Airtel, Amazon Web Services eye pact to tap SMB market

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel is set to sign a strategic alliance with Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud services arm of the retail giant, to tap small-and-medium businesses (SMBs). The pairing will be pitted against the Reliance Jio Infocomm-Microsoft combine as they compete for a share of the surging public cloud market in the country, which is expected to touch $8 billion by 2023.

“The partnership will evolve further in the coming time. It’s early stage for both partners. Airtel will act as a channel partner for AWS to tap startups and SMBs,” said a person familiar with the matter. Bharti Airtel is expected to announce the tieup with AWS on Wednesday.

Under the partnership, Bharti Airtel will also sell AWS products and bundle them with its public cloud offering.

Full Range of Offerings
There is scope for products linked to artificial intelligence (AI) and Edge among others to be offered to SMBs, a second person said. Jio is pitching for custom offerings through its Microsoft partnership, coupled with its JioFiber service.

The two companies signed a pact in August last year to tap into the demand for public cloud services, especially from small and medium enterprises. The country’s public cloud market is among the largest in the Asia Pacific region, behind only Australia and Japan, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). By 2023, the consulting firm expects the public cloud market in India to reach the $8 billion mark, up from $2.6 billion in 2018.


Cloud Market
India’s public cloud market is dominated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). After the Amazon deal, Bharti Airtel will have a full range of offerings – public, private and hybrid cloud. The Amazon partnership may also extend to include collaborations around the Internet of Things (IoT) segment, an area that Bharti Airtel is betting will be a driver of enterprise business. Bharti Airtel and AWS didn’t respond to ET’s queries. Bharti Airtel has said it’s the leader in India’s enterprise connectivity segment, serving more than 2,500 large businesses and over one million medium and small businesses.

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Analysts said India is witnessing a surge in demand for secure data centres and cloud services as businesses embark on digital transformation and consumer demand for digital services continues to increase.

They said that startups and SMBs are banking on the public cloud opportunity to boost IT operations and are seen as early adopters and the biggest drivers of public cloud computing solutions. SMBs typically operate without an IT department, and usually opt for public cloud services, which enables them to add or test new applications or processes without having to take on the costs of hosting in-house IT infra .

Bharti Airtel signed an agreement to sell a quarter of its stake in data centre unit Nxtra Data for $235 million (Rs 1,800 crore) to Carlyle. The company said it will use proceeds to strengthen its data centre and cloud infra amid increasing demand for storing information locally and safely.



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