HYDERABAD, India, March 8, 1999 — For several years, Microsoft leaders were urged to enhance the company’s brainpower by tapping into India’s talent-rich computer science ranks, particularly the promising young graduates of its universities and engineering schools.
Among those doing the urging were Srini Koppolu and S. Somasegar, both 10-year Microsoft veterans in product development and both natives of India. The pair traveled separate paths from the same country to join the same OS/2 product group at Microsoft a month apart in 1989.
The recent opening of Microsoft’s new product development center in Hyderabad, India , not only validated their views, it also gave them an opportunity to nurture the company’s growth and success in India, and to help recruit the best of each year’s 30,000 or so computer-science grads.
Microsoft’s new India Development Center occupies about half of the ninth floor of this 10-story building in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tec City business park, said to be the largest
The Microsoft India Development Center actually was launched in August in a temporary location. But in late February, it opened its new permanent quarters in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tec City, which is said to be Asia’s largest technopark.
There, in the heart of India’s version of Silicon Valley, a 36-person staff is developing products and technologies important to Microsoft. Under way is the development of Windows NT Services for UNIX (SFU), which is intended to provide interoperability between Windows and UNIX machines, and the development of class libraries for COM+.
Koppolu is the center’s general manager, a post for which he was chosen last spring, after nine years spent developing products such as the Office suite and technologies such as COM. He reports to Somasegar, who oversees the India Development Center from Redmond and also is general manager for the Windows 2000 release.
“The products we are developing are strategic to Microsoft,”
Koppolu said by telephone from Hyderabad, a historic city of more than 4 million people in south-central India.
We will be working on more products as time goes on. We have been very successful in hiring smart people from the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management), IISs (Indian Institutes of Science), RECs (Regional Engineering Colleges), and other premier institutes of India.
“Starting new products also requires good leads and good managers, and hiring people for those positions is our main focus now,”
Koppolu said. An experienced group of Microsoft managers has joined the India Development Center
“because they strongly believe it is going to be a big success.”
‘LET’S DO SOMETHING THERE’
The India center is Microsoft’s second overseas development facility. The first, in Haifa, Israel, opened in 1991.
“For several years, dating back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, Microsoft has had a lot of employees from India. And several had been talking to Mike Maples [former executive vice president] and others about the talent over there [India],”
“We all noted how English is a common language there. We said, ‘Let’s do something there.'”
But the time wasn’t right-until now.
Somasegar noted that a visit to India by Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates two years ago was instrumental in the company’s decision to open a new product center there.
“Bill came away very impressed with the quality of people and the emphasis on education there,”
Not long afterward, Somasegar began a six-month feasibility study for a product development center in India, which focused on who should manage the facility, what products to develop, and where to locate it.
“All came together with a vote in February of 1998,”
“which was when I asked Srini to be the general manager.”
To manage an overseas product development center for Microsoft, one needs both a technical mind and the ability to run what is a separate business, according to Somasegar.
“You have a lot of logistics to deal with: finding a facility, hiring, and making sure you have such things as an adequate water supply… Srini has done a fantastic job.”
“It is very much like being at a start-up,”
“We’re building it up from Ground Zero. There are some very exciting aspects to it, such as hiring great people and helping them grow.”
Founded in 1591, Hyderabad today is India’s fifth-largest city, with a population of more than 4 million.
STAYS CLOSE TO DEVELOPERS
Koppolu said he does miss being on the front lines of product development-his career includes working on such products as Office 95 and Office 97-but he stays close to his developers and does
“small pieces of code when I get the chance. The last thing you can do is lose touch with your background.”
The new Microsoft center occupies 25,612 square feet, or about half of the ninth floor of the 10-story Hi-Tec City building, with enough room to expand to 100 people over the next two years. Microsoft also holds an option on the other half of the floor, which can accommodate 100 more workers. The facility is located away from the city’s downtown area and near a large residential section of town.
“The location is great,”
“People can find a house or a bungalow or an apartment nearby. There is a good hospital nearby and there are good schools nearby. The day-to-day commute is very short.”