Special Merdeka Day Interview with K Raman, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia

 |   Sugriiva Paramasivam

In the run up to this year’s Merdeka Day, we sat down with K Raman, the Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia to find out more about himself – what it’s like being a “Muhibbah kid”, his thoughts on Microsoft’s transformation in this mobile-first, cloud-first world along with the opportunities he sees for the company, as well as what teamwork means to him and what he thinks about our country turning 58.

You’re a Malaysian through and through – born and bred here, with a pretty illustrious career. Take us a bit more about that.

People usually get confused about the fact that I’m not Malaysian – but in actuality, I’m a Muhibbah kid – I have an Indian father, Chinese mother, with a Malay sounding name. I still get Hari Raya cards!

I’m actually born in Malacca, where I completed my primary and secondary education, and graduated with an engineering degree from Universiti Malaya. My IT career began at HP in 1988, where I started as an account manager for the manufacturing, oil and gas sector. I moved from sales to a country management role over 10 years later. Following HP’s merger with Compaq, I was tasked with running the telco sector for APAC – I was shuttling from China, to Australia, and from New Zealand to India – traveling was taking up some 70% of my time!

I then joined EMC as the company’s Managing Director in 2003, before moving on to Oracle four years later, also as the Managing Director.

Thereafter, I became Oracle’s regional managing director, covering 10 ASEAN and seven South Asia growth economies.

But as they say, home is where the heart is – and I decided to opt for a local, leadership role in Malaysia. That’s when Microsoft came along. Its “mobile-first, cloud-first” world view also resonated well with me, as it’s where the industry is moving towards.

Another thing which appealed to me about Microsoft is that it allowed me to expand my career from a more enterprise to consumer space – with devices such as the Surface, our Microsoft phones, and even with our OEMs – it’s truly an exciting time and a great company to be in.

What are your plans for Microsoft Malaysia?

Microsoft Malaysia is excited to continue the journey to move forward and make real impact.  Microsoft’s ethos of transformation is to enable every person and organization to achieve more, which is in tandem with Malaysia’s own ambitions. We’re here to support the 11th Malaysia plan, and it is our responsibility to use our resources and influence to make a positive impact on Malaysian businesses and its citizens.

Through a number of our strategic initiatives, we have mobilized resources to create social and economic opportunities in the communities where we do business, and to fulfill our commitment to serving the public good through innovative technologies and partnerships. We exist to transform businesses. We desire to enhance the quality of life of Malaysians. We want to run the journey of a thousand steps, and conquer the future together, to be the trusted partner for Malaysia, in her journey to becoming a developed nation.

You’ve been in Microsoft Malaysia for about four months now. How has it been?

The last few months have been full of learning – especially when it comes to really understanding Microsoft’s full breadth of product offerings. Our technologies cover every piece of the market – whether its consumer or enterprise – and I still continue to be impressed with what we have to offer.

For instance, we just launched Windows 10, a product that is set to revolutionize the industry in this mobile-first, cloud-first world. For the first time ever, we’re providing an operating system that is absolutely free if you upgrade from either Windows 7 or Windows 8 within one year, starting from 29 July 2015. This may be our boldest bet yet, as we usher in a new era for Windows.

What’s truly amazing is that we go beyond just building and selling a product – we also give back to society. I’ll use Windows 10 again as an example, where Microsoft Corporation gave US$10 million to nine global non-profits around the world, to allow them to continue the good work that they do. This Upgrade your World campaign also encourages people to vote for the 10th global non-profit that Microsoft will support.

While Microsoft has grown to become one of the largest companies in the world, I admire that it also sees its responsibility in contributing positively back to the community we work in on a global scale.

Where do you see Microsoft’s opportunities in the near future?

One of the many opportunities that we see is leveraging the mobile-first, cloud-first world that we are in right now. Today, we live in a changing and dynamic landscape where our conversations go beyond the CIOs (Chief Information Officers) to other business decision makers in various fields such as Human Resource or even Marketing.

As a case in point, Gartner has predicted that by 2017, CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) will actually spend more on IT than CIOs as marketing is becoming increasingly technology-based – especially in this digitized, consumer-driven era, where consumers are smarter and technologically savvier.

Microsoft employs the largest partner ecosystem globally, investing over US$5 billion worldwide in channel operations annually. How do you continue to drive growth and momentum in this space locally?

Locally, Microsoft Malaysia maintains over 5,000 partners nationwide, which is the largest within our local IT industry. We want to continuously build up the local ecosystem and see our partners committed with us – we need to ensure that they continue taking the same journey with us – that we are both strongly aligned in terms of direction and go-to-market solutions.

Beyond work – what do you like to do in your free time?

I’m a sports person and I love the outdoors. I play badminton, soccer or hockey when I can – I believe that these sports develops a lot of character and teamwork, which is akin to my own management style. As Michael Jordan once said – “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

This is the same in a work environment – everyone needs to support each other in order to work together and to win together. It’s about leveraging every individual’s strengths to succeed.

Malaysia is turning 58 in a few days. What does Merdeka mean to you?

I’m not shy to say I’m born in 1963! So I’ve really seen how the country has transformed and how the nation has grown. To me, Merdeka is really about self-reflection and seeing how we can progress, moving forward. Over the years, I’ve seen how we’ve transitioned from our humble beginnings – transforming ourselves to being an agriculture and resource rich country to one of manufacturing, to a nation that is now a knowledge based economy. There’s still room for growth and potential, for us to achieve a developed nation status by the year 2020.