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Hurricane Ballmer

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First published in the December 2004 issue of Mantram

“We need you, we need you, we need you, we want you, we want you, we want you, come on we can do it, yeah baby!”, bellows the 48-year-old as he smacks his fist with the Who’s Who of India Inc looking on, part bemused, part embarrassed but wholly overawed by Steve Ballmer’s theatrics at a CNBC-TV18 event in Mumbai titled ‘Unlocking Innovation’.

That classic football coach chant is what Microsoft execs are subjected to, when they muster up the courage to tell Steve Ballmer that they’re thinking of retiring. They rarely succeed! The Microsoft CEO was responding to a question from a fellow CEO in the audience, who was curious to know what occupies most of Ballmer’s mindshare. Pat came Ballmer’s reply – “People – I always want to know if we’re getting the best people and whether we’re retaining them.”

That’s terrific news for the 1,600 odd people who will soon be joining Microsoft in India over the course of the next year. Ballmer made the big headcount announcement in Hyderabad as he kicked off his India visit by inaugurating a sprawling new campus that would, within the course of a year house 3,200 employees in the India Development Center (IDC) and the Global Delivery Center, India (GDCI).

Already a favorite recruiter on India’s elite engineering campuses, Microsoft won’t have too much difficulty wooing away the country’s best and brightest from local rivals like Infosys, Wipro and TCS. That however didn’t stop Ballmer from meeting the head honchos of those three firms and signing comprehensive strategic tie-ups with them. After all, if Microsoft soon wants to dominate the world’s enterprise software, it better get the guys who’re most likely to be servicing it, acquainted with its inner workings. While this would mean development of .NET competency it obviously stops short of sharing proprietary Windows source code

That holy grail is only being offered to the Indian government– Ballmer flew to Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discuss methods of bridging India’s digital divide. The Indian government has been rather gung-ho about Linux and Ballmer was keen to get the government onto the Windows bandwagon by offering a sneak peek at the source code to clarify any doubts about security. Unlike the governments of Brazil, China and Singapore, the Indian government has not yet taken an official stance on using only Open Source platforms for e-governance and Ballmer’s meeting will probably ensure that it stays that way for a while.

Ballmer’s whirlwind India tour culminated in Mumbai where he spoke to an audience of top Indian CEOs. He was introduced by Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani and after taking the stage was quick to admit that he wasn’t sure whether either he or Ambani had the right to be addressing the august gathering considering that they were the only two dropouts from their Stanford MBA class. After hearing his charged-up and passionate take on innovation being the cornerstone of Microsoft’s existence, it was difficult to suggest that completing his stint at Stanford would have done him any better.


Written by Abhi 2.0

January 1, 2005 at 12:58 am

Posted in Moneycontrol.com

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