are strong segments. But I would say our business is equitably distributed amongst all. 

From the potential perspective, I think the education sector needs to take data protection more seriously. For educational institutions, content is critical and it is quite vulnerable. I would like to focus more on the educational sector and there is an initiative that we are going to run to educate the sector about the importance of data protection. 

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